Uranus as video installation and performance studies ‘feeling at home’ as a new form of Uranism, which allows us to imagine a different social organization of life forms. A hommage to writer Sarah Ahmed* about orientation and migration, as philosopher Paul B. Preciado’s Apartment on Uranus** asserts: “overcome sexual differences and intervene in a new cognitive framework allowing the existence of life’s diversity”.

Uranus video loop 00:09:00 min

Uranus, video installation*, Merel Noorlander 2021
Uranus, video installation*, Merel Noorlander 2021
Uranus, video installation*, Merel Noorlander 2021

*Uranus, render at Michael Hall’s sculpture Amaranth (painted steel) Cranbrook Academy of Art 2021

Research trajectory: ‘I believe there are a few things in life that you can fall in love with: a person, the arts (in the broad sense of the word) and a city. Relating to the city, after many wanderings, I feel most at home in Amsterdam, and have fallen in love with Paris, where I home-swap with Julie as often as we can each year. They are both accessible and raw cities of their own, where you can easily access public transport, or walk from A to B within a reasonable timeframe. Every 10 minutes – especially in Paris – you are in a completely different environment in terms of appearance, smell, rituals. One where I feel welcome as a human, female and queer, and take up space.

Here on Cranbrook Campus (US), I am aware of a temporary stay. After two years, this will no longer be my home and I will make way for new students. In recent weeks I have been regularly asked if I would like to stay in the United States after the MFA. The honest answer is that my only real life experience beyond this artistic bubble is with sporadic visits to a supermarket, and through your stories. A social construct, in which the United States full of rituals, politics, public space, holiday homes and cities (even Detroit) mainly forms an image in my head. The public spaces on campus are there for strolling around, with heated streets and sidewalks and a dominant masculine aesthetic of objects. As soon as I set foot outside the fence, there is another blockade, no pedestrian or cycle paths, without a car I am limited in my daily use which is clearly designed for vehicles and those who can afford one.

With the pandemic, huge changes are taking place. Cities I have fallen in love with are being altered drastically. Julie moved to Canada at the end of last year. With this move I also say goodbye to my second home. It feels like grief, like saying goodbye to a loved one, a beloved city. In Amsterdam, one art institution after the other is collapsing. Brilliant artists and curators are changing professions, encouraged to do so by the Dutch government to promote a greater chance of a stable income for the future. If I return in two years – post MFA – to my beloved Amsterdam, or even Paris, what will I return to? Is there another city or place that I could fall in love with after these two years abroad? With a public space for everyone, without impediments or special privileges for only a select group of residents? Can a sex-positive space for friendship and solidarity exist, as Canadian geographer Leslie Kern*** writes about?

If feeling at home is about finding our way, it’s important to consider how to find our way as a process of reorientation, as we reinhabit spaces. As Sarah Ahmed reflects: “spaces are like a second skin that unfold in the folds of the body”. In Strange Encounters: Embodied Others in Post Coloniality (2000), she reflects on how migration involves rein-habiting the skin: “the different impressions of a new landscape, the air, the smell, the sound, which accumulate like points, to create new textures of the skin and reshape the body surfaces”.’

Kinetic creatures and wearables designed with pleated skirts, Tyvek paper, programmable LEDs, Arduino Uno, electronics into a responsive body coat. Video choreography of soft robotics & performance, designed and captured by Merel Noorlander, with participation of roller skater E.A., sound design Ibelisse Guardia Ferragutti.

*Paul B. Preciado; An Apartment on Uranus / **Leslie Kern; Feminist City / ***Sarah Ahmed; Queer Phenomenology

Uranus, performance detail, Merel Noorlander 2020
Uranus, performance/video detail, Merel Noorlander 2020
Uranus, performance/video detail, Merel Noorlander 2020
Uranus, responsive wearable detail with LEDs, Merel Noorlander 2020