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Pedagogical activity: Identities, migrations & cultural heritage

The proposal is an example of how we can use in our classrooms a social event, like an art exhibition, to work with the subjects that the content suggests, and not only with the obvious i.e., Art.


Larnaca Biennale, a lesson plan proposal


From Oct 11 to Nov 24 (2023), the third edition of LARNACA BIENNALE took place under the name “Home Away from Home” (https://biennalelarnaca.com/ ). This activity offers an example of how we can use these events (a visit at a museum or an exhibition) with our classes.


The main exhibition took place at the Municipal Art Gallery. The space was divided in different parts where a general description of the main concept of the artworks could be seen (*1).


The artworks’ descriptions included the name of the artists, their nationalities, the title, the technical description, and the connection with the concept “Home Away from Home”. Each one of these descriptions ended with a significant question placed by the exhibition curator (*2).


How to develop the activity:

While the students go around the exhibition looking at the artworks and reading the descriptions, they are asked to choose the one they like and to try to answer the question placed by the curator. Below, in blue, you have the panels’ texts introducing the exhibition and the various spaces (*1, *2 ).


After their descriptions and explanations, you can organize a panel with the students who chose the same artwork for their presentation where they must justify their selection. You can open discussions among them but also among the other students who chose something different.


More than the visual images that you can find in this activity, you can go further and propose the scents that identify and evoke the memory of home… or the sounds, music… you don’t need to focus only on images.


In the following section you can find all the descriptions (note that it’s only a selection).


*1 INTRODUCTION


The power of art lies in its ability to capture a moment, a memory, a trace of reality, a dream, a feeling, an idea. Each creative expression finds imaginative new forms, coming to life in a variety of ways. Under the umbrella of ‘Home Away From Home’, artists and makers of all kinds were invited to imagine the theme of the Larnaca Biennale 2023 in their own authentic ways.


What is it that constitutes a ‘home’, beyond just bricks and mortar? Across the world, we’ve grappled for centuries with the many meanings of this word. Among others, the subject of ‘home’ can be approached from psychological, philosophical, environmental, architectural and technological perspectives. For millions of people across the world, home can also represent a lost memory, or a dream yet to be realised.


The meaning of ‘home’, and of finding our roots, is a multi-layered concept. For this edition of the Biennale, we’ve set ourselves the task of unpacking notions of belonging – ideas that shape our lives and identities since birth.


We tend to forget that our primal home was once in the natural world – embedded firmly within the environment itself. Home, thus, might also represent a landscape, a forest, or any other wild space. But as we go further into a built environment of houses, streets, neighbourhoods, and cities, are we becoming further detached from our origins? For many artists, this tendency is concerning – in response, their works give voice to the natural world or seek to foster a renewed appreciation for the things it provides.


Home is about belonging and community, oneness with the landscape, the weight of the past, dreams, and personal identity. Whether we call it ‘home’ or give it another name, it is the essence of our existence – spaces that shape us as much as we shape them, where we discover ourselves in the things we encounter. For me and for many others who have passed though, Larnaca holds the potential to be such a place – even if only for a while.


For the Larnaca-born Stoic philosopher Zeno, the notion of a global home was a core belief some 2300 years ago. He argued that “what is required of the system of government is to force us to transcend the dispersion into cities, peoples, and nations, separated by laws, rights, so that we can all see each other”. Seeing one another and coming together offers an antidote to division and a way to feel at home, wherever we may be.


So, while seeing the exhibition of the Larnaca Biennale 2023, I encourage you to think beyond just the geographical and the physical. Perhaps the answer lies in the resilience of the human spirit and our ability to create new homes and new memories, even in the face of profound challenges. Thinking about ‘home’ is a call to action to keep on questioning this concept and to aspire for an equitable world where everyone has a place to call their own. Activate your memories, dreams, and feelings to imagine what it really means to be at home.


Yec Krravt, Curator Larnaca Biennale 2023

*2 DESCRIPTIONS


1: HOME AND HOUSE

While ‘Home’ and ‘House’ are terms often interchanged, they carry distinct meanings, though they can also complement and extend each other. This room showcases works from those who’ve experienced transitions or endured the rigours of seeking asylum. Some artists probe deeper, questioning the significance of symbols like flags and borders. Others evoke memories of everyday objects. Artworks like these help us think about what we are left with in transition, or in the absence of a home. Can we still survive in these conditions? How do we cope with loss, and do memories sustain us sufficiently? Perhaps the answer lies in the resilience of the human spirit and our ability to create new homes and new memories, even in the face of profound challenges.


Marc Giloux – France

“Flags” – Paintings, Printed Fabric

A flag, beyond marking territory, signifies identity and the essence of ‘home’ – a communal space of collective and shared experiences. In today’s world, the definition of territory is fluid, influenced by migrations and changing notions of identity.

Drawing from the rich geometric designs of flags, Marc’s artworks blend these shapes and hues, stripping them of their typical symbolism and created imaginative flags, shedding their conventional representations.

How do symbols, like flags, shape your understanding of home?


2: HOME AND MEMORY

We know by now that home is a concept with multiple meanings, but for millions of people across the world, home can also represent a lost memory, or a dream yet to be realised. These are the dislocated, the displaced, the homeless – or perhaps more appropriately, ‘the unhoused’, Touching on homelessness, or on memories of displacement, can certainly be a heavy task. It forces us to confront the fragility of belonging and the disorienting effects of dispossession; what feels so secure might not always be here to stay. At the heart of this room lies the question of what happens when home disappears, and only memories remain. If memory itself fades away, are we then left with nothing at all?


