A HOMELAND WE CAN DEPEND ON
Hiraeth: (n.) a homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost place of your past
I was born in the former Soviet Union, a country that no longer exists. Now I am an exile, living in New York, the ultimate city of exiles in the ultimate country of immigrants. Like many parts of the world, New York is full of people who are are not “natives” (whatever that means), people who have left homes that they can never return to, either because of the threat of violence or simply because the borders of their homeland have shifted, the ideology has changed, the culture has altered and, as in my case, the very name and geographic identity of the nation has been replaced with something new, For those that find themselves in this position, absence becomes more actual than presence and the idea of a homeland, impossible to realize, becomes something that only exists as a personal myth. A private experience that, like an empty rectangle on a museum wall where a painting use to hang, points to the presence of absence.
In this way the idea of homeland is indelibly linked to the twin experience of memory and imagination and like them is subject to the same process of perpetual transformation. It’s a landscape of the mind that can never be comprehended in its entirety, like a transparency that one can never fully see no matter how long one holds it’s held up to the sun, a fact that only increases the desire to keep trying. But perhaps, the tenacity of this elusiveness is not a weakness but a strength. The very fact that one is frustrated in the attempt spurs the search for creative solutions, and, as that search is not beholden to a fixed set of historical and cultural ideas, frees up the dynamics of self invention.
It is with this in mind that I have created a country for all those that have no country, a fictitious nation that exists only in the mind to act as a virtual homeland for all the exiles, refugees, displaced peoples, nomads, or simply for anyone who feels that their current environment is antithetical to what they think of when they think of home..
Zoltavia, from the Russian word zoloto, literally means golden country. It is a place without borders, without a geographic location and without political affiliation. Its structure is comprised of the aggregated memories and imaginations of those that are its citizens and thus it is always changing, being added to and taken away from.
As a project, Zoltavia will have many different and interconnected components. Paintings depicting Zoltavian folklore, Photographic portraits of its citizenry, documentary imagery of its native food, culture artifacts, a recording of its national anthem as well as various cultural paraphernalia like postcards, stamps, tourism posters, money and various souvenirs.