Viki Semou: Understanding Home in an Era of Movement - Place, Mobility and Identity
Mentor: Alena Alexandrova
Independent reviewer: Erin La Cour
This thesis palpates the multi-dimensionality and complexity of home. It is argued that notions of home are central to the perception of place, identity and belonging, saturating our very philosophy and perception of living as well as our material reality.
Responding to the speeding-up and spreading-out of our times, two main tendencies are forming the two poles of a continuum for defining home (place, movement and identity). One of them is defending the importance of place, fixity, roots and stasis in the formulation of 'home', while the other underlines the advantages of mobility, fluidity and change, thereby detaching 'home' from place. The former is named here sedentary and the latter nomadic.
These responses together with the critiques against them are examined thoroughly, while in the end there is an examination of other ways of understanding home, within and against this polarity.
The tensions between sedentary and nomadic approaches, between attachment and mobility, are articulated in art on two levels; one concerning the production of artworks and the other the identity of artists.
The main goal of this study is to see how artists as agents and creators are influenced by this discussion; at the same time the goal is to develop a theoretical base that can be used as a conceptual tool for art practices related to site-specificity, and to the representation of place and identity -locational or not.
When I met with Viki last year to discuss her work and her ideas for her thesis project, I expressed my concern over her wanting to take on the notion of "home." I spoke with her then about the problems in trying to first define such an intangible notion (linguistically? psychologically? politically? culturally? etc.), and then to utilize, challenge, and apply it in a meaningful, critical manner.
What I found in her thesis was quite impressive; Viki clearly spent a great deal of time researching different theories of the notion of home, and not only did she pay careful attention to its relation to place, identity, and belonging, additionally, she chose a nice means of narrowing her topic through the discussion of sedentary vs. nomadic ideas of home. The fact that she took on much secondary material and synthesized the discourse quite well speaks to her motivation in and attention to her work. She very clearly demonstrated that she not only understood the exercise of writing a thesis, but also that she is quite skilled in weaving together opposing theories to create a more complex picture of such a slippery term.
The only problem I saw with Viki's work is that she did not tak the paper to its natural conclusion – the conclusion she set out to achieve in her abstract: "how artists as agents and creators are influenced by this discussion" and how this "can be used as a conceptual tool for art practices related to site-specificity, and to the representation of place and identity-location or not" (2). While she does make mention of the modern mobility of artists, their reluctance in place/nationality-claims, and their ability to challenge dominant (and/or marginal) notions of home, she does so all in the last few paragraphs of her work. Because this idea is established as the drive in her desire to write this paper, it seems she should have spent more time in developing this part of her work – that is, the part where, rather than relying just on theory, she could have applied the theory she worked so intently with to say something novel.
While this last part of her paper was a bit of a let down, overall, I was very impressed with Viki's work. Her writing shows a true interest in effective communication both on a linguistic and theoretical level, and for that, she should be commended. E.l.C.