From The East And West Indies To The Mother Country: The House of Daljinder Kaur And Out Of Left Field
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“From the East and West Indies to the Mother Country: The House of Daljinder Kaur and Out of Left Field” is a PhD research-creation project consisting of two outdoor installations and a written component. It takes as a departure point diasporic movements to Britain from the Punjab and Trinidad in the late 1940s through to the 1960s. The House of Daljinder Kaur is a schematic representation of a house with a pitched roof, five windows and a door. The windows and doorway were filled with an array of many varieties of daffodils. Over the course of the summer, the bed was gradually subsumed by chili pepper plants and marigolds – “exotic” species that “polluted” the Englishness of the daffodils. The second installation, Out of Left Field, is a cricket pitch on a slope: a metaphor for an immigrant's difficulty in practicing his métier in a new homeland. Both works speak to the desire (from the migrants’ point of view) to be accepted by their former colonisers as genuine subjects with the same rights and respect as accorded to native born Britons. The parallel discourse which accompanies the installations is built on a narrative scaffolding of two seminal moments in the history of immigration to Britain: the arrival of the SS Empire Windrush in 1948 and the influx of Punjabi Sikhs in the 50s. These groups came to ease the country’s Post WWII labour shortage and to provide remittances for their relatives back home. Through a series of interlinked texts, I examine the immigrant experience in that epoch from an autobiographical perspective, focussing on how place and memory play a role in the genesis of my current and previous artistic works. I also include imaginative portions that bring real characters together with invented personas to blur the boundaries between the real and the fictive. These pieces are contextualised in two essays: one that explores how several artists have worked with fictional characters, and the other that centres on the importance of geographical location as an intrinsic element in the concept and reception of site-specific work.