Freedom and Attachment
56 min audio recording (looped) | 2 channel audio | recorded in Boston, Dublin, London, Berlin, Kisumu, Kitawi Beach, and Pittsburgh. Produced Pittsburgh, PA | 2013
“What’s your most valuable possession and why?”
In winter of 2012, I went to a small island in Lake VIctoria by way of Europe and Kenya, and started a project investigating the objects we value as humans. I stopped people at the airport, on the street, after dinner and work, and when I came home I had over fifty audio interviews in which strangers and friends told me about their most valuable possessions. I heard about a collection of mittens, a portfolio of official documents, a bracelet, a phone. Except for two, I interviewed expats, travelers, students, and people who had made the choice to leave their lives and families and relocate to a different country, culture, state of mind. Though their origins and new homes were varied, consistent categories emerged in their answers that pointed toward more general relationships we have with things: practicality, nostalgia, kinship. Across these categories, the explanations pointed toward the ways we use objects to hold on to ideas of ourselves, through the actions they inspire, and the relationships we hold our identities in relation to.
Shortly after returning to the US, I realized that I knew another body of people who were away from home for a different reason. These were the students I and my colleagues at Words Without Walls, had been teaching at the ACJ. I recorded interviews with almost 20 inmates, and their sense of attachment to objects fit into the patterns I saw emerge in the interviews from abroad, connections to states of mind, memories and relationships. Many people, however did not have the same attachment to objects and found answers in abstract ideas of possession - dignity, education, family. How can we see the intensity of attachment to the real, physical things that holds one together changed in the face of dislocation, statelessness, forced re-identification, opportunity, and privilege?