In her own words: meeting Ally Walsh

Introducing Ally (in her own words): A traveler/a migrant/an alien/ an other/ peripatetic/ an artist/ a listener/ a perpetual visitor/ a radio on static/ an archeologist/ a cyborg/ a border dweller/ a puppy/ an unfinished chapter/ a mirror/ a body to fit many bodies

Could you describe where you are at this very moment?

Athens, Greece. To find ‘the other’ on GoogleMaps, put in the following coordinates:

Opposite my muse,

Down down down

Inside a contradiction,

Behind some solitude,

On the roof of multiplicities,

Away from old maps of me,

Around the corner from bliss, right opposite drama,

At the edge of understanding,
Submerged in perpetual desire,

Resisting the currents while I learn to swim,

Just past the alien’s bureau,

Facing the borders with Molotov cocktails,

At the junction where challenges meet love,

At the beginning of a new migration.

Tell us about your journey (this particular ‘intimate migration’)…

I’ve always been an alien. But I’ve hardly ever recognised myself as one. I stumbled into alien-ness when I fell in love with a creature from a neighbouring planet. A mirror that I couldn’t leave for too long. I was compelled to join her in her earthly abode at the centre of the civilized world. A place where I’ve learned more about segregation, prejudice, xenophobia and otherness than every other place I have been. It’s the most human place I have encountered.

What would you say were/are the challenges you face(d)?

Being legal. 3 months of running and papers and stamps.

Trying to remember every day that love as a reason to be somewhere is not the reason to be trapped there either. Love has never been a prison.

Language. Being on the other side of understanding is exhausting. Feeling stupid/ ignorant/ excluded just because I can’t (yet) speak Greek is a constant battle.

Feeling like I have to be the polite, un-intrusive, undemanding guest in my own home. (only because I am the newest addition to a home that was already shared, not because anyone else made me feel that way).

Trying to create a company has been a tough one: negotiating lawyers and trying to define the work in a whole new frame is hard.

Not being able to work makes me crazy. I had some naïve ideas about how I would be able to create opportunities for myself to do the work I had been doing, but things work so differently here. There is a financial crisis. I’m not Greek, and therefore don’t have the connections and networks that everyone else starts off with already. Being excellent at what you do is no glowing reference for Greeks. There is no economy in my line of work, and even less a system of widening engagement in sectors (no jobs for foreigners at all).

How have things changed for you (if at all?) during this process?

It’s a constant negotiation of meaning and redefinition.
I don’t know if that ever stops, but I imagine that the deeper you get to learning the language, the more whole the experience becomes. I’m still chasing chimeras.

What do you miss about your life from where you lived before?

Cultural events I can understand
A job

Disposable income

Being able to be funny because I’m funny, not because I am outside terms of reference

And what can you be/do where you live now that you couldn’t before?

Have sundowners on the terrace all year round

Walk everywhere

Live simply/ fully

Perform my multiple identities (makeup, costumes, fashion, events)

Go out late at night

Use public transport

Have fresh vegetables from local farmers

Engage as an active community member
Make a company that embodies my ideas/ ambitions/ dreams and which has a heart

Live in an amazing apartment

Have creative arguments

Be able to dream/play/dance/debate/sing/love my partner all day

What surprised you (about this move; about where you are now)?

Learning how to love is the best psychoanalysis. I surprise myself every day.

A map …. is only valuable if treated as an unstable object, a draft, something I can redefine with my own colours, topographies and landmarks. I am not interested in being located within a received ‘place’. I create the map. I re-map, through creative encounters. I get closer to mapping my existence through actions, senses, dances, repetitions, responses.

Borders are… not recognised in my language but yet I keep encountering them. It’s so annoying to be forced to admit that something exists when you deny its power and control.
Erasure. Invisibility. Exclusion.
I perform my visibility and legitimacy every time I cross a border and mask my fear that I will be subject to its exclusions.

A question you would like to ask (me/ other ‘intimate migrants’)?

What are your traps as the ‘intimate migrant’?

 

{Thank you, Ally*}

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