For “From Pillars to Posts: Project Another Country, 2018″ , Filipino husband-and-wife artists Isabel and Alfredo Aquilizan, themselves having migrated to Australia in 2006, explore the issues surrounding the concept of home. Using recycled cardboard boxes to create a model city while exploring the concepts and issues around migration, change, memory, community, resettlement, acceptance, inclusion, family and more, the fascinating installation included a workspace supplied with tools and materials so that visitors could themselves make and contribute small cardboard houses to add into the installation. It was suggested they could make a model of the home they currently live in, one they lived in some time in the past, their dream home or an imaginary one.
Writing about exhibitions I’ve seen often often expands on ideas and thoughts that didn’t immediately register when I was visiting them, and this one especially so.
As an Australian who, because of Mike’s work, has twice lived outside my own country for lengthy periods (USA 1987-94, Uruguay 2000 – present) I found this interview with the Aquilizans highly relevant to my own life. Perhaps their most compelling words were: When you move, it is always a wrenching process not only on the idea that you are actually leaving home but also the process of choosing what to leave behind and what to bring along with you. What do you really need to start a new life? There is always that feeling of uncertainty, vagueness and tentativeness that diverting it to an art form, it becomes a process of healing.
Our overseas periods were initially both intended to be 2-3 years of temporarily living and working elsewhere before returning to Australia, but neither case turned out exactly to plan. We did return to Australia after 6+ years in the USA, but 3 years later came the call to for Mike come to Uruguay to search for gold. In each case, because of expectations that our absences would be only temporary and short, we made the ‘take/leave’ decisions on a relatively small scale, taking only some papers, cds and a few favourite books, and storing the rest until our return. If the question had been put to me all those years ago “How would you like to emigrate to Uruguay?” I’d have told Mike he was on his own – as I would never have agreed to emigrate from the best country on Earth. But in effect that is what has happened, more or less – as after nearly 20 years we’re still away 😉 Last year for a number of good reasons we decided to sell the Australian house we’d left in the care of a series of house minders. Naturally, after settlement we had to clear out our stuff, and spent several days discarding and donating a huge amount of all kinds of things – some I was glad to have an excuse to ditch, others I felt sorry or even guilty about. Then came the packers to prepare what was left for storage. As the packing raced ahead, we caught glimpses of stuff we hadn’t seen for years but hadn’t forgotten: books; vinyls and turntables; some furniture; kitchen gear; beds and bedding; paintings and other art; a couple heirlooms; stamps, rocks, and fabric collections. That was tantalising, and each of us grabbed a couple of small things to bring back in our luggage.
The whole clearing out, discarding and consigning to storage process caused me to consider how temporarily we are anywhere on earth, really; and to reflect on the role of ‘important stuff’ in our lives. I dismissed a well-meaning comment from an old friend who’d never lived anywhere else and hasn’t even moved house in the same town: “You’ve lived without it all for 20 years, so why not just get rid of the lot?” He sort of had a point, but if we weren’t being forced to ditch the lot, why should we?
As “Project Another Country” had been open since April, by December it had become gloriously crowded with little ‘homes’ ranging from very simple to elaborate – and was quite wonderful to see. This installation visibly appealed to people of all ages, and if I’d had more time I’d have sat down to construct something myself, but by the time I discovered this gallery, it was nearly time to leave for the airport, and I thought my best use of time was to just look and enjoy it before leaving the gallery to collect our bags and go.