Since February 2017, thanks to the dedication and confidence of Dr Jean-Xavier Ridon, a Leverhulme Trust grant has allowed me to be an artist in residence at the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom.
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The stated aim of the grant is to help a university “to foster a completely new creative collaboration between an artist working in a discipline outside the applicant institution’s usual curriculum and the staff and/or students of that institution.”
The grant-winning project originates both in my 25 years relationship with Nepal and in Dr Ridon’s interest for the question of trace – including its photographic aspect. It has consisted in meeting several families among the 150 households strong Nepali community of Nottingham, in order to look into their representations of the migratory experience that brought them to the UK, through the prism of their family albums, and through a transposition of my findings and feelings into an artistic form.
The project was expounded to a significant part of the community at the local Nepali New Year party in April 2017. They responded favourably to my proposition.
Interviews were organised at their homes with the families willing to take part in the project. Although I was ready to delve into social medias albums online, my initial conjecture was that most families would actually possess one or several physical albums of photographs, and that these would be the most relevant vehicle for their vision of their own uprooting. Which proved to be true. We browsed together through their pictures. They let me – and frequently helped me – to edit their material. And so we contrived to gather a large selection of images, which was solely guided by my aesthetic and human emotion in front of the photographs, and sometimes inflected by their historical or personal comments about them. All the selected prints were then digitised.
I have then striven to re-interpret the collected images by the means of a series of 17 e-kus. Based upon the classic haiku, a Japanese short poem of 17 moras aiming to evoke rather than to describe an emotion, the e-ku is a 17 seconds multimedia work that combines image, sound and – though with some license – text. It was conceptualised around 2010 by late Jean-François Michel between Paris, Brussels and Manosque. The first e-kus were then created by myself and a few other artists.
The outcome of the current residence is thus naturally envisaged as an artistic body of work rather than as an academic investigation. In no instance shall any scientific conclusion be drawn by myself from that work, nor shall I put forward any definitive answer to the questions raised by my conversations with the Nepalis in Nottingham. These poems are not meant to tell a particular story. They are, or would like to be, the mere superposition of strata of feelings. I simply hope that as such they will provide the viewers with a space for freedom and imagination where they can raise their own questions and find their own answers.