MIGRANT’S ALTAR. FAREWELL
In 2016, due to Belarus political reality of increasing terror of Lukashenko’s dictatorship Maria Gvardeitseva left her homeland and immigrated to Latvia. In 2022 the process of citizenship refusal is finalized and she has to deliver her passeport to the nearest Consulate. The artist shapes this auto-exile, a painful separation from her Motherland in « Migrant’s Altar. Farewell ».
Our homeland is always filled with memories that represent symbolic anchors of our identity. In his Theory of Human Motivation, Abraham Maslow determined a sense of belonging—along with several other factors, including safety, esteem, and self-actualization—a powerful motivator of human behavior and one of their fundamental needs. Consequently, exilium, or social rejection has become a form of extreme sanction and for centuries the separation from an individual's original context - even formal - has been considered as highly traumatic. In Roman law as well as in Biblical tradition, banishment denoted as a capital punishment that was applied in case of both individual and collective responsibilities. Hence, Cain was exiled for taking Abel's life and Jews as people found themselves in Babylonian captivity for committing idolatry.
In her work Maria dissociates the notion of exilium from subjective guilt. Here the death penalty becomes mindful self-sacrifice in order to regain the potential of agency - the faculty of action and ability to influence her reality. In its essence Maria’s artistic statement approaches the act of secluding. In her video artwork the artist marks this voluntary separation with burning her passport, sacrificing her past to win control over her life. Maria shows this breaking point by displaying her « memory box » as suitcases filled with objects she took with her while leaving Belarus forever. Some books by Yanka Kupala, a photo album, the dress her daughter was baptized in - a number of random objects for others represent Maria’s essential life moments. The suitcases are torn in two pieces and disposed in the form of an Altar, as they contain globally unimportant objects that happen to be artist’s personal relics.
By using the principles of separation, Maria studies the nature of our bond with Homeland; through the patchwork of these memory objects she palpates the limits of individual’s autonomy. The artist shows one of the most functional power and domination mechanisms of the State: by blending with a human's fundamental identity base, the State attributes mutate into parasite symbols and associate themselves to the notion of Homeland. In the part of the installation entitled « Anatomy of citizenship » Maria questions symbolic limits of State attributes by means of physical isolation of her passport and peeling it from sentimental memories.
Migrant’s Altar. Farewell. Is Maria Gvardeitseva’s heartbreaking journey to her true self, an intense sorrow delimiting her past from her future and a showcase of the price of freedom.