Unit 3, Passport Assignment, Virginia Adams

With an aesthetically pleasing array of passports arranged by color and tables decked with slightly complicated art supplies, artist Tintin Wulia tasked us with constructing a passport. The conscientious nature of such a task, a natural result of stepping back, slowing down, and taking time to construct something by hand, caused my mind to relax as well, and it wandered to pondering the significance of my mediocre attempts to sew and glue these papers together. A passport, at face value, signifies the identification of an individual by its country as it travels elsewhere. For the holder of a passport, their country acknowledges their inherent belonging there. By owning a passport, the country of the passport makes itself the owner’s home. As such, the greatest strength of this exhibit came from the presence of participants identified as “stateless” within our midst. This contrast, as I sat, desperately trying to fold my Brazil passport’s cover somewhat symmetrically, came to light while Lily told me the story of the stateless identity the artist gave to her. Holders of passports, including myself (referring to my real, U.S. government-issued passport), frequently take for granted the concept of a home, a grounding, and a resulting sense of belonging that this passport provides. The juxtaposition in this workshop, between the citizens and the stateless, highlights a dichotomy frequently forgotten by those not immediately effected by any sort of expatriation due to the self-informed and polarizing circles we as humans create for ourselves. While I do not mean to suggest that a single workshop can serve as a substitute for genuine awareness, the artist’s thesis within the presentation of not only passport creation but also stories of those who lacked such a document posits something important on what gets left out when categories are formed. In this case, categories of nations fail to account for all of the people.

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