“I'm thinking about the literal meaning of the word Utopia - "No such place"- and how this resonates with the fraught mythos that underwrites the colonial project that is the so-called Land of the Free.
An Englishman wrote a famous book of the same name during a period of societal unrest which would lead a flood of refugees to cross the Atlantic to the shores of a continent which, to them, was unknown and unknowable. Much remains unknown and truly unknowable even to their descendants, as long as they collectively uphold the myth that their claim to this land was ever legitimate. Settlers live with the ancestrally-coded fear of losing what they know they stole in the first place. At its most malignant and unresolved, this produces a fragile and narcissistic culture which relies on violence and dominance to perpetuate its own existence. It relies on the continual assertion of insides and outsides, who is and who is not American, according to a white colonial projection of what that constitutes. It required the violent policing of territory, which requires the ongoing denial of Indigenous sovereignty. This complex is reproduced throughout the colonised world. The US took lessons from another white supremacist colonial state- Australia - on many aspects of its border policy and enforcement.
The fiction that is white America was authored as a Utopia. The fiction that is Australia was founded on a declaration of Terra Nullius. These words are different configurations of the same meaning. When Indigenous peoples speak the names of our nations we are frequently told, implicitly or explicitly- there's no such place. When we say this name is ancient and it is truthful, we are told again, that there is no such place. We are told, every day that we breathe, that we do not in fact exist. The speakers of the many Indigenous American languages (Q'eqchi', Mam, Achi, Ixil, Awakatek, Jakaltek and Qanjobal) that are currently being spoken in ICE facilities are being told, wherever it is you come from, there is no such place. This is America.
When we point to the sites of massacre and atrocity, we are told- there is no such place. The maintenance of the colonial project is contingent on atrocity and the perpetration of atrocity is largely contingent on denial.
When we point to the colonial delusion that is America, and every other settler colonial state and say- there is no such place- we are speaking the truth.”
S.J (Sarah-Jane) Norman is a cross-disciplinary artist and writer. Their career has so far spanned 15 years and has embraced a diversity of disciplines and formal outcomes, including solo and ensemble performance, installation, sculpture, text, video and sound. They are a non-binary transmasculine person and a diasporic Koori, born on Gadigal land. Working extensively with durational and spatial practices, as well as intimate/one-to-one frameworks, Norman’s primary medium is the body.
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