MAKING PLACE / MAKING PEACE
From Greek origins nostos (to return home) and algos (pain) and the German heimweh (homesickness) came the 18th Century English term: nostalgia (acute homesickness). In modern dictionary definitions nostalgia is explained as ‘a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past’. This contemporary interpretation does not embody the fullness or traditions of the word, and does little to represent the experience of being removed from ones home. Reading nostalgia in a contemporary way places the term outside its known and felt psychological implications, it says home is something to see as being only romanticised about, a thing understood as mere sentimentality. In our installation work ‘Making Place – Making Peace’ for ‘Loss, Reverence and Longing: ANZAC Stories from the Home Front’ we are asking to re-take the word back to its origins. We want to assert that home & homesickness is central not just to the lives of those touched by World War One, but, instead still to our present lived realities. We want to contend that home should carry with it a true weight of a person or peoples geographic, spiritual and cultural connectivity to place.
In the First World War acute homesickness was a lived experience, a reality that saw Australian soldiers returned home diagnosed with (then, but not now) a clinically diagnosable psychological illness: nostalgia. Through exploring the term nostalgia by tracing both life on the frontlines and life on the home front a rich history of shared symbolism emerges. Of the greatest interest to us is the use of natural elements (soil/water/seeds) to embody cultural experience. Our installation work is engineered to serve a dual purpose, to provide an avenue to explore the rich symbolism of War (poppy/rosemary/land), and to juxtapose these as symbols of domesticity (gardening/cooking/home): each tied to a real desire for connection to, or understanding of (a) place.
In exploring stories from the home front, we wanted to explore concepts of ‘home & land’, not ‘homeland’. The deliberate separation of these two words uncouples nationalistic attachment and sentiment and returns us to a specific place, an identifiable geographical area of interacting life systems, our home habitat. Here nostalgia and a new psychoterratic (earth related mental health) term solastalgia (a home sickness you feel while still at home) show principal similarities in alternate spaces (the battle front and the home front) when a great cultural and spiritual trauma, one that disturbs our sense of residence takes place upon our collected lives. Soldiers want for home (nostalgia), but if returned, home it doesn’t feel like home anymore (solastalgia). Families at home feel a pronounced psychic numbing as if from the very start, what once was home, will never be again. In every choice of the work we have created, these places of loss, reverence and specific types of longing play out. None of the loss, reverence or longing is ever reconciled, and this, is deliberate.
– Christopher Orchard & Shona Pratt