Journey Note #1: The Taxi Driver


Several years ago, Christmas Day, I set foot on a boat and embarked on a seven-day trip,  starting from Bergen and heading towards Kirkenes. I had decided that I wanted to have the experience of moving on a boat through the darkness, traveling somewhere. I tried to use the movement and time spent on the ship in order to think in another way about what I do and why I do it. What gave me the urgency to turn something into art? And why? I wanted to be on a journey and think about how I, as an artist, create entanglements with the spaces, thoughts, the personal stories of people’s lives, that become the material in my process of making art. On the boat, I desired a moment of reflection on how I reflect.  


At that time, I was halfway through a three-year-long artistic research project at the Bergen Academy of Art and Design and under the auspices of the Norwegian Artistic Research Fellowship Programme; a study programme parallel to other research educations organized as academic Ph.D. programmes. My research project, "Future Guides: From Information to Home1", examined the notion of following as an artistic method from a theoretical and practical perspective. In my project, I was looking at the relation between online archives and the domain of the city, in which I used the geotagging system of mapping online video and an Internet-based mapping of city or space to develop a series of artworks which looked at how a narrative language emerged through the overlapping between different types of mapping systems. I used online video as source material to follow different people, and write situated stories about their lives. Using this method, I developed several artworks, with certain degrees of success. However, I found myself following the same steps: enact the method, carry out the project, reflect on the project, repeat the process again, enact, carry out, reflect, repeat. I had become trapped in a loop. But where was I really going with this? What was missing? Was there anything else? I decided, therefore, to take a nine-month leave in order to shift gears a bit, using the time away from Bergen to focus on another research project which had been on the sidelines for almost a year. I planned to spend several months in Madrid studying a right-to-housing activist network—The Mortgage Victims’ Platform, or PAH—that emerged to counter-act an acute eviction crisis happening in cities throughout Spain, and which impacted many people2. The movement attained a critical mass and came on its own as a result of the Spanish indignados movement, May 2011.3 I had been following stories about both the struggles and growing movement and decided that I wanted to spend some time having a closer look, by being physically present in the city. However, at that time, I didn’t feel that it had any relation nor relevance to my current artistic research project in Bergen. It was an odd decision for me, and I couldn’t articulate why or how I wanted to make such a shift (neither to myself nor to my rector nor dean). Call it an itch. For this reason, I took a temporary leave from my studies, sublet my flat in Bergen, and was now heading to Berlin (via Kirkenes), with the final destination, Madrid.

A Few Notes                       

2. The PAH is an anti-eviction movement which was launched in Barcelona on February 22nd, 2009, with the onset of the financial crisis and bursting of the housing bubble. According to statistics from the General Council of the Judiciary, published in March 2015, 578,546 foreclosure procedures were initiated in Spain between 2008 and 2014. A report on the right to housing and mortgage evictions in Spain was published June 19th, 2015 by Amnesty International Spain.

3. Colau, Ada, and Adrià Alemany. Vidas Hipotecadas: De La Burbuja Inmobiliaria Al Derecho a La ed. Barcelona: Cuadrilátero De Libros, 2012.

on Getting Lost                                           



Journey Note #2: People in the Square


A person on a journey is on two journeys at the same time. One involves a direction and a geographical destination; there is a beginning and an end. The other is much harder to define. It can involve psychic ruptures, emotional turning points, circumstantial meetings, identity crisis, psychological transitions and realignments, which are difficult to anticipate when and how they will occur.4 I am on such a journey and I offer myself to you as a displaced body, moving through unexplored terrain; trying to understand where I am.You might find that my actions, thoughts, and experiences of spaces, agents, and contexts might seem rambling, and with no particular goal. There will be a beginning and end to this text, yet it might sometime seem unstructured, discontinuous. Please bear with me; it should gain some clarity the further we go down the path.  


