In June 2015, we organised a week-long programme of events in response to global demographic shifts and unprecedented levels of human displacement.
The programme featured over 40 artists working across visual art, film, photography, Live Art, performance and design, dis/placed considers the experiences of people who are ‘staying temporarily’, sometimes for generations, in stateless limbos, detention centres, refugee camps or urban settlements – living within a country’s borders yet outside its political, legal and civic life.
dis/placed also invited audiences to explore the exhibition and participate in a daily programme of learning labs, workshops, performances, interventions and screenings.
Produced by Counterpoints Arts in partnership with Live Art Development Agency
Manaf Halbouni, Kimbal Bumstead, Richard Dedomenici, Maya Sanbar, Mary Mitchell, Zory Shahrokhi, James Russell Cant, Hasan Tanji & Mohamed Tayeb, Simon Hipkins, Agata Skowronek and David McAulay, Sophia Gardiner, Juan delGado, Josepa Munoz, Victoria Burgher, Hong Dam, Mariwan Jalal, Hesan Fetrati, Anna Sherbany, Ulrika Eller-Rueter, Emi Avora, Matthias Kispert, Zlata Camdzic & Anna Ehnold-Danailov – w2d theatre, Nana Varveropoulou, Florian Amoser, Sean Burn, Orly Orbach, Natasha Davis, Kay Adshead, Krissi Bohn, There There, Hassan Nezamian, Eva Mileusnic, Haim Bresheeth, Herdi Ahmed, Laura Saunders, Alice Myers, Between the Borders, Lucy Namayanja, Anthea Kennedy / Ian Wiblin, Karen Boswall, Nesreen Nabil Hussein, Reza Tavakol, Bobby Lloyd, Outlandish Theatre
The statistics are staggering, mind numbing. Over 50 million people forcefully displaced across the globe. It is hard to fathom, to comprehend. If we look long enough it becomes surreal – a haunting, unsettling abstraction.
The artists in dis/placed invite us to peel back the cold patina of the statistics and move towards the human, intimate scale of the crisis; to re-direct our eyes, ears, and emotions and look differently at how this ferocious global drama is unfolding. Working across visual art, film, photography, Live Art, performance and design, they render the statistics raw, visceral. They bring them closer to ‘home’.
Throughout dis/placed, we are challenged to consider the everyday and historic experiences of people who are ‘staying temporarily’, sometimes for generations, in stateless limbos, detention centres, refugee camps or urban settlements – living within a country’s borders yet outside its political, legal and civic life. We are reminded that this is an enduring phenomenon. Not new but certainly bigger and more gargantuan than ever before.
We are drawn into multiple global and local spaces – real and imagined geographies – where refugees and migrants have been forced to flee from and toward. We encounter beloved homes, towns and cities destroyed now re-imagined in the spaces of fragile memory. Spaces endured on treacherous journeys across land and sea. People fenced off and waiting – to cross a border, to be released from detention, to leave a refugee camp and start a less temporary life. We see a hastily packed life loaded onto a car, which is turned into an impossible shelter, a moving testament to loss, resilience and hope.
This is what the artists in dis/placed do. They question and challenge. With empathy or even with humour, they invite us to sharpen our gaze, to listen deeply and critically. They urge us to pause and absorb something ‘Other’ to our workaday routines, to get out of our comfort zones.
Many of the artists have first-hand experience of what it means to be displaced and their work re-imagines, re-assembles histories and the multiple realities of the refugee and migrant experience. Others are curious, as engaged artists are, committed to documenting, commenting, speaking up and conjuring creative solidarities – breaking the rules of how we might perceive normality. Some of them just happen to be in places when things unfold, ready with camera and stubbornly persistent. Others quietly offer small pleasures, simple reassurances in a time of insecurity – telling us of recipes that have become precious links between past and present, or how on a London street where the displaced now live and co-exist, every door leads to another part of the planet.
Given the scale and complexities of the current crises, the creative arts may seem limited in what it can achieve. But this is not about the arts acting in isolation. The dis/placed event is designed as a dynamic platform, which presents some of the most engaging work on this theme and simultaneously generates conversations and debate about new interventions, where creativity is matched with solidarity and collective responsibility.
We invite you to take part.
Photograph: ‘Nowhere is Home’ (work in progress image) by Manaf Halbouni, 2015. Commissioned for the exhibition Dispossessed at the Venice Biennale by Wroclaw with Dredesn and Lviv. A partner piece for Refugee Week 2015 will be co-commissioned by the Victoria and Albert Museum and Counterpoints Arts.