Me Entiendes

Performance – Direction and Performance by Soeine Bac: 23 March 2019, Centro Negra / AADK Spain in Blanca (Murcia, Spain)

(Work developed during the Residency Programme of AADK Spain)

This project at Centro Negra arose from my attempt to collaborate with a local Arab singer, Amar. A strong feeling of longing in his singing evoked notions centered around immigration: displacement, loss, belonging, return, home, land, etc. The distinctive presence of his culture contrasted with my own marked lack of desire for any cultural identity. I became interested in the different contexts of our immigration; my immigration was voluntary, while he was involuntarily exiled. I chose to live in different places as a perpetual nomad; he seems to have been forced to become an immigrant.

I focused on this contrast as an initial direction for the work. However, as our collaboration unfolded, I started to see that my idea of collaboration was naive and somewhat faulty; I had not seen the unequal power structure between us. Regardless of our actual situations, Amar was an indigent local singer with traditional artistry, living in a small village of an old European country, working for me: a privileged artist from an expensive North American city, with contemporary art schooling. My attempt to resolve this apparent problem allowed me to see the complexity involved in the subject of immigration and to reflect on the practice of making contemporary art.

Both voluntary immigration and involuntary exile require leaving one’s home and familiar cultural landscape and assimilating into an unfamiliar milieu. And this situation involves unequal economic and cultural relationships between newcomers and residents, leaving the newcomers insecure in the cultural and social landscape. I have adopted Amar’s personal verbal tic, “Me entiendes,” as a symbolic gesture of this inequality. Although he is not present in this current work, this is the legacy of our incomplete collaboration. Verbal tics fill the gaps between words. In their absence of meaning, they carry the desire to be understood.