Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Homo diaspora/Birth of a nation

December 15th, 2012 | Alina Müller

Description of Jonas Mekas' 'Birth of a Nation', The Serpentine Gallery

The 2011 census for England and Wales was released on 11th December. We found out that 7,5 million people are born abroad, making up 13% of the total population in England and Wales – an increase from 2001 when the proportion was 9%. The census also tells us that 40% of these people arrived since the EU enlargement in 2004. As I was starting to engage with the details and some of the analysis of  who’s around, where they came from and when they moved here, these two quotes were read out to me:

“Technically, our name, to those who speak science, is Homo sapiens – wise person. But we have been described in many other ways. Homo narrans, juridicus, ludens, diaspora: we are storytelling, legal, game-playing, scattered people, too. True but incomplete. That old phrase has the secret. We are all, have always been, will always be, Homo vorago aperientis: person before whom opens a vast & awesome hole.”

“Had I ship-hopped in other directions, I could have gone to regions of immer and everyday where Bremen was the fable. People get lost in the overlapping sets of knownspace. Those who serve on exot vessels, who learn to withstand the strange strains of their propulsion – of swallowdrives, overlight foldings, bansheetech – go even farther with less predictable trajectories, and become even more lost. It’s been this way for megahours, since women and men found the immer and we became Homo diaspora.”

Homo diaspora. Are we there yet?

Both quotes are from books by China Miéville. The first from Railsea and the second from Embassytown. I have never engaged with him or in fact this literature genre before, but it seems to be timely Christmas reading.

BIRTH OF A NATION

Meanwhile, at the Serpentine gallery in London, I got to see a glimpse of Jonas Mekas’ nation. Born in Lithuania in 1922, he emigrated in 1944 and eventually ended up in New York in 1949  after some time in a labour camp and a few years in various displaced people camps in Germany at the end of the Second World War. In New York he created/pieced together his own community from scratch and he was a happy man. At the Serpentine he shares part of it. And it’s beautiful.