The power of art lies in its ability to capture a moment, a memory, a trace of reality, a dream, a feeling, an idea. Each creative expression finds imaginative new forms, coming to life in a variety of ways. With the theme for the Larnaca Biennale 2023, Home Away From Home, artists and makers of all kinds are invited to imagine the theme in their own, authentic ways.
From “The Future is Not Fixed”, 2020, Thukral & Tagra
What is it that constitutes a home, beyond just bricks and mortar? Over the years and around the world, we’ve grappled with the many meanings of this word. For this edition of the Biennale, we’ve set ourselves the task of unpacking notions of home and belonging – ideas that shape our lives and identities since birth. The meaning of home, and of finding our roots, is a multi-layered concept.
What does it mean to be at home? Among others, the question can be approached from psychological, geographical, philosophical, environmental, architectural or spiritual perspectives. In the next few months, I’ll delve further into a few of them, exploring one in-depth through my monthly curatorial notes. But before we go deeper into the research, I’d like to reflect on my own relationship with the theme – and the kind of questions that often preface my personal story.
Over the years – wherever I find myself – I tend to face the where question. Where are you from? Faced with the puzzlement that my accent and appearance combine to generate, it can be hard to know what to say. Born in the USSR, now Crimea, raised in the Netherlands, a student in Amsterdam, Paris and Hong Kong, living a little bit everywhere – I lost track along the way. My answer is often as dissatisfying to me as it is to those who field the questions, nor does it say much of real significance about reality.
A Ted Talk by Taiye Selasi – Don’t ask where I’m from, ask where I’m a local – ties up many of these ideas succinctly; it’s a presentation I’d recommend anyone to watch. Selasi speaks on behalf of “multi-local” people, who feel at home in both the town they grew up in, the city they now inhabit, and maybe another place or two. “How can I come from a country?”, she asks. “How can a human being come from a concept?”
For the Larnaca-born Stoic philosopher Zeno, the notion of a global home was already a core belief some 2300 years ago. He argued that “what is required of the system of government is to force us to transcend the dispersion into cities, peoples, and nations, separated by laws, rights, so that we can all see each other.” Seeing one another and coming together offers an antidote to division, and a way to feel at home wherever we may be.
In the 60s, former military pilot Garry Davis walked into the US embassy in Paris to surrender his passport and renounced himself to be a ‘citizen of the world’. From that moment, he began travelling the globe with a self-issued World Passport. Despite being arrested 32 times, his journey continued. Now over 100 nations claim to acknowledge the passport. Davis believed that a World Passport would be an important step towards bringing humans together, creating a symbol of “the fundamental one-ness and unity of the human community”. More than half a century later, hundreds of thousands of people have a World Passport, such as Albert Camus, Albert Einstein and Edward Snowden.
Home for me is neither my passport nor my accent, but a network of particular human experiences and the places in which they occur. In Cyprus, I’ve come to feel like a local. I have my rituals and relationships, as well as the restrictions I carry with me throughout my time here. But there are many such places around the world that offer me that feeling – that make me a multi-local.
So, in approaching our Biennale’s theme, I encourage you to think beyond the material, and about more than the geographical. Activate your memories, dreams and feelings to imagine what it really means to be at home.
Links and mentions from the curator’s note:
– The Open Call of Larnaca Biennale 2023 is on until the 31st of May, submit you art here
– Ted Talk by Taiye Selasi–Don’t ask where I’m from, ask where I’m a local – watch here
– Read more on the World Passport here