WISH YOU WERE HERE is about the struggles immigrants face, struggles both external and internal. This applies to anyone leaving their native land, for whatever reason, be it for work or education, to be close to loved ones or family, or even to escape corruption, persecution, or danger, to name just a few reasons. Before even making that geographical change, a huge transformation of personality is required. Learning the language is often just the first step in a process which results in the severing of many of your personal and cultural facets and features. The smothering of fundamental elements that make you you is a prerequisite for moving freely around the world, and that smothering can take years.
To enter and remain in an unfamiliar environment, trying constantly to understand others, leaving behind your own mentality, as deep seated as it is, now incongruous with the rest of your surroundings, and constantly translating your entire essence for the benefit of strangers, some of whom are potentially hostile, openly or otherwise, can all too easily create a feeling of absolute isolation. Not belonging and feeling like there isn’t a place for you will create, even in the most resilient of us, a new level of loneliness.
Like all other immigrants, you keep on going. You find ways to blend in and you are regarded with indifference, which is preferred to hostility. However, you can soon find you have become a ghost with no rights, and everything you get feels like a huge favour, even if you earn it, even if you pay for it. Everything close casts you away, everything new does not need you. You start to question where the problem lies, is it the place? Or is it just you? You notice that trying and not trying have the same outcome. Mentally you’re still floating between two very different worlds, floating between a past and a present that both seem equally as alien. You feel like you’re losing yourself. You master your new language but there are still not enough words, or at least not the right words, to make yourself understood. What you’ve lost and what you’ve gained don’t seem to weigh up and just you can’t figure out what it is you’re struggling for.
Karyna made this project with a longing for understanding, compassion, and solidarity. Only when you can feel what another living being feels can you build the bridge of compassion and start the dialog.
To share someone else’s pain means being alive, knowing that others hurt too, and that leads to very different and much kinder, humane actions. Tolerance, although a positive step, is just a bandage on the surface of a deeper problem. To ‘tolerate’ seems like enduring something you really don’t like, but when you reach a deeper level of knowledge and understanding, and find mutual ground and gain shared experiences, that’s when there is no longer a need to just ‘tolerate’ but to coexist in complete compassion.
This project uses photography in an abstract way to explore a cohesive concept. Karyna has found that experimenting with the human form and its relationship to its environment/surroundings produces work that resonates with individuals on an intuitive level and although shrouded in allegory, explores some of the experiences and emotions discussed above in a stark and matter of fact way. The fragments of thematically parallel text that are applied as if subtitles further brings home the feeling of watching parts of different foreign films, interpreted and translated in pieces, and is a commentary on the often fragmentary and even surreal ‘sense of being’ an immigrant may experience daily.