About home and being away. Fridge notes.
Using statements of women who work in situations of temporary migration and examples from the mainstream media, we want to reflect on the intricacies of mainstream discourses on migration of women and the complexities of the experiences of women we have spoken to.We want to focus on the ambivalence of the migration experience, both as emancipatory, in the fact that women gain a financial independence, but also as a conservatory one, given the difficulties these women have had in their assigned gender roles being challenged. Also, we are very interested in the double standards regarding migration, how “brain drain” and reproductive labor are seen differently, and how class and ethnicity of the migrant woman are strongly influencing the mainstream discourses on her. These discourses range from condescending and condemning nuances to praising of the hard-working professional that “redeems”the image of the country abroad.
The display of the work consists of magnet letters on a fridge writing out fragments from the statements of the migrant women (fragments that are switched during the exhibition), of the complete statements of women and of media clippings stuck to the fridge with souvenir magnets from countries where these women work.The display reffers to daily life, domesticity and the mundane, and also to the temporary and changing nature of these migration experiences.
The mass-media clippings are related to topics that shed light on the double standards regarding the migration of women. One large section of the media adopts the hypocritical positioning towards the children that are left behind with the father or other family members while the mothers go to work abroad. These articles reflect the conservative views on family that are using the real necessity of providing support and infrastructure for these children as a pretext to reinforce patriarchal views on gender roles. Also, a lot of articles are related to the dangers that women are exposed to while working abroad (while the stories of exploitation are definitely real, the way they are presented are not in order to challenge exploitative work practices in care work and agriculture but to warn women of the dangers of leaving their “safe” position in the family). Other articles speak about the “image of our country abroad”, spoiled by the poverty and “non-whiteness” of many migrant women. A paradigmatic article narrates the story of a “white”, college educated young Romanian woman who was refused as a client in a UK hotel because she was confused for a sex-worker and her indignation for such a confusion. All these clippings create an image of the double standards by which migration and migrants are judged, according to their gender, class, ethnic belonging, nationality and the work migrants are willing to do, and on how xenophobia and classism functions at different levels, in Romania and abroad.
These clippings are made part of a display in which the main role is taken by the voices of women who work as temporary migrants. We asked these women (who are friends and acquaintances) what did they gain from their experience of migration and what was that they found unfair. They speak about concrete work situations, about exploitation and hard work, about the worries for their families left behind, about the lack of possibilities to protest for better work conditions, but they also speak about the financial gains of their work, of the beauty of challenging your world views in contact with other people and other experiences. They speak about the importance of gaining independence from pre-conceived views on what their lives should look like, a topic that is rarely discussed in mainstream media on the migration of women.
in the frame of the project Between there and there: Anatomy of Temporary Migration, curators: : Irena Bekic and Duga Mavrinac, Museum of Contemporary Art, Rijeka, Croatia, 2017