Our guest blogger this week, Andrew Jackson, is an artist who engages with the challenges of representation and narration through the medium of photography. His interventions focus on migration, memory and notions of urbanism. Andrew is a recent recipient of the Light Works Residency in Syracuse (2018) and Arts Council England’s Artist International Development fund, which enabled him to develop a work exploring language, identity and the spaces of Montreal. He is working towards a major exhibition in Birmingham, UK in 2018 exploring the Jamaican Diaspora. A graduate of the MA Documentary program at Newport in Wales, Andrew has since undertaken both self-initiated and commissioned works in the UK and abroad.
Outside of the window, beyond the hermetically sealed world in which I sit—whilst stewards check the integrity of locks on overhead lockers and passengers tighten their seat belts, some whispering silent prayers—grey puddles of water ripple into small waves as they are blown along the tarmac and then atomised into the wind by the growing thrust of jet engines, which exhale the power of technology that will take me from stillness, towards flight, and the ensuing spaces of a new world to come.
The spaces which I inhabited in Montreal, both private and public, both intimate and communal, belong to another consciousness now. Yet they are still easily accessed and experienced through recollected memories, which come viscerally to the fore, as I flick through my instagram feed, or find an old receipt in a pocket, to remind me that this time was real, and I was there.
Where once there was a world of anxiety, induced by the challenges of unknown spaces, there slowly grew familiarity and security. A strange sense of belonging to a space that wasn’t mine, and yet populated by people who made me feel welcome.
Now, by the distance of geography, as much as by the distance of time, my emotions have changed, once more, to become ones of longing and loss for a space that now is so far away and beyond reach. But do I long for the space or for the emotional responses experienced within that space?
Ultimately, in this light, my work within Montreal led me to explore the nature of belonging and the ways in which some are able to lay claim to spaces in ways that others aren’t.
Whilst this initially would be formed via an observation on language and the ways in which it shapes one’s identity and one’s access to space, the work would develop further to encompass the ways in which migrants, more specifically members of the Caribbean Diaspora, experienced the spaces around them and their specific notions of belonging.
My practice, as an artist, engages with the challenges of representation and narration through the medium of photography. I choose to undertake works which focus primarily on migration, memory and notions of urbanism. What intrigues me most are the ways in which external stimuli impact, not only upon our systems of belief and our notions of self, but also on our connections to the physical spaces around us and those who inhabit them.
I’m intrigued by the ways in which migrants, and often the generations which follow, still continue their migration journey within the cities of their host countries, long after their arrival. Their journeys seemingly never end as their relationships with the spaces around them seem never settled, and, at times, in a state of flux.
For those migrants without credit histories or a firm financial footing, without the ability to secure their own properties, or gain long term leases—a dream too often blighted by the ongoing creep of gentrification —there exists a persistent challenge to lay claim to a sense of ownership and belong to space.
They have the ongoing challenge to develop positive emotional responses with others that then can also be assigned to the spaces in which they live. Without these relationships, and these emotional assignments, it becomes difficult to shape notions of belonging, both to others but also to the space itself.
Within my work I am interested in the ways that personal and community psychology impacts this insecurity, both on migrants’ transnational identity and also their local identities, and the ways in which this can be visualised through images.
Boyd (1989) defines the domestic unit as “a sustenance unit” and “socialising agent” for migrant families. Perhaps, then, when I return to continue this work, I should focus more on the homes in which people live and the emotional responses which exist there…
Boyd, M. (1989). Family and personal networks in international migration: Recent developments and new agendas. International Migration Review, 23(3), 638-670.