The West has been developing a preoccupation with the “exotic” ever since it gained economic dominance over the so called “third world.”This infatuation began with an ethereal characterization of the “eastern seductress” in the Western Renaissance into a patronizing fixation on “the unprivileged other from the war zone” in the late 20th and early 21st century.
In the age of modern capitalism, circumnavigation of the “first world” spatially by migrants along with the fantastical travelogues of the colonists created a platform for the “exoticism” to evolve within and penetrate the popular culture. Generally, in the arts and entertainment, this exoticism is justified by the host culture and its agents due to the void of cultural assimilation among the displaced groups of migrants, a behavioral adaptation that makes racial gap comprehensible for the Western Art consumer.
This patronizing Western attitude encourages the appropriation and consumption of one culture by another. Such conditions create a moment of pressured immersion by the migrant into a different, generally dominant cultural attitude that lays the foundation for using the guest culture as an inverted mirror. This type of exoticism can inflect popular culture; however, because the host culture sees itself differently, it sees the guests differently as well. It will create a platform for the opulence of fantasy, which reinforces a denial of indigenous agency, depicting the guest/migrant culture as mysterious, intense, or elusive.
When this approach fixates itself within the dynamics of the relationship between the host and the guest, it leaves no other options for the guests other than the compliancy in normalizing with this micro-aggression towards themselves and their respected culture. The idea of being socially normalized as deliverance for the guest culture boosts the call for eroticizing its characteristics by the host culture. In other words, it legitimizes the transformation of these cultural characteristics into vindictive fantasies of the third world. Adapting or assimilating the guest culture as an extension rather than an independently functional branch of the society dismantles the inherent character of the guest culture for the benefit of understandability by the host’s consumer culture. In such structure, the transition from a value-centric worldview to a user-based mentality is adopted by the displaced group that eventually uncovers a significant cultural “otherness”, less fearsome to the host.
My project, “THE CHARM OF THE UNFAMILIAR / COMPLIANCE OF THE DISPLACED” is a fictional improvisation on the story of the displaced. It follows the narrative of a group of migrants that relocate into an abandoned city that had once been an amusement park. The displaced in this narrative, are hybrid personas, some real, some fantastical. Each carries a background story that has transformed their physicality in different forms and shapes. They need to adapt to their new habitat, finding a purpose in life within this Coney Island-esque setup, fighting to maintain their personalities and their characteristics.