Packaging and Unpacking is a story that unfolds personal and informal experiences behind the bureaucratic procedure of migration to Austria, from the perspective of a so-called “third country” national. In a collection of essays, the rigidity of migration papers is juxtaposed with the context from life of the migrant. Through unraveling legal boundaries of bureaucracy systems, the project defines semiotics of absurdity of the state-controlled migration.
Packaging and Unpacking is a story in 6 parts – revolving around 6 migration-related legal papers of the author. An introductory text constructs a personal and historical context and explains the reasoning behind the decision to migrate, followed by 6 sections, each examining a migration paper that is significant for lawful student migration. The sections unravel the stories of origin of the papers and related incidents from the life of the migrant: Study confirmation papers issued from an Austrian university and a health insurance confirmation paper issued from an Austrian insurance corporation unravel instances of human error and human touch in the Austrian bureaucracy. Whereas an unsigned financial aid contract and a bank account statement come in contrast as formal and informal mechanisms, seemingly ensuring financial security of a young migrant. A health insurance paper, issued to prove that the person left the country of migration years ago, together with a proof of the Covid-19 test negative result issued during a visit to the home country in the midst of a global pandemic examine the existentialist sentiments of a life in migration and the personal reasons for moving abroad and going back home.
This is a story about the lived experience of a migrant, a set of situational narratives, offered as add-ons, one for each migration paper. The work is assembled as a multimedia installation and as a book. The project offers an almost voyeuristic glimpse into the life of a migrant, private life infiltrated by the public and vice-versa, as formed by the state and social institutions. Author’s commentary – presented in the form of written and audio essays, examines the boundaries of legality and formality of the migration system. The personal, almost confessional language of the commentary is yet another contrast to the formality and ambiguity of the language, as used for bureaucratic purposes.
- Summer Semester 20/21
- Ana Mumladze