Eva Leitolf. Postcards from Europe. Guitgia, Lampedusa, Italy 2012
artistic views on migration
Currently the public debate is focussed on the military, political and humanitarian crisis in Syria, Iraq and on the millions of people who are seeking refuge in Europe or elsewhere. The voices of politicians, media and citizens are dominated by simplistic imaginations and images that tend to reduce the complex nature of refugees to an ‘issue’, in which subjects become generalised and anonymous. This leads to narratives of fear and abstractions in numbers of people, casualties, Euros, and harsh legal mechanics.
This CA PUBLIC! aims to focus on another question: How can artists engage with the narratives of refugees? And how do these narratives of (post-)migration change in time, space, and context?
Art has a capacity to detect developments in society at an early stage, and art can show what is not so evident to the naked eye. Artists can tell the untold stories. Art can be humanitarian, reaching out a hand to a fellow human being. Some artists do claim to show ‘the human side of the story’. Art can be utilitarian and it can promote change on the ground by representing stories and offering counter narratives to propaganda and fear mongering. However, there are practical and ethical pitfalls to artworks dealing with the refugee experience, with artists claiming to speak on behalf of those whose experience they do not share. Furthermore, the debate also intends to tackle aspects of identity construction, multiple storytelling and memory.
Camera Arts invited Eva Leitolf (Bavaria) and Özkan Gölpinar (Amsterdam) to articulate their takes on the complex relationship between visual arts and migration.
Eva Leitolf will present various artistic projects created by, with and between (post-)migrants. She will also show and discuss her photographic long-term project ‘Postcards from Europe’, which focuses on the ways the European Community relates to migration, administers migrant movements, and works to tighten control of its external borders. Throughout her research-oriented engagement with the various aspects of migration, Leitolf develops a wide range of multi-layered narratives (personal, social, cultural, historical and political).
Özkan Gölpinar comments on a sample of artworks that he has curated, such as ‘The Museum of Im/migration/Lost&Found’, and other project contexts. He will address the capacity of art to show what is not evident to see, and also the humanitarian dimension of art that reaches out a hand to a fellow human being. He questions how asylum seekers and refugees are portrayed and how these visual representations sometimes claim to operate as a link between refugees and the outside world. Subjacent to this discussion, Gölpinar also addresses the uneven power dynamic between artist and subject, as well as the risk of reducing the character of refugees to an “issue”.