I understand risk in the sense of sitting with something until it becomes quite clear what is ‘at stake.’  It might be considered highly irresponsible behavior—the inability to articulate a position from the onset—however, research can (and even should) sometimes take on the qualities of a rambling journey, with a beginning and an end, but not particularly (or at least directly) goal-oriented. In referring to the qualities of an essayistic travel (such as the one that we are on now), Corrigan describes  a travelling subject in a “continual displacement”, who attempts to make the space more “habitable” and “knowable”, through the “implicit dialogue of interlocutors” that she meets along the way. It is through these conversations and encounters that research takes on a particular coherency.5 These partners in crime assist me in driving the work towards a clarity, a purpose. It is therefore indispensable that other people are invited to think with me, and potentially take the project elsewhere; in unplanned and unintended directions. This is the risk that we take in finding meaning, by trying to locate the means to exist in and act on the present. 

5. Corrigan, Timothy. “To Be Elsewhere.” In The Essay Film from Montaigne, after Marker, 105-112. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

4. Winterson, Jeanette. The Stone Gods, 131, London: Peguin Books, 2007. 


Journey Note #3: Strangers in the Basement


One could think about these tendencies that spur me in specific directions and not others, as driven by desire. Desire is a hunger for something; however not in the sense of a concrete 'need' as in a bodily comfort or survival: I am hungry, I need someplace to live. Desire exists on another level of experience that slowly takes on a sense of urgency the more that one follows it.  


Neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp refers to desire as a 'the SEEKING system,' a desire that is aimless yet stills drives one forward towards unforeseeable outcomes. Panksepp writes: “Although the details of human hopes are surely beyond the imagination of other creatures, the evidence now clearly indicates that certain intrinsic aspirations of all mammalian minds, those of mice as well as men, are driven by the same ancient neurochemistry. These chemistries lead our companion creatures to set out energetically to investigate and explore their worlds, to seek available resources and make sense of the contingencies in their environments. These same systems give us the impulse to become actively engaged with the world and to extract meaning from our various circumstances.”6

 6. Hustvedt, Siri. Living, Thinking, Looking: Essays. New York: Picador, 2012.


Journey Note #4: The Former Archeologist


Experience, to experience something, according to Flusser, could be quite easily thought of as a journey in which one embarks on a forward motion towards something. At first glance this is quite straightforward: we have eyes, a nose, we have feet. Our sensory apparatus propel us to see ahead, follow our noses and take steps: to move towards the future. It is a movement  predicated on ideologies of progress. Or, if you want to be completely literal about it; time moves forward, and we run with it towards death. During this journey, we encounter obstacles, challenges, turning points, ecstatic discoveries, which we either embrace, leap over or desperately try to avoid. Whatever the case, we follow a pathway in a future direction.  However, Flusser continues, in order to imagine a deeper meaning, we have to try to believe that we are not, and can never be moving from the present to the future. It is an existential impossibility since we are almost, no matter how much we try to avoid it, within the present. But what if we think otherwise and turn it the other way? What if, instead of moving towards the future, the future moves towards us? Flusser instead proposes a more in-depth look at the etymology of the German word for future—Zukunft—in which he breaks down the word into its components: “zu” or “to” and “kommen” or “to come.” Zukunft in this context means that we are not moving into the future, but the future moves towards us. No matter where we are, we are in the present, and the future approaches us, in our here and now, and in all directions. Our path through life, he summarizes, is not one of progress, but of swarming:  we go out in the world, we get lost, and then come back into familiar ground (shall we refer to it as home?) in which we find ourselves again, then exit the homestead to get lost once again.


Seen in this light, research—academic, artistic or otherwise—can never be seen as a progressive forward development towards a foreseeable end, but rather a movement around, and within something that might or might not achieve easily predictable results. Experience, and within the frame of research, oscillates between the familiarity of being at home (with thoughts, approaches, spaces, people, ideas, etc.) and being disoriented, lost, and quite out of one’s element. If we were to follow Flusser’s line of thinking—and this is indeed where he takes us—the model which we should pattern ourselves is not one of a coyote hunting his prey, but rather that of a swarming anthill.7


7. Flusser, Vilem. “Ex-perience.” In The Freedom of the Migrant: Objections to Nationalism, translated by Kenneth Kronenberg. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003.



