Not Home

"Happiness is where I am not"

Darko Fritz's Search for Home

It is in the life experience of migrants that the Romantic sentiment is kept alive in contemporary society. This sentiment is best identified as the quest for that locus of happiness, of fulfilment which is never 'here'. Happiness is strangely elusive. One can never quite capture it, and if one deems oneself to be happy, soon one is forced to realise that this was only a momentary sensation.

But what if happiness and fulfilment elude one perpetually? What if it is always somewhere else? Happiness, metaphorically speaking, is a matter of the the heart, a sentiment, And in colloquial language it says "Home is where the heart is". So the sentiment of happiness needs to be located, following this logic, in the home. But what if that is precisely what has become uncertain. Where is home? This is the existential uncertainty of the migrant, not to know anymore where home is. Home in a sense, to a migrant, is a non-location, a non-space, a non-time, therefore impossible to access. This is perhaps what Jean-François Lyotard called the loss of the lost origin.

Darko Fritz Migrant Navigator project series can be seen as an abstract machine - a kind of GPS for an impossible (because inaccessible) space: a space of dislocation. 'Home' cannot be designed, that I learned from Christopher Alexander. We might say it is an 'emergent property', a supra-structural entity. In that capacity it 'emerges' but without thought, design, purpose or intent - it is the result of a series of localised interactions. To the oblivious locals, home simply is home, without any further thought. A rock song like "Back Home" makes perfect sense in this space of ignorance. But for the migrant the back-button seizes to exist, at least from the second generation onwards, but sometimes at the very moment when the border is crossed. (no way back)

It is really not so important whether the exile is mental or physical, forced or by 'inner necessity' - the important point is the missing back-button. Fritz observes cleverly how self-evident and unquestioned the metaphor of the home-button is on the navigation toolbars of virtually all commercially (and open source) available web browsers. The home location is the anchoring point in a placeless, non-confined, deterritorialised space of the internet - the natural habitat of the migrant, but then in the physical world. In the Netscape version of the icon of the home button, we are presented with a  quasi naïve, child-like drawing of a cute little house that is supposed to represent that safe anchoring point we know from our childhood. However, for the migrant Malevich black square, a negative sign for the infinity and borderlessness of non-space would be a much more appropriate visual metaphor.

We can easily imagine exactly why Fritz placed empty billboards near the Croatian border containing nothing but a black Netscape home button and its name, given his former country's history. And one thing we can know for sure, the country he left he never can return to. The negative sign one sees when exiting the lands where Fritz was born; now a country he can no longer unequivocally call his 'home'. The migrant in Fritz's navigator is dislocated in a space of dis.information - lost in non-space, and without the loss of origin (because of the loss of loss), which is lost but nonetheless remains at the origin as  a lost thing, the migrant is also lost in a non-time - and this is said without any irony.

Hit the search button!

The migrant will find anything and everything, except home. All that is a home, is temporary, provisional, simulacrum (copy without original), irreverent sign in a hyper-space of merely symbolic circulation - no referent adheres. Its noeme, contrary to photography as Barthes identified it, is this-has-not-been. The migrant home is only a negative proof, an inverted sign of absence that attempts to cover up, unsuccessfully, the ever present trauma of the loss of the lost origin.

Ever expanding communication networks produce ever increasing migration, and in this sense also produce a continuing devastation of the notion of home for a growing population in flux. Home becomes a floating signifier.

Home is that which has roots and is rooted in the soil. Home is also petite-bourgeois, like the quasi naïve drawing of the Netscape home, which denies the fundamental homelessness of the web-surfer. So perhaps home is where the petite-bourgeois has struck its roots. Fritz planted flowers to construct a rooted home button. But he did not plant it at home. After all, he wouldn't know where that is. So in effect it could be anywhere. It is a repeatable empty sign. It does not signify anything else than its own pointlessness. It is not even a negative sign, it is simply a sign without meaning, because for the migrant the home location is the most pointless navigation co-ordinate.

"Send them home!"

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"Foreigners, please don't leave us alone with the Danes!" - a poster by the Superflex collective from Copenhagen, issued shortly after the right wing populists took over government in the former social democrat petite-bourgeois welfare state. Beginning signs of a new exodus, but to where? More displaced populations and floating identities. The nomadic is the 'differend' to the rooted identities. But maybe in this space of floating signifiers the migrants' nomadic tribes will prevail in the 21st century...

One could also ask does the migrant float, instead of navigate, adapt instead of control? Is not the migrant's nomadic dislocation simply a product of complexity? Is it not a coping strategy, a necessary strategy for survival? Can the complexity of the contemporary social network ultimately lead to nothing else than floating identities, nomadic non-locations; to an a-temporal migratory existence?

In that regard the migrant is not the one who should be empathised. Do not feel sorry for the dislocated migrants, but rather behold in them the nomadic future. That precarious non-hero...

If the loss of the lost origin is a lack, then desire is the drive to overcome that lack. This desire is virulent, even if this split in experience can never be entirely covered up. Happiness lies in ultimate closure, which can never be achieved. That is the migrant's fantasy, and soon of all of us. What the failure of the migrant's desire reveals to all of us in the end, is that 'home' is but another illusion, another temporary and insufficient veil of the quest for an impossible closure. For t was clear all along that when life is complete it has in fact come to an end: it negates itself.

The digital networks, of which the internet is now the most comprehensive example, are similarly migratory spaces of dislocation. Information travels in a non-space encoded in a digital code that has no analogy to its origin - it refers back only to itself. All that is visible within this non-space are temporary and fleeting appearances, hyperreal symbols, floating signifiers. Apparently stable appearances are mere simulacra of the purest sort. Meaning is constructed here in action, in dynamic exchange, through short feedback loops. The referent does not adhere as much as that it floats by. Thus, sense and meaning is produced in and through movement. Meaning in that sense is nomadic, it floats with the migrant / user, producing a highly useful space for tactical operation, but a very complicated space for strategic investment, yet also a space of control 'in flight'.

The migrant can float because control can now float with the migrant. The migrant, for the vested system of power interests, is a controlled exteriority, a dislocated, dis-informed and therefore dis-empowered entity. It poses no threat as such. The distributed structure of the migrants' dislocated life invites a new microstructure of contestation and conflict to which the notion of homeland defence just seems a hopelessly antiquated response.

The migrant's Romantic quest, meanwhile, remains an infinite one:

> Search: Home

> Response: 404


Written for "Darko Fritz - archives in progress [ projects 1987 - 2007 ]"
Published by the Croatian Association of Artists, Zagreb (HDLU)
Edited by Darko Fritz
October 2007