Intro Post- Monica Anna Day
Perhaps it is no mistake…
…that the researcher/artist contemplating the topic of displacement has always been unsettled and uncomfortable with the idea of home.
Of course, the irony is not lost on me now that my “home” has never been truly threatened. While my mother and I were often domestic refugees, and more than once we fled in the middle of the night from one shaky relationship or another, the upheaval was always limited to the small scope of her dubious choices of romantic partners, and the radius to me, her only fatherless child. But in every other way — politically, economically, racially, environmentally, socially — “home” was always available. Whether I ran from it, wrestled with it, or even recognized it, was one of many unrealized privileges in my life.
Attachment to a home was ill-advised, so I avoided making one. Having the flexibility to pack a bag and leave, quickly settle in a new place, adjust and blend into the new environment — these were the survival skills I learned in my childhood. And they have served me well throughout my life.
Until, they didn’t.
Like when I had children and learned that little people like security, predictability, and schedules. Like when I had a mother with dementia to care for and needed to remain nearby during her waning years. Like now, during a global pandemic, when, for the first time in my life, my passport is worthless, and as an American, I am welcome almost nowhere.
Clearly, the Universe has a particularly dark sense of humor. As my research on displacement begins, I am in the most intense period of emplacement I’ve experienced in my life. As I prepare to interview people who have been displaced, I watch the democratic institutions I have taken for granted my entire life disintegrate under the rule of a wanna-be authoritarian. As I begin to allow myself to feel place-attachment, I simultaneously must consider whether my own displacement – either by choice or by force – is imminent.
Suddenly, everything I have taken for granted in my life comes to the foreground. Whereas trees have always just been trees and birds have been birds, I now find myself trying to learn their names. I feel an irrepressible urge to plant a vegetable garden, to know my neighbors, to log into my memory the smell of the rain, the feel of my feet in nearby rivers and ocean. To more consciously hold this place inside of my being, and to give this place my attention. Whether it is in preparation of a goodbye, or whether it is in belated recognition of a lifetime of relationship, remains unclear, and unimportant.
From my vantage point as researcher and an academic, I acknowledge that Placeholder will not be a personal journey, but rather I will attempt to be as faithful as possible in amplifying the voices and experiences of those generous ones who will be my “subjects” in this inquiry. However, from my vantage point as artist, I also recognize that the only way to transmit the stories of others is to be as conscious and aware of one’s own story, and to understand the whys and the ways that we are pulled towards a project such as this.
So for today, this is where we begin. A glimpse of my story, just like my feet in the river. Too cold to go in any further, too slippery to stand up. But here. Very much here.
Welcome to Placeholder.