Journey Note #5: The Lawyer


In The Gleaners and I8, a ‘wandering road documentary’ about gleaning practices, Agnes Varda examines the practice of harvesting the leftovers after the harvest; living off the leftovers of others. In her film, she travels to urban and non-urban areas throughout France, speaking with different people who practice the art of gleaning. She talks with potato harvesters, apple pickers, garbage pickers and end-of-market food cullers. Varda builds up the film's narrative from the excursions she takes to different places and her exchanges with the various people she meets along the way. 


One day, she spots a man collecting potatoes in a field and follows him back to an ad-hoc neighborhood of parked caravans of a small community of itinerants that he calls home. Next to this gathering of trailers “filled with hobos,” is a community of gypsies living nearby who make it clear that “they are different than us because we travel around.” The potato collector previously had a stable life: house, work, and family. However, his problems with alcohol caused him to lose his job, wife, children and finally his home. He went into free-fall after that. Gleaning potatoes was, for him, one way of survival, which he supplemented with begging and dumpster diving. 


Later on in the film, Varda stumbles upon a man, with “a large bag eating on the spot” just after the outdoor market in her Paris neighborhood, where she usually shops, closes. She sees him from time to time, at the market, always with his bag, eating. One day, as he is eating parsley, Varda decides to say hello. After their initial meeting, she starts to film him over several weeks.


Sometimes he talks in snatches, but mostly she just silently observes him in action. He picks up food to save money. His income is low, but he needs to eat. He is a vegetarian, so he gets most of what he needs there. He eats a lot of apples. He studied biology. He used to be a teaching assistant. He has a Master’s degree. He sells street newspapers to make a living. Eventually, she follows him to the shelter where he lives; where 50% of the occupants are illiterate. He arrived at the shelter eight years ago and had, for several years, been volunteering to teach people living there how to read and write. It is the moment in her filmmaking journey that impresses her the most; this process of following him and ending up at this nocturnal and benevolent activity in the basement of the shelter.


Varda uses following as a method of constructing the narrative; building up a collection of stories and approaches to the way different individuals regard the things that other people overlook. This is what fascinates me about the film (I have watched it several times) and her filmmaking process. She leaves herself open to what people tell her, and how chance meetings with strangers tell her where to go; help point her towards things that might otherwise go unnoticed. It is through these happenstance meetings and experiences with strangers that she develops her own method of gleaning. At one point during the film, she reflects on her gleaning practice as a filmmaker; how she uses the camera to mark her passing of time. While filming a row of trees from a moving car, she states, “On this type of gleaning, of images, impressions, there is not legislation, and gleaning is defined figuratively as a mental activity. To glean facts acts, and deeds, to glean information. And for forgetful me, it’s what I have gleaned that tells me where I have been.” 


Back at home, she records herself in the mirror, making a note of the grey roots sprouting from her hair, dyed black. She uses the camera as a method for self-reflection, but for estrangement as well. By following herself in the same way that she follows these strangers, Varda needs to become homeless: She must destabilize herself, step outside of her cozy state of selfhood, in order to reflect on what she has become.


 8. Les Glaneurs et La Glaneuse. Directed by Agnes Varda. Zeitgeist Video, 2002. Film.



Journey Note #6: The Evicted Woman


From 2009-12, I made, what I later understood to be, the start of a major shift in the concerns, subject matter, and interests that I wanted to address in both my artistic practice and research. It was not immediate—and perhaps I am just a very slow thinker— however, in hindsight, I realize now that I was walking away from one practice and into another. For a good part of a decade, I developed a body of work in which I would intercept live video emitting from wireless surveillance cameras (in different cities mostly throughout Europe); using this live video material to create walking performances and other performative interventions that highlighted the invisible and unseen narratives that existed within the urban landscape. In a series of works that followed, I used a subset of online videos containing location (geo-tagged) data and posted on YouTube, in which I fused together an Internet-mapping with city space. I could witness what transpired in the video and know where it was located in the world. These artistic projects garnered me a good degree of attention, helped build up my career, and win several awards

Over the years I became rather adept at observing, watching, and listening in on different things happening around me. This 'skill' (which some consider it a bit creepy) I often apply to circumstances where I am uncertain how to situate myself. I find it sometimes a bit arrogant to act before listening first. I need to look, listen, then act. Then by acting, I learn even more. At least, it works that way for me. It might seem somewhat passive, but I consider it an active form of silence, which is also a form of participation. What started to happen was that I began to speak back to the material in ever more direct ways; for example, by stepping into people's homes or getting more entangled with different people's lives.




