Ten years of art and life only fit inside the implications of this sentence. Outside of it, the task of capturing the essence of this time appears a rather impossible one. Yet for the self-proclaimed “Art Protector,” Mia Florentine Weiss, it is what her most ambitious project up to date entails. “What is your place of protection?” is, simply put, a fragmented digital poem. However, composed of fifty-four clips shot in five different continents and spanning a period of more than ten years (2000-2012), the work is not only Weiss’s most ambitious project but also her most personal.
Mia has a unique story to tell. Her first year of life was spent in a hospital bed, connected to apparatuses and feeding-tubes with an unlikely possibility of survival. It was her body’s first experience after leaving the protection of the womb, a rude awakening to the outside world and a memory that would become both symbolic and crucial to the development of her mature life and artistic practice.
A Personal Renaissance
As if to symbolically replicate the circumstances of her birth, Mia left on a homeless journey around the world at the turn of the century. “Connected” to video-feeding apparatuses and armed with one simple but profound question (What is your place of protection?), she sought to document her search for a single human denominator of safety and love. As would be imagined, the answers differed in the slums of India from the metro in Moscow: responses included music, silence, Mother Ganga, the Internet and fifty other replies that now form part of her multimedia installation carrying the same title as her globally asked question.
What ten years, five continents, and fifty-four stories look like as digital poetry. Photo: Chris Phillips
Each of these fifty-four clips not only holds an answer to her question but also captures the artist in various poetic performances that engage with the answer given. On one frame you may find her carrying the burden of angel wings at Burning Man, while on the next you’ll see her wielding a shield and a sword surrounded by children in an Indian slum.
Yet, when seen together at once, framed and hanging on a wall, these clips project another reality that goes beyond Mia’s lone question: our present digital media saturation. The installation becomes a mirror image of the new virtual continents opened up by the Internet and social media. Mia’s hyper-documented decade-long journey reflects, on a larger scale, the daily activity of our turn-of-the-century generation and our fascination with the blending of the real and the virtual. We, like Mia, also now travel, constantly documenting and uploading our ever evolving journey online. But amongst these new places of exploration and potential shelters of protection, are we finding ourselves or losing ourselves? Perhaps more importantly: throughout our journey, are we asking the right questions?