Home—Topia, Barbora Demovičová, research project
Home—Topia is an ongoing contemporary art research and exhibiting project, putting focus on the current forms of migration, rooting, unrooting and life in between cultures. Home—Topia is examining the notion of home, sense of belonging and it’s connection to the physical space. Home—Topia is based on the assumption that various forms of mobility, migration and life on the move have become one of the basic characteristics of today’s world. Moving from place A to place B has become a regular part of our lives. Emigration, forced or voluntary, across national borders or from village to metropolis, is the quintessential experience of our time. The position of a stranger, immigrant, refugee or returnee has thus ceased to be unique. In many ways, these forms of migration are incomparable, and we cannot ignore the disproportion between certain displacements and reasons for leaving our first territory. However, finding ourselves in the position of “already torn away from the old and not yet arrived at the new” can be considered a common experience of the above.This experience brings with it, among other things, changes in understanding of the notion of home and in the individual perception of oneself and others.
In his texts Der Fremde and Der Heimkehrer (Stranger and Homecomer), Alfred Schütz outlines two different types of experience of integration into a new society: the experience of strangers and the experience of homecomers. In his reasoning, Schütz partly follows the sociological form (typology) of the stranger, which was defined by Georg Simmel. Simmel does not understand a stranger as someone who wanders, who comes and goes again, but as someone who “comes today and stays tomorrow.” Strangers try to settle in a local society to which they never belonged. That is why the differences between the new and the old world stand out in their experience. Strangers focus their actions on the project of building a new existence, a new home. The horizon of their experience thus becomes the future. On the contrary, the homecomer returns to his well-known environment after a long time, ideally to his birthplace. He sees home as a place of return. His experience of integration / reintegration into the original society is based on the assumption that he belongs to this society permanently. Therefore, homecomers usually focus their actions on memories. The horizon of their current experience is their past.
In both cases, however, we can speak of a certain utopia of coming home, which is not and will not be possible. Even if the homecomer physically comes back to the place of origin, his return remains incomplete. He himself is so altered by his experience of emigration that it is almost impossible to integrate into the original society as if he had never left. On the contrary, a stranger whose goal is to integrate into a society to which he did not originally belong cannot, despite any efforts, be absolutely cut off from the past and the identity that is attached to it.
Strangers and homecomers are both insiders and outsiders. They are part of a certain society but at the same time they stand outside it. They look at their surrounding from an external perspective.
In my view, however, everyone who has left their first home, their first territory, encounters both types of experience. The stranger and the homecomer are not mutually exclusive, and the horizon of the future meets the horizon of the past. Both horizons are, so to speak, unattainable, and between them is a territory in which we are already separated from the horizon of the past but stay distant from the horizon of the future. We are already torn away from the old and not yet arrived at the new. Home – Topia focuses on these two horizons and the point at which they meet, as well as on the territory between them.