‘States of being at the Borders of Humanity’
SPACE gallery, 131 Mare St, London E8 3RH
Wednesday 6th September 2017
Our third workshop, “States of Being at the Borders of Humanity”, took place in Hackney, at Space gallery, enriched, for the occasion, by “migrant” exhibitions: the first one was titled Where We Are Now, by Kate Stanworth, based on her direct work with migrants and refugees in Europe. Kate’s exhibition travelled from Naples, where it was showed for the first time during our second event “Sea-Crossings: the Mediterranean and its Others”. The other one, Narrating Objects of Displacement, included work developed in Morocco (and recently exhibited in Glasgow 20-22 June), as a result of a participatory Video-Photography Workshop organised by the “Arts for Advocacy”* research team, and guided by visual artists Julien Fleurance, who presented the project at our London event, and Amine Oulmakki.
Mariangela Palladino opened the day with a presentation revolving around the relationship between social precariousness, human vulnerability, economic poorness and the concept of harvesting, in response to racism and state violence. The first panel opened with Nina Murray’s presentation on the work of the European Network of Statelessness, where she is researcher and policy coordinator, sharing some of the stories and experiences of those men, women and children ENS and its members work with in countries across Europe. As a member of the walking artists network and PASAR research, Maggie O’Neill (York University) talked about her work with women asylum seekers, based on participatory art and walking methods, seeking to better understand, engage with and transform women’s lives.
Drawing on her collaborative work with poet Yousif M Qasmiyeh and the Refugee Hosts project, Lyndsey Stonebridge (University of East Anglia), who opened the second panel, discussed about displacement and belonging and how new kinds of poetic memory are being forged in Baddawi and other refugee host communities in the region. Then, Nirmal Puwar (Goldsmith’s College) discussed the ways in which the Methods Lab worked with John Berger and Jean Mohr’s book, A Seventh Man, for the exhibition ‘Migrating Dreams and Nightmares’. Finally, journalist Ismail Einashe talked about his recent trip to the south of Italy, where he interviewed migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, reporting their living in limbo in isolated poor towns.
After a delicious lunch hosted by the Chickpea Sisters cooperative, the third panel started with Parvati Nair’s contribution (UNU-GCM, Barcelona; Queen Mary, London), based on a photo essay by the Spanish photojournalist Samuel Aranda, exploring the ways in which photo essays can bring to light the unseen and ignored realities of migrant experience as a politics of bodily resilience in the face of struggle. Through a strict sociological perspective, Jennifer Allsopp (Oxford University) discussed the politics of storytelling in the context of mixed-methods longitudinal research with 60 young migrants and refugees in Europe. On a different stance, Emma Cox (Royal Holloway) analysed Richard Mosse’s video installation, Incoming, and its camera as a piece of military-grade thermographic technology linked to the ‘refugee crisis’ in Europe.
In the last panel, Christine Bacon presented the ice&fire theatre company exploring human rights stories through performance. Since 2006, their Actors for Human Rights project has been collecting and disseminating first-hand accounts of asylum seekers and refugees, people in poverty, undocumented migrants, women in Afghanistan and more living in the UK. The audience at the States of Being workshop could enjoy ice&fire stunning live performance. Then, Kai Fisher brought to a close the panel, talking about the creation of Last Dream (On Earth), a theatre production that tells stories of border crossing between Morocco and Spain, echoing Yuri Gagarin’s flight to the Outer Space.
The day concluded with a performance, I have to pass, by Neapolitan artist Ulderico who brought the audience in the courtyard of the Space gallery, where an installation was set. It consisted of an 18 meters fabric showing hundreds of silhouettes of little fishes, some of them “carrying” inscribed pebbles coming from Keele and Naples workshops and empty pebbles to be inscribed in London. The sense of both a poetical continuity and a migrant ecological community was thus produced, also echoed by the artist’s words “I move, I live”.