In summer 2012, I was immersed in a new project about the stories of seven individuals (okay, men) living in Berlin, which I based on the prodigious amount of (geo-tagged) videos stored on their YouTube channels. One afternoon, I found myself sitting in a cafe, directly across the street of the apartment building of one of the men— a chain-smoking, queer, 40-something, club boy—whom I had been watching online for several months.  I pulled out a paper notepad from my rucksack and began to write. It was a stream of consciousness of anything and everything that occurred to me as I was sitting in front of the building; directly in front of the apartment where I knew he lived—or at least this was the address provided by the location data on the video. I wrote about the apartment, or what I remembered of it: the layout of the rooms, what objects were inside, what this person looked like, actions that took place in the rooms. I wrote about me sitting at this cafe, watching the apartment building entrance, observing who entered and exited the building. I wrote quickly, making an inventory of things that were visible to me and things that were not, anything that occurred to me as I sat there, at the cafe. Where was I at this moment? Was I in the apartment? Was I still on YouTube? Where was he? Where was I? What was our relation to each other? To this place? 



For the rest of the summer I made pilgrimages to all the places of all the videos. Each day was a differ­ent journey. I used these daily excursions as a method of writing—writing as I circulated around Berlin, mapping out the stories as I was mapping out the city. But I was not simply making pil­grimages to the places these people had been to before. Each morning, the moment that I crossed the threshold of my apartment building, I tried to enter into the space of that person; through the video, and wherever that video took me in the city. I was in front of an apartment, I was in an apartment, I was on a playground, I was in a park, I was at a cemetery, in a club, on a subway platform, in front of a railway station, in a large pub­lic square or on some empty street, in the early morning. My journeys were to places that these people had been to before. Mirroring their movements and actions, was also my attempt to inhabit the space of that person by trying to experience the city through somebody else’s eyes. What did it mean to be in the space of some person or be something else for a moment? I found myself oscillating between trying to imagine or relive events that had taken place on the video, through that person, while at the same time engaging in a self-reflexive dialogue of what it meant to be going on these journeys. I wrote personally; reenacted conversations from the video. I imagined dialogues with the person; wrote letters to them, wrote about us meeting. I even caught sight of one or two of them, walking out their apartment buildings. It was horribly, ethically complex, but I continued anyway. 

 (Once Again)



Journey Note #7: The Geographer


How can I possibly understand where I am, while still opening myself up to the experience of being lost?

I often find myself stepping off the path, and going in another direction. I am referring to this metaphorically, and quite literally. Sometimes, I will have an impulse to turn down a road, because I have never been down that street before. After I reach the end of the street, I turn down another, then another, then another. Once I have tired with the circumstances of being lost and immersed in new encounters of the lay of the land, I find ways to reestablish my location; return to familiar terrain. If, for example, when exiting my apartment I turn left instead of right, how might my habitual patterns change and allow me to view something from another perspective; take me elsewhere?

“Living in a state of psychic unrest, in a Borderland,” writes Gloria Anzaldúa, “is what makes poets write and artists create. It is like a cactus needle embedded in the flesh. It worries itself deeper and deeper, and I keep aggravating it by poking at it. When it begins to fester I have to do something to put an end to the aggravation and figure out why I have it. I get deep down in the place where it’s rooted in my skin and pluck away at it, playing it like a musical instrument—the figures pressing, making the pain worse before it can get better. Then out it comes. No more discomfort, no more ambivalence. Until another needle pierces the skin.”9

