Foreigners Everywhere (Southern Māori), 2015
Since 2005, Claire Fontaine’s neon signs have been displayed around the world in numerous languages, except for English. For Precarious Balance, Fontaine has been commissioned to create a new work in her ongoing series, Foreigners Everywhere. The phrase “we are all foreigners” has been translated into Te Reo meaning White Sails Everywhere, and installed as a turquoise neon light in the window of CoCA’s café, casting its light beyond the gallery space into the public streetscape. This strategic location means the work interacts with the exhibition site, and the urban environment beyond it. The work’s title is derived from Stranieri Ovunque, the Turin anarchist collective that fights racism. Implicit in its use as a public sign, the title has two meanings: it is an appeal to xenophobia and a reminder of the estrangement that comes with being foreign everywhere in a global society. The work reflects the idea that the understanding of meanings can be confused, or changed, as a result of relocation. Fontaine’s work redefines the experience of being foreign and estranged, by communicating the suggestion that those experiences are universal ones. The work reminds viewers that we all can be, or have been, foreign to something or someone, somewhere at some point in time. The Te Reo Maori translation highlights how foreign that language is to many New Zealanders, despite its heritage as the mother tongue of our country’s indigenous people, and shows the possibility for one to even experience the universal sense of being foreign and estranged in their own country.