For the past years I have been working on my research about the “Cosmopolitics of the body and naked life”; the term naked life used for the first time by Giorgio Agamben. Last year, whilst I was looking for new accommodation, I fell by chance upon the opportunity of renting a room in a very old building on the lakeside of the suburbs of Zürich. This building is rented by the City and at the moment houses many refugees. My room, however, is located in a separate part of this building.
How could I work on a topic without really knowing that I would end up living 365 days in a house shared with other refugees; understanding what that really means; how it really feels?!
365 is nothing but the symbol of a full circle; symbol of passing time; a wasted time in suspension, boycott, nakedness, pending and hope! Thus the conception of the website 365 Etudes for celebrating pleasure (www.365efcp.ch) and I started to upload a drawing every day, to celebrate the political importance of imagination. This gesture of drawing daily became the very essence of this work; providing a form of daily reflection on this topic and serving as a platform of resistance against the frustrations that a refugee or an immigrant might encounter in his relations with the authorities.
Without this experience I could never have possibly ascertained the shortfalls and frustrations that such a building could offer to its inhabitants. What kind of policies and psychological factors were involved?! Even though I experienced a miniaturized version of the reality of being a refugee in Switzerland, since I was living as a PhD candidate in this adjacent apartment with a separate entrance, I could still capture a glimpse of this parallel life. Now, after a year of living here, I am leaving this house and would like to share my experiences as such. As a reflection on the idea of otherness.
Unlike most works on refugees, this is not about our stories, as humans, foreigners, immigrants or refugees. It is, in fact, about how an environment, a building and its micro-politics and daily rituals influenced and reshaped the bodies/psyches and identities of its inhabitants and how the politics of such metaphoric camps projected a persona on them. How do we define the boundaries of cosmopolitanism and belonging?! What do we really mean by humanitarianism in this context? Do we need to find new words to describe such complexities?!
Project “stared back” is a site-specific multimedia installation in the same building, resulting from a year’s research and self-reflection on this topic: an attempt is made to answer the above mentioned questions, only by raising new ones.