Natasa Balouktsi – Greece

“Dream house with garden” – Oil on Canvas

In ‘Dream House With Garden’, Natasa paints a portrayal of displacement. A house as a shack symbolizes the fragile nature of seeking a ‘home’ in unknown territories.

This painting embodies the yearnings of those who have left their homeland, trying to find solace in new places, but often feeling trapped in a liminal space between imagination and reality. The dominant white background underscores a poignant truth: situations evolve, but the longing for a place to truly call ‘home’ endures, and we must start from a blank canvas.

If you could start drawing your house from a white canvas, where would you begin?


Christos Loizou – Cyprus

“The bricks of the urban city” – Compressed cardboards

In ‘The bricks of The Urban City’ Christos crafts bricks from cardboard discarded outside Limassol’s shops. Each cardboard piece, adorned with stamps, notes, and stickers, narrates its industrial journey.

Yet, its irony lies in its dual utility: discarded by many, yet treasured by the homeless. For them, this lightweight material transforms into makeshift shelters or beds. This fragile home challenges our views on value and belonging.

Has your value of ‘home’ changed over time?



Jose Ney Mila Espinosa – Cuba

“Anonymous, from the puzzle series” – Photography

A set of modified passport photos of men and women who fled their home countries. These portraits, originally used for refugees’ legal documentation, capture the raw emotions and struggles that immigrants often face. The reality is that while someone may find refuge in a new country indefinitely, others may secure temporary status, and some may ultimately be deported back to their countries of origin.

The artist delves into the concept of ‘home’. Amid the challenges of seeking a new place to live, Jose suggests that ‘home’ is a feeling carried within oneself. The intimacy we share with our loved ones serves as an anchor, both securing and inspiring our sense of self.

Do you consider your memories as the true essence of ‘home’?


3: HOME AND SPACE

Gazing at the skies above, many of us – for centuries now – have tried to imagine a home beyond the confines of our planet. But why is space such an endless source of fascination and polarising debate? Do we regard space to be an extension of the natural world, a potential refuge for humanity, the site of a boundless scientific experiment, a mere commercial opportunity, or all of the above? Whether it’s a question of escapism of human ‘progress’, the lines between humankind and technology are blurrier than ever, and new frontiers invite further exploration, Is there life somewhere out there already? And what would it look like if we made it our home?


Xenia Zorpidou – Cyprus

“Trendy enough?” – Oil on canvas

The ironic title ‘Trendy Enough?’ refers to our modern obsession with materialism and the influence of mass media and advertising. Xenia feels trapped in this home, where we constantly have to adapt ourselves to fashion trends and statements.

The work captures the tension between embracing and resisting mass culture, highlighting the inner battle between our desires for material possessions and our subdued societal acceptance of these urges.

How does societal status shape our sense of home?


Renata Szułczyńska – Poland

“Lonely” – Serigraphy on a paper

A crowded street has a sense of loneliness as you pass by a homeless person on the roadside. The physical lack of a home leaves one with no place to live and brings anxiety and instability to their life.

Renata draws a parallel between this human experience and the pursuit of space exploration. Seeking possibilities to expand our habitation to the distant corners of the Galaxy we are driven by a sense of limited land on our own planet. We deal with a feeling of imminent loss of our common home in a philosophical way romanticising space.

Can we inhabit the planet Earth and still feel lonely?


4: HOME AND STORIES

Every person carries a deeply rooted story of home, often intertwined with family histories and traditions. These tales passed down through generations, form the bedrock of our identities, defining who we are and how we perceive the world. Within this room, you’ll encounter diverse narratives of home – from joyful recollections of familial bonds to poignant tales of homes left behind. As you walk through these stories, consider the universality of such experiences, but also the deeply personal nuances that make each story special. In sharing and preserving these tales, we honour the past, shape the present, and envision a collective future where every story finds a home.


Chiaki Kamikawa – Japan

“Swaray and Swaray’s Home” – Books, watercolor painting

Chiaki tells the story of refugee Swaray who came to Cyprus from Sierra Leone in 1996. having a disturbing journey from his native country, Swaray settles on the island. Two illustrated books describe his family’s struggles while settling down in a new country that as years passed their home. Each family member describes his concept of home.

For this family, ‘home’ went through the years of fitting in feeling separated from the roots.

Can a new ‘home’ truly evoke positive sentiments, or is it forever intertwined with separation?


Danielle Feldhaker – Israel

“Welcome II (DIY)” – IKEA door mats

By using everyday life objects in her installations and taking them out of context, Danielle reinvents their usage. Various ready-mades usually do not attract any attention as they are commonly used in private as well as in public places underlining the tension between industrial production lines and handworks.

IKEA entrance rugs hung on the wall, form a large-scale mosaic. The word ‘Welcome’ is written on each carpet either in Hebrew, Arabic or English. Many IKEA items have become iconic all over the world – in homes, offices and public places. One can easily recognize them and identify with them, experiencing an era of inexpensive, minimalist consumerism.

Do those well-known IKEA objects we meet in different countries make us feel at home? Or what everyday life objects make you feel at home?


Rakefet Viner Omer – Israel

Golden Sweat – Oil, markers, ink, pen, spray, gold leaves, and wood construction

In ‘Golden Sweat’, Rakefet draws inspiration from Agnon’s novel, the artwork reflects the custom of the bridal canopy from Jewish towns in Eastern Europe. It tells the tale of Yodel, a man journeying from village to village to, collecting not funds, but stories.

These narratives become pillars of intimacy and belonging, echoing the larger theme of the wandering Jew who forsook old traditions to start anew in Israel. Through ‘Golden Sweat’, Rakefet positions painting as a medium that captures and domesticates history, traumas, and the eternal quest for a sense of home.

How do our travels and tales redefine what we call home?

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