Friday, 15 October 2010

Home, Memory, Memory of Home

A presentation/talk between Ali Zaidi and Antonio Pizzo
Monday 11th October - talk at the Museum of Oriental Art in Turin
A photographic intervention in porta palazzo on saturday 9th followed by a screening of selected short films from 60x60 Secs... identity, home and its memory was discussed between Ali Zaidi (motiroti) and Antonio Pizzo (Officine Sintetiche).
Antonio Pizzo Give us a context about 360 degrees and your preoccupation with the idea of home?
Ali Zaidi Born in India, migrated to Pakistan with my parents and now living in UK - curious to how people in similar situation view the idea of home, I set up this project across the three countries. Artists from India and Pakistan were appointed as creative associates who alongside myself took the responsibility of recruitng the artsists. There was a £300 commission for each of the sixty one minute films … the films had to be translatable within different geographies in a potent visual language. After a year of hard work and phenomenal telephone costs… remarkable works came out of it and we are showing the works still after two years. So here we are today screening some selected works and talking about them in the context of home and memory.
Let me take a lead and ask you what home mean to you?
Sixty films were commissioned just for this reason so that I don’t have to answer this myself.  Let me show you a film that begins to address your question. National Lottery by Daniel Saul. A documentary bout his cousin. For me home is a state of mind. My grand mother used to say home is where ever your two feet are.
This man in Dan's film moved to London and now his biggest dream is  to go back to India?

Okay… the attitude towards Anglo-Indians is similar to na pesce na carne… his dream whilst being in India was to be in UK and now being here he realizes this is not the space to be.
The idea of home is probably related to memory or dreams about home and most of the times you exist in between these two points… there is a pain involved as well?
Idea of pain and joy is simultaneous, one can not exist without the other. I will go back to some of the selected works I have brought here to use as a response to your questions. In the process of looking at ones idea of home and memory we have to deal with history which for me is a collective memory. Memory is debatable. Your idea of history can be very different from mine. Let me share one other film where home is being considered symbolically as an object in space and has a physical locaton. I wonder if memory has also got a physical location. Nitin Das from India followed by Nida Bangash from Pakistan… thoughts long similar lines but very different takes, the drama between Pakistan, India and Kashmir and other is about walls and divisions which aren’t necessarily between countries but can be created within.
The format for the evening is that we are asking questions to each other and showing films where the conversations lead to rather that showing works in a linear fashion. You play with the idea of separation. Within memory and home I was affected by the Anglo-Indian example… Tell me of your experience. You don’t belong to any one place anymore but you are different things altogether.
It is not easy. At times it is very easy. Wherever your two feet are, you belong. It is how one negotiates. Part of the question for me is about a relationship – a continual relationship. I asked different people what is easy - to love or to hate? Some said its easy to love because you just love! Another person’s response was that it is easy to hate because it does not require any work on your part. You just cease to engage. Where as to love requires a constant negotiation. For me hate is un-challanged memory (collective memory that is not yours or a memory that may be yours but one generating an un-negotiable point of view) where as love is constantly negotiated and is very much about now.
What was your question?
How do you deal with the identity when you are in the middle?
I will let this film roll. Akshay answers my dilemma very eloquently. This young man is a motiroti baby… he is dealing with the differences very knowingly and getting on with things.
The moment you are able to unpick the stereotypes by subverting then you start getting something different. Either you fight or you go with a question of what if?
Another film coming!! Telephone Pyar. This is made from archival popular Pakistani film footage. Screenings in Pakistan some young folks were totally in awe that these were films made in their country a few decades ago… older generation got rather offended as feminists had fought against the trivialization and objectification of women. In India some young university women in the audience wolf whistled as they never imagined sexuality or desire to be part of cinema associated with the neighbouring country.
I find this film interesting in the same way as old photos are used to jog a failing memory. Reminding the Pakistan of today -associated with terrorism and fear of the Taliban that there ‘was’ another Pakistan… hey you once you were like this!
To summarise home , identity and memory are big issues.  Sometimes your point of view has an irony and you can smile and laugh at them. Don’t you think that this hides the pain and suffering… sort of trivialises the issues?
I don’t feel its about hiding, it is certainly about revealing different points of views. By the way, not everyone making the films were ‘artists’. Some of the young people who addressed the question of home and identity via their one minute film... in their fresh and na├»ve way, addressed the discourse very successfully. For example 505 – the youngest of 60x60 Secs contributors, they were under eighteen at the time. This is their take on the division within the country itself. One last one for the road… Arriving.
We are hushed and rushed about time!
In the big playground of motiroti called identity we shared sixty commissioned perspectives on home and now somehow it makes sense to focus on memory. I took portraits of the audience who came to see 60x60 Secs  and they were asked to reflect on what home meant to them. Its from that collection that I have wanted to make a work in the area of memory – exploring the fear of loosing memory… amnesia, alzhiemers, political amnesia; where memories are being manipulated… Indo Pak subcontinet, here in Italy and many other places in the world. And the ageing population of the world, the digital age and memories being deposited left right and centre – it becomes a very interesting moment to focus on memory. 
Antonio myself and Andrea walked in Porta Palazzo to engage people with the question of memory of home. We spoke with different types of(detest this word but…) we interviewed and photographed people who represented different cultures. We must have looked an odd bunch walking around and talking, getting people to reflect on the questions and to write and photographing in their workspace. Idea is that when I go back to London, the motiroti Memory Lab will be informed by this intervention… we are planning our next Officine Sinteche and motiroti residency memory and dreams - an inter-generational  and inter-cultural project for 2011.
Memory is very dear to me. I fear one day I would loose my memory. Yesterday I got a young man to imagine in a kafkaisque way what would happen if he would wake up the next day with a face from a different race… his response after some time was that he would go to his mum and dad and try to convince them that he is their son.  But what if there isnt a memory to recognize that difference??
It is the collisions - in terms of migrations and identity that inform who we we are… it brings out the complexity and richness, the joys and confusions.
Memory of home for the Carmen, a Romanian mother and her son Gabriel were totally different. Silviana talked about her family and a fear that she didn’t want to loose the family – all very relevant things in the mix. Pangs for distance are too much for Zahid Mullah from Bangladesh – he wants to return!
Hopefully in another few months down the line having had the first of the motiroti Memory Lab in December… and a little clearer in terms of what can be done with the collected, collated and generated material on memory, we will hopefully see some of you again in Turin next year or perhaps some of you accompany the Labs in London.