Full name: Melanie Garland
Organisation: representing ZK/U Berlin
Currently lives and works in: Berlin
Practice: installation, sound art, painting, drawing and analog photography
I am an artist and architectural restorer, currently I am enrolled in a PhD in art & anthropology of migration in the Humboldt University of Berlin. I’m the co-founder of the art project NomadicArt that works at ZK/U Berlin (Zentrüm für Kunst und Urbanistik Berlin) on issues surrounding migration and integration.
I am interested in the relationship between art, migration, cultural architectural heritage and visual anthropology, working directly with migrant communities, currently working with African, Syrian, Iranian, German, Chilean and Colombian communities in the context of postcolonial studies.
From my vision as an artist, restorer and future anthropologist, I am in constant reflection and questioning on human processes such as cultural diversity, social integration, cultural genealogy, local globalization, memory and history of colonized communities, postcolonial reflections, and how it is possible to cover these issues on an artistic and conceptual level. In my ongoing PhD research, I am interested in the process of rethinking colonization and decolonization concepts in the frame of postcolonial studies. Bringing into question the possibility of illegal self-made refugee/migrants camps as part of a decolonisation process. I am reflexing in the possibility of “decolonization” and freedom, from macro border and mobility regulation, to the micro creations of places through liminality as a protected safe place for transit migrants. Through different artistic and ethnographic methodologies such as art action, performance and interactive installation, I am trying to create an archive of migration memories around Europe and South America.
Why are you a part of MagiC Carpets: ZK/U invited me to be part of this project, they nominated me as an artist representing Germany. I am a former artist resident and part of nomadicArt; ZK/U’s ongoing satellite project.
MagiC Carpets project: The others / Latitudo Rome
The theme chosen for the first year of MagiC Carpets Italy is The Other, the Foreigner. The first two artists invited by the emerging curator Giulia Pardini (Latitudo) to discuss the topic of migration were Hrvoslava Brkušić (Croatia 1982), selected by the MagiC Carpets partner Lab852 in Zagreb and Melanie Garland (Chile 1988), nominated by the partner ZK/U in Berlin. It’s not easy to deal with the recent history of our country, but this project must also address the reality that surrounds us at a difficult time. With this theme, we wanted to look at the phenomenon in its complexity and in its contradictions, through a profound reflection on what is happening around us, especially through the artists, who manage to analyse both the surface and the nucleus, both the roots and their branches. This attention marked the residences of both artists, who focused on the phenomenon of migration as well as on the individuals entering and crossing through our country in search of refuge.
Melanie Garland, instead, reflected on the condition of being in limbo that migrants find themselves in. In her work, too, a recurring element is water, the water of the sea and the water of the river that divides the city, as well as water that cradles those in limbo, seeking fortune. Her work, Liminality, which is marked by ephemeral elements like paper or light that interpret the fragility of the migrant condition, compares two different migrations: the historical migration of Italians towards America (especially the Latin America), and the more controversial current migration of those on the shores of the Mediterranean.
Type: local participation, social art, installation, sound art
In 2017, nomadicArt (art collective I am part of) researched and archived stories from a diverse range of neighbourhood residents (Moabit, western part of Berlin) and listened to their family stories. For example, when and how they came to live in Moabit and how they live in Moabit now. We generated an archive of stories and feelings of people living in the same urban space. In doing so, we collected the intangible heritage and memory of our neighborhood. More specifically, we prefered to look for little anecdotes and everyday stories that in the eyes of the participant feel that they would better represent their neighbourhood. With the help of some “cultural survey” methods, we tried to carry out the first mapping of the collection of these anecdotes on a small scale.
This project included three main elements: artistic workshops-actions, artistic interventions and artistic events. We worked together with the local community, as artists and anthropologists whose work gravitates around community and neighbourhood issues. The aim of this project was to create a suitable collection of material for future cataloguing of this intangible heritage.
What inspires you as an artist? I am inspired by everything (even if it sounds very cheesy ), from the materialities of space, nature, collecting roots of plants in the forest, conversations with friends and strangers, reading/writing books/texts (academic, novels and poetry), listening to music, playing music with my band ‘Pomelo’, trying to learn piano, long walks without any direction, trips to unknown countries (by train, bus, plane, boat, hitchhiking), listening to the current news on the radio (even if it’s in a language I don’t understand), exhibitions of unknown artists, visits to museums, watching Netflix, etc..
What do you think is the purpose of art?
Since studying at the university, I have been interested in how to collect memories and the genealogy of migration. I started in 2008 with the search for my ancestors, a journey into the past. In 2015 with the European borders crisis, I finally realized the purpose of art. Art was an instrument of social integration, of connection between borders, like a connecting device/artefact between A and B, between one person to another, or a territory that is divided by a border. Through art, it is possible to create and discover different methods that can help in the sociability, integration, connection between people, stories and moments. At the same time, connecting physical and mental borders on the global and local level of a territory.
Your favourite book(s): Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami
Your favourite film(s): Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by Michel Gondry