Out of Place
Out of Place is the first series of the Views from Expatria: Photographing Place and the Self in Transience. I created the works using direct lens-based capturing, digital editing, heuristic introspection, empirical and critical literature reviews. With Out of Place I explore the notion of ‘being’ out of place versus material geography, while at the same time revealing a creative photographic process that intentionally rejects the codes and conventions of more traditional landscape photography.
The series considers whether expatriates can be “out of place” when everyone around them appears to be “in place”, what mechanisms are at play and ways in which expatriation, transience, and being “out of place” inform a photographic series of artworks. The series reveals how an individual's views of place are linked to political, social, and psychological states of belonging in place such as Place Mystification and Demystification, Insideness and Outsideness, Temporariness and Integration.
Within these themes, my subjects in the series Out of Place are grass blocks, protective barriers, prints of trees used in scaffoldings, vegetation, landforms for territorial marking, ornamental trees, water features, and gazebo objects.
These subjects are my protagonists; universally in a state of banality, impermanent and somewhat displaced. They metaphorically mirror thoughts and feelings of being an expatriate. I encounter them by accident as I pass through cities; therefore they do not adhere to a specific geographical territory, its politics, or its cultural history. They are ambivalent in terms of origin, cultural identity, and photographic representation because I strip them out of context, which erodes their signification. Such objects inhabit a kind of “Non-Place” (Auge, 1995 p.75–115), as they could be anywhere in the world.
Such objects are universal yet appear misplaced and temporary, as if they had been placed in the scenery by a deus ex machina. I use the concept of the random placing of an object or a being in a particular setting as a metaphor for skilled worker expatriation and transience. Expatriates often venture for opportunities that are temporary, and can be placed anywhere in the world.
Expatriates are temporary in the workplace and in the country to which they relocate. They are also not always organic to the culture or the society, and they face many social and psychological adversities. They face problems of belongingness, social integration, culture and reverse culture shock, acculturation, alienation, and marginalization.
The precise location where I took these pictures for the series Out of Place is irrelevant and does not add anything in terms of interpretation. As hard as this might be to comprehend, there is nothing factographic about my work despite the clarity and the vibrancy of the images. Being factual about a place indicates geographic specificity. I do not offer this through any visual cues in the images or the captions.
These out of place, beyond material geography, anti-picturesque sites will eventually become the reference points, the markers or ‘monuments,’ of my expatriation. Reassembled, they represent a specific fictitious space, a two-faced map. On the one side, the map shows the theorized heterotopia I call expatria, and on the other, the life incidents that brought me to my very expatriation.
My heterotopia, or the way I choose to perceive it, is not ordinary, but perplexed, colourful, saturated, and revealing of part of who I am: a temporary skilled worker chasing a temporary present while living and working abroad for many years.
Out of Place series offers photographic works portraying expatriation, transience, impermanence and the state of being ‘out of place’.
An existential temporariness permeates Out of Place. Reading the conflict between insidneness and outsideness and the notion of existential temporariness in my photographic practice demands a certain (transient) citizen with a particular relevant history (biography) and lived experience, to recognize their subtle, almost mundane presence and hence their transitional relationship to expatriation.