Introduction 2018 by Bonny Nahmias

Asylum Alum Bonny Nahmias talks about two of her recent works that are currently being exhibited at Root Division Gallery in San Francisco, CA. The opening reception will be taking place on September 8 from 7 – 10pm, and will be on display through September 29.

Introduction 2018 will be featuring two of my works. One is an archival pigment print from my performance, Behind The Fence/ At The Holocaust Memorial, made in 2015. This work was staged in front of the Holocaust Memorial at California Palace of the Legion of Honor with a person posing, wearing an orange life vest. This is in reference to images seen in media reports about the Syrians seeking refuge in Europe that year. More specifically, images showing refugees standing by the Macedonian border evoked some Holocaust associations for me: ordinary citizens carrying children, waiting behind a fence and looking at a group of guards in helmets. I was hoping to look further into these similarities in order to make viewers understand its grave urgency.

Photo Credit: Ben Weiss – Behind The Fence/ At The Holocaust Memorial, 2015 

My other work is a 14-minute double channel video, Aporias Of Hospitality. It follows the story of a fictional character who arrives overnight at a new place. She is welcomed by a child who serves as the host and who refers to her (the guest) as a “stranger”. The guest/stranger gets to explore and feel the new place she is in, yet after some time she is expected to transform her status from “stranger” to “local/familiar/one of the us”, and further adopts the identity of the host. This narrative explores the conflict inherent in the role-play, which is constantly reversing polarities between guest and host. From Biblical stories to Greek mythology, hospitality has always been a great deed one must serve in its fullest. Nonetheless, in this day and age of globalization and accessible transportation, this welcoming notion has shifted under the context of refugee crisis, migration, immigration, and all other terms used while referring to those guests who might be threatening one’s territory and identity.

Aporias Of Hospitality, 2017

This project was made in the summer of 2017, while in residency at Aktuelle Architekture Der Kulture in Spain. It was inspired from an essay by the scholar, Hossein Khosrowjah, who refers to Jacques Derrida’s theory of hospitality in rethinking our current global phenomena of immigration and displacement. His final sarcastic remark is quoted in the video, asking “without the status of the dislocated stranger remaining as ‘a guest’, how would the host declare its mastery over the house?”

It felt appropriate to make such a project in Europe, the continent that has witnessed the largest human displacement in previous decades, especially during the year prior to my residency. Spain, in particular, has its own long history of displacing humans for racial and religious reasons. It felt necessary for me personally, as a daughter of Sephardic Jews who still uses the dialect of Ladino, to reconnect to the land through its historical context; where once my ancestors were hosts, now I am a guest.

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