‘WELCOME’ is an installation surrounding Barnet’s experience as an immigrant to the UK. Incorporating drawings based on immigration documentation alongside appropriated objects, this exhibition focuses on a singular personal narrative amid the backdrop of one of the most challenging phenomena facing contemporary societies.
‘WELCOME’ was exhibited at the Waterfront Gallery, University of Ipswich 19 April-5 May, 2019
Welcome Gallery Notes:
Welcome to Welcome. This exhibition is a study in contradiction – you are welcomed in only to be confronted with a recommendation to depart. This inconsistency reflects the experience of the immigrant, one who lives in an internalized, as well as often actual, state of uncertainty. There is a sense of impending disruption. For the first couple years after moving to the UK, I repeatedly dreamt of an inability to find home – in my dreams I anxiously went from place to place, never finding where I belonged.
The immigrant’s experience involves a continual negotiation with the state, which is often accompanied by feelings of dehumanization. Theoretically, positioning the regulation of populations over individual bodies looks to both Giorgio Agamben and Michel Foucault. Agamben’s focus on law and citizenship itself references Foucault’s concept of biopolitics. This reduction of the individual as a necessary means to serve the functionality of the state often produces moments of absurdity, pathos and humour.
The work presented here suggests such moments of slippage and discrepancy that form parts of my immigration experience. The Unacceptable Drawings are based on the UK Border Agency Photograph Guidance, rules that must be followed in order to obtain a Residency Permit Card. They are of course not photographs, and actually more paintings than drawings. They range in style from basic illustrations to portraying individuals. The accompanying text, taken directly from those guidelines, often strikes me as poetry: ‘even the slightest smile distorts the normal facial features.’
The poetry and absurdities that I encounter in engaging with the state as an immigrant to the UK resonate and linger. For me this is where the humanity within an often overwhelming bureaucracy endures. This is not meant as a rebuke of the UK or even the UK immigration system but rather a presentation of my experience and those particularities that catch my attention.