MIGRANTS: S for Serendipity
Five days ago, last Friday, 29th of March was the day when the UK was meant to leave the EU, now this date has been postponed to the 22nd of May. This significant day was also the opening evening of the photography exhibition that I have curated; MIGRANTS. EU Citizens in the UK. What does home mean to you?
The day of the opening was sunny and warm, while we were having a drink after the talks, one of the gallery visitors Andy P, a photographer himself asked if the photographs that were displayed on a washing line, were shots that I have taken for the show, or if these photographs were in my archive and have reused them for this project. I replied that the photographs were images that people have sent me via social media; Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, also via different apps like WhatsApp, since images migrate through the net. Most of them were of birds as the gallery is in the pub named The Bird's Nest, I was playing with the analogy of MIGRANTS and wild birds. Since wild birds are migratory species. Also, I was playing with the ideas of caged birds and free birds. Explaining to him that others were snaps used as publicity, which I have taken specially to only promote the exhibition through the net.
Speaking about my archive, I told him that on that same day David Bate has given me as a present one of his photographs entitled "Did I Arrive", which I will have to keep archived as I didn’t have enough room in the house to display it. After saying that Andy smiled and mentioned the artwork of the artist Michael Landy who destroyed his archive back in 2001. We both laughed. I told him that more than destroying things I believe it is better to give them or sell them, so others can appreciate them.
Andy also mentioned that when his father passed away he left a rare collection of birds eggs, his father lived in Scotland and have collected eggs since he was young, but he never told anyone in the family, it was a secret which he took to his tomb. Andy found out the collection after his passing, going through his father's belongings. He said that he couldn’t find out why he did collect them as his relatives and friends have all passed away and there was nobody left to ask all his questions. I told him that it could be that collecting eggs was a trend and that children at the time did it. For example, my father used to collect mail stamps and coins when he was small, and books and pipes, when he was older. Andy shared his family secret, while in the exhibition there is a photograph that shows a dove next to an egg and a new born squeaker coming out of it, I wonder if that is the reason why he has connected to this thought.
We kept talking about photographers and came across the exhibition entitled SWAP curated by Martin Parr, from the collection of photographs owned by the Magnum Photographer David Hurn, who has swapped his photographs with other Magnum photographers. The exhibition showcased the photographs given by Hurn and received in exchange by the other photographers. I was enjoying his conversation.
Our conversation took a turn when Andy started to ask questions about what inspired me so I explained that in my everyday life, I liked to play games, that for example, I have a game, ones a week, I like going to the charity shop next to my house and check the books. I like going there looking for the unknown, not looking for anything in particular, just wanting to be surprised. He replied that I reminded him to the work of the artist Sophie Calle, which I thought was a compliment, as I do love her work, especially the installation when intervenes a telephone box, filling this with the flowers and domestic ornaments on a street of New York, or when she invited on her birthday day to people and one of them is a stranger.
Andy said that I like serendipity and I couldn't agree more. Serendipity has to be my favorite English word; I believe it is better than the great word discombobulated, I know a few people that would disagree with it. In a way you can associate this to some aspects of my work, I curate shows that have elements of serendipity in them. There is this online collaboration with unknown people that play a big role in the outcome, but then I also like to contact venues that people don’t know as they are under the radar.
Yesterday, before I left the house I put in my bag 2 bananas and two books; “On Photography” by Susan Sontag, a book that can read again and again as if I have some kind of amnesia, getting excited every time I read it and my most recent acquisition “Somewhere towards the end” by Diana Athill which it was recommended by Lena Dunham on twitter and now I understand why. My philosophy is never leaving the house without water some fruit and a book. You never know when you would have the time to get a glass of water or how long will you be commuting or when will be your snack break, this simple backup works.
I left the house not very humorous as I was on my way to Kensington Olympia in west London, to the Ideal Home Show, not a great plan I know, I was accompanying my colleague Graham in this arduous labor, he has been photographing and documenting this show since the 1980s. Graham is taking part in the exhibition that I mentioned above as the exhibition asks the question; What does home mean to you? His project that is based on the Ideal Home Show is a social critique of how people aspirations are spoon fed by the ideology of the detached dream. While I was thinking about this, I was getting to the station and I stopped on my favorite spot, the books shelves where people leave books for others to take. This is serendipity for me, and there it was, I did not find one book but four. And the books were in Spanish. I was laughing to myself this couldn’t get better. So I took the books and left to the underground.
Today after my grocery shopping, I thought I have to take some books back to the station. I felt that after taking the four books I must replace them. This morning, I asked my partner if he had any spare book that he did not need, to which he replied, no. I did not have any book myself as I have given them to friends or to the charity shop, so I decided I will buy four books from the charity shop and that I will take them to the tube station. After arriving at the charity shop, I scanned the shelves and decided that I wanted to buy books from the section entitled “funny” I noticed that a new taxonomy was applied to the basic shelving unit, being an archivist I get excited by this small changes. Before the books were classified between fiction or nonfiction, that was all. Now the subgroups were more specific as you could read the labels as history, academic, poetry, funny, etc. I stopped at the label “funny” and told myself that I wanted to buy four books which will make people smile since finding a book is great but finding a book that makes you smile is exceptional. So I did, I checked the titles and took the only four books that were curated under that section, the books are shown on the photograph.
I complimented the subtle change on the display to the lady at the counter, to which she replied that it was a work in progress and that she couldn’t tell if it will last long. We both smiled, then I left straight to the tube station. I was happy with my acquisitions. I asked the station assistant to open the gate and I explained that yesterday, have taken some books and that I wanted to place others in return. The guy smiled and said that is how is meant to work, you give and take. I displayed the books at the bottom of the shelf and left.
PS: The exhibition EUROPA. MIGRANTS: What does home mean to you? is free and open until the 29th of April. Do not miss it! @ the Bird's Nest Gallery, Deptford, London.
Thank you for reading.
Copyrights @ ZFI curatorial projects.
London, 4th April 2019