In 2012, I visited the United States and never went back. After five years of intense conflict, the Syrian homeland that I knew and loved no longer exists. I now hover in a transitional space, somewhere between Syria and the US. Caught in between, I am an outsider to my home country, my new country- and even my self.
My work is a visual translation of what I experience and learn from living in this middle space. The images are set within an anonymous physical space, and I use my body as a platform to speak from. As a displaced resident, I watch with anger and fear as groups of criminals grow and spread in my old country like tumors - unstoppable. I want to fight them, but I can’t, so I mock them. Through my work, I am unpacking the fragments of my identity, eliminating the ideologies and propagandas of a totalitarian system. It is no small project to uproot the fears, self-censorship and self-discipline that this system planted in me. I am beginning to distill new values and beliefs from the remnants of a social construct that I don’t adhere to anymore.
Driven by the desire to belong to my new home, the country of free speech, I have the urge to remain in silence. People may choose to see me as a war victim or a perpetrator. Whenever I speak, I confirm that I am the "other." In a space of uncertainty, I might not be either, yet a very small change in my circumstances would have made me one or the other.
The untamed and unwanted war in Syria is changing our history faster than my mind is capable of accepting and has turned Syrian neighbors into enemies. In a globally connected world, conflict in any country is not solely a domestic issue. Decisions that the world's major powers make regarding military interventions and the resulting refugee crisis transforms them from a national matter into an international matter. Such decisions impact millions of individual lives, and the only way to resist the war is to leave everything behind and flee. For many refugees, the first thing they receive in humanitarian aid is a blanket. In my work, I invite the viewer into my transitional space to share my lingering doubts, questions, and uncertainty.
Lara Haddad, 2016