Displacement by Krista Svalbonas
Ideas of home and dislocation have always been compelling to me as the child of immigrant parents who arrived in the United States as refugees. Born in Latvia and Lithuania, my parents spent many years after the end of World War II in displaced-person camps in Germany before they were allowed to emigrate to the United States. My parents’ childhood memories of “home” were of temporary structures, appropriated from other uses to house thousands of postwar refugees. These transitory spaces of mass habitation, demolished and rebuilt over the years, have left only a vague imprint on the earth. They no longer exist as homes, if they exist at all. I have retraced this history by intensive research and by revisiting and photographing several former Displaced Person camps in Germany.
“Displacement” captures the traces of this existence by drawing on historical refugee letters as well as my photographic documentation, combining past and present in a series of laser cut images on photographic paper. Using my documentation of the camps, I am laser cutting plea letters the refugees were sending from the photographs. My family’s displacement, which I am re-imagining and restoring in this body of work, is part of a long history of uprooted peoples for whom the idea of “home” is contingent, in flux, without permanent definition and undermined by political agendas beyond their control. Once resettled, the refugees who had lived in the DP camps were often reluctant to discuss this period of their past. My goal is to give voice to this near forgotten history that also speaks to the impact of contemporary forced migrations.
Krista Svalbonas lives and works in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
To view more of Krista's work, please visit her website.