The late Anzaldúa writes these words as a queer, 6th generation Chicana and daughter of farmworkers who grew up living in extreme poverty, twenty-five miles from the U.S.- Mexican border. The identity that she inhabits is a turbulent one: her Chicana / Mestiza self—Anglo-Mexican-Indian—contains multiple perspectives, customs, languages, and types of reasoning within the same body. She exists within numerous linguistic and cultural contexts. Neither here nor there, she is never fully accepted by—nor fully satisfied with—a single, fixed identity nor way of being in the world. Living between two languages, cultures, and social systems—yet never fully accepted by either one—Anzaldúa uses this conflictual psychological state of moving between the two sides of the border to develop a Borderland theory that encompasses all types of border crossings: geopolitical boundaries, sexual transgressions, economic, political and social dislocations, etc. The experiences of individuals living between the borders enable them to develop a tolerance for contradictions, for ambiguity; to not remain at the surface level and try to see the deeper structure below the surface. She attributes “those who have been pushed out of the tribe for being different”—for being outcasts, marginalized, and foreign—as those who might develop La Facultad10 (the faculty), of being more sensitized to what is happening around them; giving them the skill to probe at and challenge neatly packed narratives and homogenous readings of body, identity, and place. 


As an artist, woman, daughter of a Mexican, 1st generation Chicana, growing up in Canada, and who has lived outside of the country of my birth for much of my adult life, I find myself aligned with Anzaldúa’s claim for inhabiting various social worlds, that challenge “monocultural and monolingual conceptions of social reality.” But this is, perhaps, not so surprising; that I might want to reach out to those that speak back to me in ways that are comforting or inspiring, or make me feel that I am not alone. Anzaldúa's words have this particular effect on me. We all are in need of belonging, even if it is a 'not-belonging' kind of belonging. I am never 'from' the places in which I live; I have lived and worked in seven countries and counting. There is, for me, a feeling of always being out-of-place; never quite catching on to what others really expect from you. Yet it is perhaps this position of the perpetual 'outsider' that gives me La Facultad of being able to do the kind of work that I do. 


This 'state of psychic unrest', of being out of one's element, until you no longer are (the needle is out) is something that perhaps we, as artists, as researchers, all have to go through. It is a persistent and incessant drive towards something that starts to take form the deeper one goes into an artistic process; yet one which involves a necessary stage of stepping off the road map, or losing the map entirely. If I don't have the sensation of being deeply uncomfortable in the moment, aggravated and lost at certain moments, then I don't feel that there are sufficient risks being taken. If nothing festers, there is nothing to expel.

10. Alzaldúa, 60-61. 

9. Anzaldúa, Gloria. Borderlands: the New Mestiza = La Frontera. Aunt Lute Books, pg 95, 2012.

(Or maybe this is just me being melodramatic).



 Journey Note #8: The Activist


In July 2013 I joined a pilot research project proposed by the Psychosocial Impact Group of PAH Madrid.

The research project investigated the psychosocial effects of eviction and expanded on the experiences from a workshop on 'mutual support and empowerment,' which Irene Montero, a PAH activist and psychology student, had been running over the past year.11 A multidisciplinary team of students and professionals from various fields–social work, psychology, and political science–comprised the group for the pilot project. The research enlisted a qualitative methodology, based on content analysis of the stories of people affected by eviction within a group discussion format. The four women participating in the pilot project were regular attendees of Irene’s workshops and  politically active in the PAH.12 After coming to the PAH with their housing problems, they became activists themselves and now dedicated much of their time and energy helping others. The researchers wanted to use the format of a pilot project  to test out and build up a set of methodologies for future research. During the group discussions,  they asked the participants to describe their experiences of how they are living with eviction, and the psychological consequences produced within their personal situations.


I made video and audio recordings of all four group discussions which took place between Irene (the psychologist) and the four women; two other researchers observed and took notes. The team used the recorded material for analysis, and I used the material to produce different artistic results–a film and script for a public performance. Besides having the recordings as material to work with, I was very intrigued to be part of the development of this particular research. I started to view their use of methodologies, combined with other methodologies used in other campaigns and actions by PAH activists, as comparative to the ones that I was now applying within my own artistic research; to the point where I was now having difficulty making a distinction between the two practices. When did one start and the other end?

