PALM

PALM is first and foremost a script for a play. There are two central questions at the heart of the work. One is the question of belonging and home. The second is the question of construction and to what extent our discursive practices and our conscious and subconscious constructions of the world shape and either regenerate or re-invent our world. 

As an exploration of these ideas PALM is also a work and an act of refusal. The work refuses to conform to the given discursive modes of operation. It refuses categorization. The palm becomes a character in the play, and as the viewer identifies with it, it becomes the hermeneutical key with which the potential for an emotional and allegorical reading is unlocked. In order to read photographs as a script for a play, the viewer must abandon all they think they know and start again on a journey of re-framing, rethinking, re-imagining and re-discovery.

Racism. Belonging. When does someone truly belong? And when is appropriation culture? What constitutes belonging? What seemed like a side issue during the overwhelming initial impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, has suddenly and tragically been brought to the fore again through the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis, USA. But for how long? As long as the press has dramatic pictures to sell? Fighting racism and xenophobia begins not with declaring hatred or blame, but with a careful unpicking of one's own engagement in the historical processes that have produced and worked to construct difference, whiteness, entitlement and ideas of possession of land, national identity and what it means to be human. Only when awareness of one's own implication in the reproduction of these assumed "facts of the world as it is now" is discovered, can change begin.

As a piece, PALM is created to mirror my own unwillingness to be categorised by others. I experience especially the categorisation by nationality, place of birth, gender, age and profession as restrictive. Because I have light skin, categorisation by “race“ is something that I rarely experience as a recipient, but observe as it is a daily reality for many. By engaging with colonial histories within the piece, I place and include myself within the complex web of constructions that represent the state of the world at present. I am both suffering from and implicated in a history of imaginations of what the world is and could be, that have led to the status quo. My passionate quest is toward the truth that the world could be different if we can imagine it differently. This is true, I must warn, in both directions, for the better and for worse. Imagination is not inherently a force for good. But it can be used as a vehicle for change. 

Ultimately the viewer becomes the director and main actor of PALM. It is both their performative gestures as they attempt to engage with the oversized book, their engagement, or lack thereof, with the various forms of literary expression within its pages, and the play that takes shape within the viewers‘ imagination, which becomes the true locus of the work. It is here that the cliff-hanger scene of the play is decided, anew with every new viewing. Will they resist the temptation to categorize, name, identify and box the various aspects of the play? Will they engage with the play‘s demand to forgo categorisation in favour of an interpretive reading by unknown methods? And finally, will they emerge with a different view of the world? A view that allows for change, imagination and agency? Time will tell.

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© 2020 by Martina La Trobe-Bateman