Just over a week ago I returned from Chile. I was there teaching snowboarding which is my other profession which helps fund my art activities. It has taken me a few days to come to terms with the last few days that I spent there as they were not like the rest of the season. When I tried to leave the country I was denied, refused exit. This is the first time in 16 years of travel that I have had an issue with a visa and it was a huge learning experience. Add to this that I may have learnt some Spanish in my time there but I am no way near fluent and going through this process of being denied by the check in agent to then being asked to speak to immigration followed by the police was quite a traumatic experience.
It turned out the company I had been working for had cut a few corners and had decided to not actually pay for the correct visa and had only process a token one month work visa even though they knew I was working for them for three months. So when I got to the airport and tried to explain that I had a visa, that I had paid tax and paid a visa fee. It took a while for an official to explain what had actually happened. The company I had been working for thought there would be no issue as most instructors left before their tourist visa was up.
So once I had been declined I had my passport confiscated and told that I would have to go to the main Ministry building for immigration on the Monday to see what fines I would have to pay. This is the first time in all my travels that I have been without my passport or been left in no mans land. It was an odd sensation and I am not sure how I feel about the days I spent in Santiago waiting to find out what the Ministry would say. It made me consider the issues and thoughts I examine within my art practice. These liminal states, borderless zones and wastelands where nothing but everything happens. This time where I was unable to go or do anything however I was there experiencing this quite unique process. It was real, very real to me, however I was also in limbo and these were nothing days that to everyone else really did not matter. This stasis I felt like I had little if no control of my fate or movement which compared to the fortunate life I have lead is quite the opposite.
I am not sure I have really come to terms or understood what or how this may affect or influence my work. However I leave for Armenia where I will spend the next six weeks on residency. I feel that some of the experiences I have undergone may start to filter into some of the investigations I make in the coming weeks.
Living here in Portillo is a trip, a place full of contradictions. The spectacular scenery, world class freeride terrain for skiers and snowboarders and fully serviced hotel in the heart of the Andes. However this is also one of the passes between Chile and Argentina, this picturesque place is a thoroughfare for trucks transporting all kinds of goods. Its a hostile place with the road being subject to closures frequently due to the winding switchbacks that lead up to the border. The parked up trucks display the amount of traffic that passes through on any given day navigating the pass.
The border itself is a ramshackle warehouse of a place. Similar to a lot of the buildings in these mountains it looks temporary, subject to movement both by mother nature and man. This living so close to a border in a man made utopia is quite surreal, the road provides a reminder to the real, the world that operates away from here. For those not from here the road is understandable whilst the resort is itself a heterotopia. A yellow hotel built within a South American country for those who have the money to enjoy the finer things in life and privileged enough to be able to ski.
I am sure it will be a time in my life that I will make me question daily where I am. The idea of only knowing what is beneath your feet and not really knowing what the next step will bring. This borderland seems to be less certain maybe similar to the buildings the ground is less certain or not as comprehendible.
Things have been fast paced in the last few weeks. I would normally be writing this from Queenstown, New Zealand where I have been based for the past thirteen winters however a month ago a new opportunity arose in Chile, specifically in Portillo. So since making the move and taking on the challenge of learning a language in no time at all I am here in Portillo, Chile. I spent two weeks in Santiago at a language school which gave me the basics and now I am in the thick of it trying to teach English, Spanish and Brazilian guests to snowboard. I have to admit the office is pretty inspiring.
Whilst in Santiago I made a day trip to a city a couple of hours away call Valparaiso. This is an inspiring city with a bubbling creative scene. The street walls are painted in vivid colours and in addition some of the best street art I have seen in a long time.
I am starting to build some new works around the digital collage that I made last year in Athens, Greece. I hope to have a new piece up and running sooner rather than later. I am also putting together final plans for my time in Armenia in October at the ACSL artist residency. My nomadic life will continue for now, however I am looking for a base to create some works that are ready to be fabricated. I guess this will always be the balance with this lifestyle and trying to balance the two sides of my life.
2014, well for the five months that I have tasted, its been a roller coaster..
I’m still making and developing ideas and its this weird oddity that the unsettled nature of life sometimes spawns the biggest output. Though with this creative time comes the realisation also of the never studio or mobile studio. Being dislocated from anywhere and nowhere I currently feel uncertain of where I am making work. Time, space, country, me or another.
My time in Japan ended suddenly though for the better. No real mental space to channel in thoughts whilst there. Now back seeking time and refuel at the olds. A place that is neither home or away. However a chance to scheme and plan the next chapter and fund the new energy to get back out there.
New plans are being made with current work and travel planned for Chile from the end of June through to September. Once the wheels start I then will be rolling again. Heading to Armenia after Chile and finally onto USA come the end of 2014. Through these times my studio changes endlessly. If anything the never studio is a studio of the person. Where I stand is where my studio is, this functions quite well unless the feet don’t feel stable.
I am not sure what the work will be or how it will unfold though right now the fascination with change and transience within my work has come to a head. I currently exist within a place that I am neither certain or uncertain, an unknowing of whether where I am heading is right however where I have been is no longer a route that I choose to travel. Pushing further into a zone that is both liminal and borderless. An adventure and into the realms of the never studio.