AM: I believe that sometimes when we migrate, we need to create a second self, a version of ourselves that fits better in the new country. I started to question in which measure this is right or not. I am collecting stories of people who migrated to get to know what they did to become part of the new social tissue. What they changed in their habits, in their life. What they felt they had to do to be accepted.
I believe your video pieces, Here and There and It’s we, are talking about this topic. They are talking about how we question what we are and what the “hosting people” want us to be. They question how we perform this daily adaptation. Furthermore in your website, to describe the project It’s we, you talked about “race performativity in everyday life”. That is probably a better way to put into words what I am saying.
So can you discuss this concept in connections with the two projects?
PU: Well, the one call Here and There it’s a bit longer and it is from 2011, It’s we is from 2013. When you explained what you are doing, I feel Here and There is exactly that. In the video, the interviewees talk about how they adapted and what Sweden did with them and their life and life choices, and what would they have been if they would have stayed in their home place. They say: “I would have had children much younger or I would have studied or not studied this or that”. So that is how Sweden really changed them in some directions.
The other video –It’s we– it’s quite unique for my practice, because I usually work with other people or myself, but on life story. So lives stories are important. It’s we is a bit different, because it’s like a speech. I called it a silent speech in the description, because I am looking at the camera and it’s like you can see my thoughts. But it’s all a kind or reaction. I was fed up with this “where do you come from?”. Here in Sweden, I don’t know if you are familiar with, if you have been here, but the swedes are like “we are not racists” “we are very open”. They have this image that they are so open but this question “where do you come from?”… I was born in Sweden, so I speak without an accent. But I don’t look Swedish and I never came, I have never migrated myself. My parents migrated and I was born in Sweden. So I found the question a little provocative.
Another way to ask for example can be: “ I see you were probably born and grown up here. But where are your parents from?” but the question they normally ask is where do you come from? This question implies that I cannot come from here, I cannot belong here, because these hair don’t belong here. And they say: “no, I am just curios about people”. It’s not really curiosity, it’s more a categorization, like “you’re immigrant”. Because they ask “where do you come from?” , you reply “Chile” and then you keep talking, and they can’t think you are a Swed. They think “you are so different from me” “you cannot be like me, because you are so different”. A lot of second and third generation are questioning this way of asking, because there could be others.
The situation we are talking about it’s normally a social situation, it’s a party, a job interview. And sometimes when I go all the way and respond to all the questions that follow…I feel like…because you know, I have never lived in Chile. I have been there. I have been there for a month, for longer time. But to live in one place and to grow up there, to go to school there, is different. All that makes you have a knowledge, a sense of the place that it’s profound. But to be one months, one week, it’s not the same. So I feel like that when I say “yes I am chilean and I speak Spanish” I am making up, I am some person I am really not.
So all these questions I pose in It’s we are just like, can you see beyond my hair color? And if we grow up here, we went to the same school and ate the same food at school, then we are probably more similar than you might have thought seeing my hair color.
So that video it’s like a reaction to all the things that actually I have never said in a social situation, because you don’t want to be uncomfortable. So there is like a list and that is unmerciful. I perform there with my face, speaking Swedish without an accent. But, yes, that’s the thoughts that I had when I made it.
I look at the camera, and there is a silent speech. There is a speech but I an not pronouncing words. They become thoughts. Many people experience it as a strong video because I am standing there, in some how, also exposing myself and saying all these uncomfortable things.
AM. Speaking in Swedish, in It’s we, you are really questioning the position of the second and third generation, how the ones that were born there and are supposed to be integrated, feel integrated or not by other citizens.
PU: Exactly that’s the clash, because I feel Swedish. This is my home. I have always live here and I don’t have the image that I am gonna go anywhere else.
AM. The clash comes from how we perceived ourself and how the people surrounding us perceived ourself, how we copy with this difference.
PU: Yeah, And what does it really mean? If we are at this job interview, at this social situation, what does it really mean? The significance of having come from this, from that…that’s based in race biological ideology I think, that it means that this difference is so crucial for who we are and what we can be.
