David Rees-Thomas - Invisible Dialogues - The feeling of not feeling at home

"How does one create a home away from home? How do you decorate your living space in a new place? Our homes provide a place of sanctuary and security. They reflect our sense of identity socially and culturally. The objects we choose to place in our living spaces help define who we are, an exteriorisation of our inner condition. They are the distillation in physical form of our essence as physical beings".

-Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception

What happens when we are forced to move and live in circumstances not of our choosing? How do we inhabit these foreign spaces and make them our own? Do we recreate an identical space to the one we left behind? Are these the traces of memory and nostalgia of our ‘true’ home? Is it possible to not feel at home in our place of origin and find a home elsewhere that feels like we’ve always belonged?

These are the questions and concerns that I explore without preconception of desired result. What is found, is what is found. Whatever comparisons or similarities that may exist are open to the viewers interpretation.

This first trip to Athens serves as an initial information mapping/collecting process, serving as a reference point to subsequent interviews with Syrian refugees and marginalised Athenian locals. For this project I seek to make contact with a Syrian refugee camp and  with dispossessed / disenfranchised Greeks suffering from the current economic crisis.

On a daily basis, I visit these people groups to converse and interview them of what their daily lives consist of and their personal histories of how they arrived at this point and what their initial perception of Athens was before they got there (for those newly arrived) and what it is now, and how Athens has changed (for the local Greeks) and what their memories were of previous times and how they perceive their futures. The exploration of what home is and what it is not in their specific contexts and how they create environments that make themselves feel at home and how this acts as a self-preservation mechanism is crux of the research.

At the Bagkeion, the public encounters the work as a recorded dialogue between the Syrians and the Greeks, two people groups found in the same place; the reason of their arrival at this point seemingly unconnected. Are there larger forces at work responsible for the predicament of both? Is it purely based on random coincidence? What are the points that connect them as humans? Their individual stories create a collective narrative, their insights from their positions giving them irrefutable evidence from their point of reality only they can tell.

The shooting is done during the first visit and a raw first edit would be projected for the last weekend as an entry point to discussion. Stories continue to be sent as they are edited as a work in progress until a final version of the documented interviews can be given.

Since this is in essence a time based work, the initial and subsequent encounters explore temporality as it applies to the ever evolving process of societal change focusing on the invasive nature of governmental/capitalistic agendas on the lives of people living in precarity and the inherent lack of physical and psychological freedoms these types of situations produce.

Interview questions:

1. What is your name?

2. Where do you come from?

3. How long have you been here?

4. How have you decorated your home/space?

5. Do any of the objects have any personal meaning?

6. Do you feel comfortable in this space you have created here?

7. Does creating this space like this make you feel at home?

8. Did you decorate this space to remind you of home?