supported by CEC ArtsLink, supported in part by the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin Economic Development Department
November 2 2019 is the last day of the installation “Traces of butterflies on the windshield of my car” at Museum of Human Achievements in Austin, Texas. I was lucky to have a residency at Museum of Human Achievements in Austin, Texas, USA in October 2018. I have been editing my documentary film there and through it reflecting about the broad notions like identity, borders, home, migration. There I had a chance to encounter those ideas again from different perspective, to discover similarities and differences while being thousands miles away from home.
Of course, while being in Texas, I could not avoid the temptation to visit the USA/Mexico border. I love exploring margins, how conditional they are and how they shape our lives through dividing or uniting lands and families. Thanks to Zac Traeger, Leslie Moody Castro and wonderful people I have met in Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, this trip was unforgettable and precious. Being also from the divided identity context, living in the Republic of Georgia, while being half Georgian and half Abkhaz (unrecognized state bordering Georgia) I could relate to so many things that people would share: emotions, stories, challenges, even some figures.
Before crossing the border to Mexico, I have noticed a telephone booth, I could not remember for how many years I have not seen them. It looked sad, dysfunctional and useless. Therefore, It took me to my childhood, reminding me the beginning of the war in Abkhazia. I was there with my grandparents for summer holidays. At that point, my grandfather was in other city. All the telephone lines were cut off and he could not reach us, so he walked miles to be with us. I never checked whether the payphone I saw in Laredo worked. Probably nobody uses them anymore; neither in Georgia nor in USA or Mexico. They somehow became repositories of the words we used to tell to other people.
While contemplating, I realized how much I would loved to listen to the conversations that these receivers embody. Probably all public phones keep different stories, so maybe the payphones standing near the border tell the stories of migration? about children waiting to be reconnected with parents, or some secrets of lovers that miss each other dearly, or jokes of friends not being able to meet anymore? Or just describing the routine of borderline cities. Conversations that are sad and funny, sometimes boring, short or never-ending, monologues that are not listened, or just long pauses between the words.
I want to re-use these “useless” telephone booths in order to evoke those talks: old or new. Those sounds that vibrate through boundaries and infiltrate borders. I want these phones to ring constantly, to remind us to listen.
I have found old soviet coin-operated public telephone and carried it from Georgia as an artifact of my personal memory. This also was a symbolic act; before reaching Austin, we had crossed several borders, being constantly checked and observed for the suspicious looks. Talking about the symbols, on my way to Laredo, where I encountered the lonely payphone, the huge amount of colorful butterflies constantly bumped on the windshield of my rented car. Only later I have discovered they were Monarch butterflies in their migration period from USA to MEXICO.
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