One lives, one dies, one loves in a space squared, cut up, variegated, with light and dark zones [...] there are the open regions of the transitory halt […], and then there are the closed regions of rest and home.
Michel Foucault, The Heterotopias
« I stood there a long while, staring at that tree.
It looked so strong
Hurt right down the middle
But alive and well.
Cee touched my shoulder.
Come on, brother. Let's go home. »
Toni Morrison, Home, 2012
In the light of our borders, in the light of these natural and symbolic borders, how can we review today the question of the habitat, the house, and the domestic space? In a world where "movement has become an accepted way of being in the world and no longer an uncomfortable transition zone between two fixed points,” creators also sketch new territories, reinventing new spaces and terminologies. In the time of an international pandemic and latent ecological defeatism and a point of paradoxical confinement and hypermobility, artists rethink the domestic ecosystems and redesign new ecologies of the home, of the homeland.
Let us bring together the idea of displacement and domestic space (in essence, interior space). If we connect these two seemingly antinomic, juxtaposed ideas, it is to question better what it means to "be at home.” What does home mean in an era of multiple, more regular, and frequent displacements? What does home mean in a global pandemic and unprecedented ecological crisis? Our contemporary Western societies reflect in the mirror. They echo individuals forced to barricade themselves "at home” in spaces often cramped, exacerbating the inequalities in place in this intimate space, out of sight. They are invisible as much as they stigmatise people forced to flee a country where they grew up because our European-centered societies have "more than ever [associated the refugee figure] in the era of suspicion.” But "invisibility is not absence.”
Between forced migrations and imposed confinements, this exhibition wants to re-read the concepts of spaces and barriers to the idea of the circulation of individuals while reflecting on how this mobility impacts the sphere of intimacy. Above all, it is a question of weaving a genealogy of these questions of displacements, of territories, in particular parts of the interior, of the domestic; to wonder about the notion of inhabiting a space, a region, or of fleeing them, of being in exile. We wish to put forward these constellations that infuse our societies and artistic creation today; to create a non-objective inventory, a "wandering" repertoire of implementing these concepts. What are they, and how to distinguish these notions so inextricably linked: house, home, homeland. How do we illustrate, appropriate, and develop intimate and social narratives?
Exile first. Images of distant exile, which have fed the history of Western art, Ulysses, Adam and Eve, the first exiles in the history of Christian humanity, images of the Exodus, of this flight from Egypt ... These antediluvian images populate a collective memory and raise the question of loss, of displacement. We speak here of exodus, but we could quickly evoke the hegira in Islam in the seventh century. But these representations do not enter the history of the dominant Western art. Nevertheless, let us note that displacement, immigration, and uprooting from a territory impregnate the monotheisms. Where do we go once we have been chased or escaped? In his latest book Images de l'exil, Maurice Fréchuret reviews the evolution of these Christian images up to the iconography of exodus in the 19th and 20th centuries and its propagation in the field of contemporary art. These representations swarm in a particular skill, dominated, in its beginnings, by religions. The displacement is necessary for life to survive. The exile in art, the movement, are creators, in a way, all the more tangible in the second half of the 20th century, with the Second World War and the accentuation of the migratory movements of the European artists towards the United States, notably. These transmigrations operate a contagion of the American scene, a collision of the worlds that revitalise the creation. These Western images of flight and migration have developed a history of situated and biased art. These first images were constructed from Christian domination, hand in hand with colonial rhetoric. But at the crossroads of these dominant discourses, heterotopias, third places, and "counter-spaces" founded on their theoretical intersections were built.
Then there is home. What does home mean when one has had to flee one's country - with no other choice? What happens to this adopted country, this often hostile country of refuge? Where do you go when you no longer live anywhere? Who is one when one is stateless? Immigrant artists or not, everyone has already subjectively experienced displacement, movement, and a certain uprooting. The 1980s and 1990s were favourable to the development of exhibitions and publications questioning and "signalling the power of decolonial discourses". In a globalised world, where borders are - seemingly - blurred, the notion of home and domestic space brings together many artists reflecting on these concepts. The aim is not to confine them to boxes or categories, but to give them space, to see them draw the hybrid and porous borders of the definitions that revolve around the concepts of "home", "borders" and "migrations".
ARCHITECTURES, IMPRINTS, AND INNER DIALOGUES
The journey begins inside. Here, the interior stands as a protective cocoon, a place of memory and introspection. Then, home becomes a space where artists experience limits: those of their studios and their houses. Raphaël Maman, in this perspective, plays with everyday objects and materials, in search of paradoxes. The reality that emerges offers a new poetic of space, contrasting with the harshness of the materials used. This idea of limit also stands as a starting point in the plastic research of Jean-françois Leroy, questioning the process of appropriation through concrete elements such as walls, doors, and space itself. How does one question these spaces and their use? Other creators, like Katrin Koskaru, consider architectures as many possible universes, as well as milestones of history(-ies), revealing ghostly presence and relics of the past. Her works lie on the margins of figuration and abstraction, painting and sculpture. Katrin Koskaru creates limit-environments where the lightness of materials and colours contrasts with the weight of history.
BORDERS AND INTERSTICES
Duality and inequalities seem to develop within the interior space. Home is sometimes the illustration of a collision with social issues, historical abuses, colonial violence, intertwining internal and external spaces. The imprints and scars are profoundly rooted and reinforce the idea of borders, the impression of no longer belonging to any place. The simplest and purest expression of these forms of violence, by omission and displacement, is what we find in the work of Ouassila Arras. Pursuing a deconstruction process, the artist returns to her family history and builds a universe centred on deterritorialization, history, and subjectivity.
Once we have gone back to the source, we can set out to discover new territories. These are heterotopias, spaces where artists can create new languages based on their singular experiences of exile and migration. Here, an artist straddles two worlds, using this in-between as a creative principle. Yacine Ouelhadj plays with the mixing of these origins. This mixture crystallises around the harissa sauce (he mentions it himself and uses it in his artistic practice as a tangible medium). Yacine Ouelhadj makes the commonplace visible and celebrates banality with his cheap carpets. His installations question space. These carpets on the wall overturn our conception of certain places. The artist sublimates his discomfort and this situation of feeling "between two chairs", as he says himself.
THE ORIGINS. COMING BACK
And then there is the matter of returning, despite the stopover in comforting third places. But is there even a way back? Some artists play with the fragile balance between two contradictory poles: escaping and returning to the source. This return sometimes forges an experience. Such is the case with Daniel Galicia’s work. He has built up a rich and polymorphous body of work. A job that questions identities, the borders of genres and countries. For Daniel Galicia, the return takes on its full significance in the light of a refusal and closing of borders. His experience pushes us to the edge of intimacy. And then sometimes the exodus is fantasised. With Rayane Mcirdi, the departure and return become imaginary. In his videos, the suburbs shape a home whose limits seem impassable. He rethinks immobility and confinement, the better to dream of reunions and encounters through a raw testimony—testimonies of those who still feel between two camps and think of other places.
Exile, home, homeland: in the digital age, these notions can be rethought in the light of new technologies and new media. The aesthetics of the house are being redesigned with Jeanne Susplugas. In ceramics, drawing, video, installation or virtual reality, Jeanne Susplugas' practice reverses our way of defining the home by offering us a virtual, technological, and relational aesthetic. Her work is rich and plays on a borderline state of the image, situated between the stability of forms and their elusiveness. It thus offers us multiple possibilities of interpretation.