Where We Are Not 

Lead artists/researchers: Lina Issa
In collaboration with: Aitana Cordero

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Where We Are Not is not about anywhere, but about those places we carry with us in our bodies. The places that are part of us, and as well, that have made us who we are. The intimate, the familiar, the instance, the non-thought sensations of everyday life that are all housed in our system. Because these sensations cannot be filmed, or painted, or photographed, they can only be hinted at. They become significant when we are distant, when there is a need to overcome that distance, when we are impeded from access to these sensations. Where we are feels more and more like what we are not, a place that excludes what we were. The sense of absence works both ways, to what we have left behind and where we find ourselves in the present.

Not being able to travel home myself, I cast a replacement and sent Aitana, a Spanish dancer and choreographer, to Lebanon for 10 days as my stand-in, messenger and recording device. She visited different people - my family and friends - and traced the places of my memory and what constitutes the idea of 'home' for me. She performed lots of tasks that I assigned her, which relate to my very intimate and personal way of relating and inhabiting a place or a contact.

The Dutch government has rejected to renew my residence permit as a student from Lebanon for strictly bureaucratic reasons and since I appealed against this decision, I have not been able to leave The Netherlands and re-enter the country. The decision created a 'state of exception' that excluded me from my own home country, and placed me outside the zone of 'contemporary mobility'.

My project is framed by this state of exception in which I find myself as a migrant, and by the disparate narratives it produces. Where We Are Not is a narrative of exchange between two women, bringing forth their differences. What we exchange are not only 'subjective' differences, but also the reality of inhabiting extremely different political spaces.

Where We Are Not plays on the feeling of absence on a number of levels, and asks how that can be shared. How can we overcome the barriers of the individual body? It poses the question: What if, if you take my place? Can you feel what I feel, can I share my body-memory with you, and can you share my body-memory with me?

This project has become a hyperbole of the impossible. Sending a stranger to your intimate world to perceive the familiar can only produce misunderstandings. A 'journalism' into the intimate can only distort what is found. The stranger disappears into the world that is intimate to you, and thus becomes no one. Again absence. What are the moments in our society when people are reduced to disappearance? The attempt to share these project/ experiences ends up in creating new situations of dislocation. Even in meeting my double I find only difference, only misunderstanding.

This project invites us to participate in these questions, and offers us ways to read traces, to listen, and to ask, and to meet, to receive intimations of this borderline of where we are not, of disorientation, of disappearance. It also offers an invitation to travel, to search another and other places, in space, in time. An invitation for an encounter, a meeting, an act of love.



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