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We Are: New Stories on Immigration

In We Are: New Stories on Immigration artists Alexia Villard, Claire Tipy and Emma Mudgway explore their own experiences as immigrants in the United Kingdom, as a starting point for a wider discussion on the exchange of culture and what it means to identify as an immigrant, in both small and significant ways, everyday.

The exhibition was presented at Ugly Duck Project Space, London, UK. in December 2015. A smaller selection was then re-presented at Taverne Gutenberg, Lyon, Fr. in Febuary 2016.

WE ARE SO HAPPY TOGETHER A love story by Alexia Villard The UK visa’s procedure for a non-European spouse, civil partner, and unmarried or same-sex partner of a British citizen or EEU citizen is a laborious administrative process. However this particular visa appears to be subtly more complex than any other. In addition to the various legal requirements, it holds an extra section: « on your relationship » within which the applicant is asked to « prove » the sincerity of its couple. Among various details, the applicant is also required to provide « any other documents which will support the existence of his/her genuine relationship » Under this category, the majority of applicants would choose to submit everyday photographs, copies of texts messaging, emails, or even videos. The « case » will then be processed by a machine of humans from which the right (or not) for the applicant to remain or enter the UK will be issued. As a photographer, I was particularly interested by the role given to photography in such an application. In We are so happy together, the portraits are inspired by everyday intimate scenes. I chose to stage visibly those moments, introducing my partner and myself inside the different rooms in our apartment. The portraits come together with documentary photographs of exchanged love notes. The idea was to create the documents that we’d submit inside an imaginary visa application, illustrating literally the home office’s requirements. The work reclaims the trivial images that could have been taken consciously in the matter of such application. On the other hand, the photographs of love notes are completely documentary; they wave between the portraits like a respiration, contrasting with the rigid angry faces. Together the work stresses out the oddness of such a demand as well as the intrusive aspect emerging from the whole process. In the end, the documentary became real and vice versa. What you would you do if tomorrow the government ask you to convince them on the existence of your relationship? Which image would you choose to persuade them of your integrity? It seems like the Home office is opening a whole new aesthetic debate on the status of photography. As if the UK governmental immigration service was interested in challenging the concept of the medium. Or maybe they are simply desperate romantics, collecting existing proofs of love…

OUR CONSTELLATIONS Emma Mudgway Along with the expected definition of a constellation as a grouping of stars forming a recognizable pattern, the oxford dictionary also defines the word as follows. 1.1 A group of associated or similar people or things. In Our Constellations the routes of the Artist and those she befriends who identify as immigrants in the United Kingdom are mapped as abstract diagrams. The series consists of 14 small portraits and one large map highlighting each personal journey. The process of creating these drawings becomes a conversation between the Artist and her new friends on how we move in the world. Our constellations is a project that looks backwards, charting the unique and sometimes unexpected routes we take to get to where we are now, and how these journeys shape what we bring to our social and cultural interactions today. This is the story of how we arrived.

WHERE DO YOU THINK I WAS BORN Claire Tipy Where Do You Think I Was Born? is a theatre, dance and photography project, devised by Claire Tipy and the members of its cast, and in collaboration with photographer Sarah Tilotta. Every generation faces new challenges: the emerging generation was brought up in a world where human mobility is fluid across continents, and societies are increasingly multicultural. Preserving the unique identity of cultural groups within a multicultural society is of the utmost importance: their coexistence is often a result of generations of immigration that have broadened minds and opinions over time. Within these communities, there are individuals, with unique stories. Globalisation has no doubt made identities more complex: one can be German yet his favorite food is Indian curry (and a spicy one too!). Another one can be Mexican and perfectly speak Cantonese. Another one can have a Ghanaian father, a French mother and be born and have lived all her life in Newcastle. Despite this reality, our very human nature holds up a need to understand each other’s origins; to be reassured by clear categorisations. When we look into one another’s faces, how many assumptions have we made about them before we ever open our mouths to communicate? This project intends to put forth questions such as the following: How can we embrace and acknowledge both one’s collective culture and one’s uniqueness? Does familiarity with one’s cultural background equate to an understanding of the individual? How much of our self-identity is intertwined with our origins? Though we live side by side, which preconceptions do we still harbour between one another? We do not have the answers to these questions, but instead, we have created the space for intimate stories about identity, immigration, and multiculturalism to be shared: unique faces, perspectives, and experiences of an evolving world, where most of us are no longer satisfied with only ticking one box. Some people are comfortable with having singular origins; some are not. Some people are comfortable with having mixed origins; some are not. Some people do not want their origins to define them as a person; some do. It may take one second for one person to explain where they are from, and one hour for someone else. These affirmations are neither ideal nor repulsive, but they suggest that the phenomenon of immigration changes identity and our relationship to it. It changes everything. We cannot wait to hear your stories.

  1. Note # 1

    From "We Are So Happy Together" by Alexia Villard - 2016

  2. Johnluke from" Our Constellations" By Emma Mudgway

  3. Alexia from "Our Constellations" By Emma Mudgway

  4. Portrait #3 from the series "Where do you think I was born?" by Sarah Tilotta in collaboration with Claire Tipy

  5. Portrait #2 from the series "Where do you think I was born?" by Sarah Tilotta in collaboration with Claire Tipy

  6. Still life #2

    From "We Are So Happy Together" by Alexia Villard - 2016