Uncovering Emotional Landscapes In Community
August 5, 2014
When I was younger, growing up in Jackson Heights, Queens, I often felt a deep desire to leave, to run away, to start anew. While this desire may have been fueled by my own personal experiences of home, I know this complicated yearning to depart ones home is a feeling that many of us can relate to. I held this feeling for a long time, wrapped in guilt and desire, until I started to uncover the unavoidable emotional linkages I had built over time to my home, neighborhood and community.
How do we understand ‘the emotional’? I often find myself at a loss when attempting to explain what I’m feeling, even though, thanks to therapy, I’ve had a wealth of experience trying to articulate feeling. But the truth is, feeling always feels too small or too large, too specific or too vague, too stagnant or too explosive to fully communicate. It grows and deepens, shrinks and compresses, ends and prolongs.
One of the materials that I work with the most in my creative practice are family photographs. Initially I started doing so because I was feeling frustrated in my process of trying to create new images. So instead I decided to step back, into my memories, into my history, into my body, and create from there. What I see now is that this choice I made, in material and intention, helped situate myself within my work, it challenged me to directly insert myself into the conversations that I was trying to build. For me, doing so uncovered a wealth of creativity as well as potential for catharsis and transformation.
In my experience, emotion can open up creative and political possibilities for how we can articulate our feelings and how our feelings are not without context. The emotional, challenges us to face ourselves, and often, to face the world around us. In my practice, as well as in many other artists’, the emotional is not a retreat into an ahistorical, apolitical self, but rather an explicit turn to emotion signals, for me, the politicization, the historization of the self and of the feelings through which that self takes shape in relation to others.
In the collage project that I’ve shared I’m exploring memory and place through the restaging of a childhood photograph with my mother. But the context of this memory, has shifted, it is no longer simply a sentimental recollection of a nice day at the park riding my bike, but currently is the place where a significant amount of privatized development is being proposed, with the potential of not only reducing significant park space but also holding significant economic consequences for surrounding immigrant, people of color communities. This memory, no longer simply a place for distant longing, becomes entrenched in the present and the anxieties of the future. In this case, the emotional urges us to bear witness, to change and loss, to displacement and erasure.
Our feelings have the power to reveal. Our feelings have location and meaning.
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