11.  Former PAH member Irene María Montero Gil is currently a member of Congress for Madrid in the Congress of Deputies and, since 2017, Congress spokesperson for the Unidos Podemos-En Comú Podem-En Marea alliance. Ione Belarra Urteaga who also participated in the pilot project is currently state citizen council member for Podemos and member of Congress for Navarra.

12. Manuela Cuello Rodriguez, Rosario Alcántara Torres, Gladys Cerna Dávila, and Maria Dolores Ramos Chavero participated in the pilot project.

Throughout my artistic research project, I had focused on the “micro” or case studies in which the studying and following of trails of data produced by different individuals provided insight to the world that we live in; by looking at how these individuals responded to the forces that shaped their lives. Following a digital trace of somebody and seeing where it led was, for me, taking a journey to places inhabited by other people. Movements created storylines. These were my attempts to occupy the space of that person, by trying to experience something through somebody. This was, of course, an ethically complex, if not highly problematic position to take. I could never fully (nor even barely) occupy nor embody the experience of another. Perhaps better put: it was (is) a process of situated knowledge building, by being able to situate myself in what I knew, how I located myself in the moment, while at the same time being indebted to the existence of others who might ask different questions.13


What I discovered (or came to understand as a bridge between my practice and other practices I came in contact with) was how the PAH activists followed similar methods–use of social media, digital mapping, a study of the urban landscape, use of storytellers and storytelling–in their efforts to “locate” something. In their work and ongoing endeavors, to “locate” was (and still is) to make public the everyday effects of the social and economic crisis. In the foreground of the crisis was the crisis of the home. Creating visibilities to what would otherwise be invisible to the public eye became a form of collective empowerment. It was easy for an individual voice to fall on deaf ears, but not a collective struggle. These strategies fascinated me (and continue to do so) and I learned much from them. 




13. Stengers, Isabelle. Another Science is Possible: A Manifesto for a Slow Science. Polity, pg 45, 2017.



By following the digital traces left on the Internet, I have often ended up on the doorstep of a stranger’s home, and many times inside the home. It occurred at various stages throughout my artistic research project, but it was in Madrid when I started entering these homes in moments of crisis that the question of “home” became the most critical. What is a home? How does one create a home? What happens when you lose it? These questions came to the foreground the moment when a home became destabilized; when members of the public entered, some welcome and others not. There was a collapse of the public and private being wrestled and formed and articulated.




I stepped away from Bergen for nine months. However, I created new paths and formations of community, research interests, ways of working. Mortgaged Lives, a 42-minute documentary, developed from my Spanish research,  examines the experience of rupture through the loss of a home, within the Spanish eviction crisis. The film analyzes the psychosocial experience of eviction from three perspectives: psychological analysis, personal testimony, and an actual event. It maps out the psychosocial trauma of homelessness, social estrangement, and the fight against injustice by those who suffer the consequences of the economic crisis within the global economy. The title of the film refers to the translated title of Vidas Hipotecadas; a book by two of the PAH's founders—Ada Colau and Adrià Alemany—which aided me so much in the beginning phases of my research; so much, in fact, that I decided to translate the book into English. In addition to the translated text and film, I produced a script for a public reading performance, Rupture Sessions, using transcripts of the group discussions from the pilot research project by the Psychosocial Impact Group of PAH Madrid.


It is through this journey that my research and work took on a different urgency and coherency, which has affected how I think and work to this day.



It becomes imperative that I invite people in to think with me—to witness, listen, imagine, and reflect—to give attention to or pose further questions and possibilities. Risk is also more fun when carried out with other people. It allows me, allows us, to develop understandings of the moment (or moments) when the material starts to speak back in a different way. Sometimes it turns into art, but sometimes it becomes difficult to immediately recognize what comes out of the process as an artistic outcome. Is this even relevant? Did I just write myself out of an artistic practice? Regardless of the answers to these open-ended questions, it is crucial that I sometimes take the back seat and let others take the wheel. A taxi ride in the pouring rain can perhaps start a process for other destinations and outcomes. It leads me away from one practice with the anticipation of another still to come; coming towards me, out of the darkness.