AM: In the two videos we are discussing, you pose questions, and posing questions become not just a way to investigate a topic but to construct the videos. In It’s we you say what not to ask, and in Here and There you ask the same question to all the participants. This interested me because I, too, am an artist working on migration and integration topics and I ask questions as a “procedure”.
For me sometimes it’s a mean to understand how the people perceived me. I ask questions to others that migrated to understand which is my position via them. I don’t know if it’s similar for you.
PU: Yeah. Since I was growing up there has always been like an existential conflict, an identity conflict, because as I have never lived in Chile, I don’t have this experience. There is a philosopher called Marcia Sá Cavalcante, who speaks about a loss of a loss. When you move is always a loss. The first generation, the person who migrates, as you maybe, you have the loss. You know what you have lost, the language, the country, the place, the experiences, the memories, the scents. You can maybe grieve it because you lost it. So there is this possibility to grieve. But with the second generation, we kind of inherit a memory of the loss, but we actually lack this loss. So we don’t have a possibility to grieve. There is a loss of a loss. That is the conflict I think, and now I am 38, so I can kind of verbalize this and understand it, and find literature. But when I was a teenager, when I was 20, this was more an identity crisis. I could say, I am an artist and I do art about this because I need to understand what is going on, what is that I am feeling, thinking.
So I started with just investigating myself: what if I was born in Chile, who would have been If I was Chilean. The first year at University I did a fiction portrait as if I was a real chilean, living there and all. Then after the master degree, I felt as I could not be so egocentric and I had to try to find in others the conflict I am looking for.
In 2012, I made a film about person born with a false identity in Argentina –Life as a Lie – but that one I think it’s more violent since her biological parents were killed. It’s the history of 70’s in Argentina during dictatorship, you know. The protagonist lived with a passport, illegally adopted but has if she were biological, legal, to her adopted parents. And when she grown up she found out who her really parents were and she also felt this “I don’t belong here”. She felt illegal to her adopted parents. That is another version of the conflict even if I believe it’s more violent, much more. But it is also a consequence of the political situation in Latin America in the 70’s.
Why my parents went exile? It’s because of the military coup in chile and her story is also because of the dictatorship. So there is this similarity, we are the same generation, me and her.
As I explain in my statement on the website, I work on the uncertainty of identity. My practice was always investigative, like research, and there is a bit of sorrow in it. Some people say that my work is sad, because normally there is no comfort in this issue or no answers.
AM: I got a third question, it’s the last one. Do you feel that with your projects you can have some agency on migration and integration issues?
PU: Now in all Europe, fascism and nazism are growing stronger and stronger, and I can also see that my work could have another meaning that is bigger than just my own. Off course I always mean to talk about me, but in general prospective it’s not private, it’s personal.
The Refugee of the Sorrowful Figure, the recent work that I did about an asylum seeker, turned out to be something else..I started to do it in 2013 and it has it’s premier in 2015 when there was the so called migrant crisis. I felt that the media coverage of the crisis was very black and white. So my aim with that piece has become to broader what is a refugee.
Even an anti-racist persons that regards himself as an anti-racist, has a lot of prejudices and there are prejudices also in the system of migration agencies, you know. I read a lot of the questions the Agency required you to answer to get asylum and it’s interesting how these questions are formulated. In order to get asylum you have to talk about your reasons to get protection in a “sannolikt”. In Swedish “Sanning” is the truth, “likt” means “like”, then sanninlikt means like the truth. So you have to state your reason in a way that looks like the truth. And normally life is not ”like the truth”. It’s all messy and complicated. Things happen in ways that it’s not very logic. My last video is also showing that and it is something that concern everyone, not only in Sweden, in Europe.
AM: I think this is something that happens in every country, we try to normalize -also through bureaucracy- human life in cases. There is always this lack of time and also willingness, to try to understand the complexity behind the people, the reasons of the others to be there, to migrate. This is one of the problem that create discrimination, and the system is created in that way.