You Belong Here
The work comments on a very western-democratic notion of freedom, where everything is possible and where we can choose anything we want. It simultaneously highlights that we can only pick one thing at any given moment. The video enters into a dialogue with several freedom-related values, as, for instance, the freedom of movement. We have to remember that even now, there are people who do not have the freedom of movement because they live in an undemocratic country. They do not have the freedom to choose where they want to live as the regime decides for them where they belong.
The idea of belonging then comes into range and leads up to another related idea – identity. In democratic countries, the identity of the individual remains in his hands. The country does not enter the emotional, mental space of the individual and decides what s/he identifies with. As an artist and designer, I moved to Los Angeles and am now part of a vast and diverse cultural landscape of artists and communities.
I can choose where I belong, even though I was born and raised elsewhere. This perspective stems from the fact that I grew up in a country that upholds democratic values and gave me the freedom of thought that I can belong anywhere as long as I decide to do so. Today, I belong and identify with the United States and Los Angeles’ culture, and perhaps and in few years, I can choose to identify with a completely different culture. I have the power to decide.
“You Belong Here” consists of two-one shot footages that run together, displayed on two screens with a small seat in-between them. Even if a visitor is free to chose which video to watch at what point in time, s/he can never see both at the same time. On one side, you can see the Hollywood Boulevard of Los Angeles, USA. On the other side, you see captions of Pico Island, Azores Portugal. “You Belong Here” speaks about the freedom of choice, as a supreme value of democracy.
“You Belong Here” was created as part of the program of the Once Upon Water 2017 Artist Residency that took place in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean at Pico Island in the Azores.
- Display at the Participation Matters exhibition
Interview with Liza Philosof
By Olga Yegorova, on the 17/11/17
Olga: You have been selected to take part in R! with a particular work, but what characterizes your art more in general?
Liza: In my art, I usually use lots of colours. But what I always try to keep up is a minimalistic and simplistic style. This is part of me being a designer. I always start with less, with very simple movements, so that the climax emerges from itself. I cannot stand it when something is very crowded. I try to take simple acts so that as in “You belong here”, the video speaks for itself and creates the art without me having to edit or Photoshop things into it.
Olga: R! covers a variety of themes and concepts, where all projects relate to notions such as participation, democracy, community media and/or power, always in very diverse ways. From your point of view, which of these concepts play a role in your film?
Liza: There is an internal part, during the making process, that might link to the notion of community (media) organisation. Half of this project took place in the Azores, in the middle of the Atlantic. I did not hear about this place before I went there. There is certainly a connection to community organisation as this is a product of being around other artists there and part of the very small but well-connected art community. I had then the chance to show the work in the Azores as well as in LA so that it broadened beyond the smaller community into the wider artistic communities of both places.
Speaking of the video itself, it stresses the freedom of choice. It shows the blessings that I have, living in democratic systems. I can choose where to live. Now, I live in Los Angeles. And the reason why I could do that is that I moved from one democratic system to another one. If I was living in Lebanon, which is just 10 minutes from where I grew up, maybe I could not have done the same thing. Unfortunately, you stop thinking about this freedom because it is just part of your daily life.
The mobility you have as a citizen of a democracy state gives you a further opportunity: You can transcend conflicts that may exist between two nations. To give an example, I went to a concert of one of my favourite artists in LA. He is from Syria. I, living in Israel, never thought that I could see him live. But the mobility I have enabled me to do so.
Olga: In your artwork, you speak about the endless freedom of movement that a democratic system offers, but also of the limitation to being able to choose only one option. Can you tell me more about this tension emerging from freedom and limitation?
Liza: It derives from the idea of choice in general. We live in a situation where most of us, living in democratic systems, have the feeling that everything is possible. We grew up to think like that, at least many of us, depending on the parents you had, or the community you grew up in. But I lived like that, knowing that everything is possible. But in fact, you always have to choose only one thing from all of the options. So yes, everything is possible, but you can just be doing one thing at the same time. And this is the idea of the movie. You cannot be in LA and in the Azores at the same time. You can choose, but you also have to choose. The biggest freedom you might have is always limited to your choice. So you better enjoy this one choice you take.
Olga: In your project, you seem to point out the local, everyday life on the streets of two distinct places. Is that correct? And if so, how is the relationship between this depiction and other media contents?
Liza: First of all, I think that the everyday life is most interesting. I do not go to cinemas to see big Hollywood productions. I love to see the daily life. And it was an opportunity to give the viewer an authentic picture of what is actually happening on the Hollywood Boulevard. It is not glamorous, it is ordinary. There is no star walking on the street. It is a pretty shitty and dirty place. This is not what we see in the media about Hollywood. I felt like this was a secret mission: This is Hollywood Boulevard, take it as it is, without edits. I want to show the more authentic face of places.
Olga: Do you argue for media that relates more to the everyday life in general?
Liza: Well, I think this is already happening if we look at social media channels. We are not innocent anymore. We know about Photoshop and all the other tools which can edit realities. If you like to watch strongly edited action movies, you can do it. But you just have to be aware of the fiction behind it. I am more interested in sharing authenticity. Everyone has the access to a smartphone, everyone can be a photographer and everyone can shoot whatever they want to. Thus, we can get a more authentic picture of how the world is. That enables us actually to have access to much more than what we used to have. Even seeing stories from someone else on Instagram gives you an insight into something that is happening on the same day for someone else, who is living in completely different contexts than you do, who used his/her freedom for a very different choice.
Work at Respublika!
The video-installation is exhibited for the third time in Cyprus at Respublika! from December 8, 2017 to January 19, 2018. Beforehand, it was shown in Pico Island, Azores Portugal at the Fringe Festival in June 30, 2017 and at the Think Tank Gallery Los Angeles, USA, as part of a group exhibition on August 19 to September 23, 2017.