This work is for refugees, for their stories, for their rights. It is dedicated to all the people who must leave their home country and have to rebuild their lives elsewhere.
I arrived in Berlin at the end of 2013. At that time I immediately realized that the problem of refugees, of their rights and of their documents was very debated and visible in the city as the refugees had erected a tent city in Oranienplatz, a square in the central district of Kreuzberg.
When I was invited to present a performance art piece at the Kreuzberg Pavillon I realized that I was not interested in presenting a work of mine, nor in speaking about me. I wanted instead to give voice and space to the Refugees people and their problems, also because I was aware that the media, at least in Italy, gave distorted informations on the whole issue.
So I decided, in agreement with the organizers, to invite Refugees people in the Art Space and welcome them. Furthermore, with this gesture, I wanted to state that life and problems of people are more important than art.
To achieve this goal, apparently easy, I had to work hard in contacting the refugees, hearing their stories, building relationships in order to invite them to come to the gallery. At the beginning it was not easy for me to get their confidence, but after a while the ‘ice broke’ and important human experiences were born.
The project consists in two part: the collective performance itself, at the gallery, and the previous, long, site specific work on meeting and knowing refugeees people and their problems, inviting them to come to the gallery and standing for their rights. The performance is only like the ‘iceberg point’ of a long and deep relational process.
Some practical information about refugees:
Refugee : according with the 1st article of the Genevra Convention of 1951, Refugee is a person who ‘owing to wellfounded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.’
The whole Europe accomodate about 1 million 700 thausand refugees, a numer similar to that in the only Pakistan. Most of tham are located in Germany, with a presence of 589.737, meanwhile 149.799 are in UK and 64.779 in Italy.
Asylum seeker : is a person persecuted by his/her own country whom request protection by another foreign country, and each state have to offer protection basing on the Genevra Convention of 1951, or according to other forms of international protection.
Dublin Convention: In order to avoid mutiple Asylum’s requests and to determine rapidly the Member State responsible for an asylum claim, the European Union decided to standardize the asylum procedures with the Dublin Convention, effective from September 1997. This is based on the principle that the first Member State where finger prints are stored or an asylum claim is lodged, is responsible for a person’s asylum claim. It’s clear that in accordance with this regulation Italy, due to its geographical characteristics, has become one of the most affected country and no longer able to be just a “transit country” as was in the previous years.
The Dublin Convention caused two paradoxical effects: on the one hand Italy should manage alone all the great arrival flow of refugees, and on the other hand Refugees people wishing to go in an other European country looking for a job, found themself without valid documents and therefore they were denied the opportunity to work.
Among the many protests for the acquisition of rights, the most visible and numerous were in Germany, in particular in 2012. With the slogans “We are here” and “Kein mensch ist illegal” (No one is illegal), more than 200 refugees from all around the world rise their voice for the acquisition of social and civil rights, building a protest camp in Oranienplatz, a square in the central Kreuzberg district of Berlin, supported by the solidarity of many citizens and some politicians.
“The camp housed around 100 people from the end of September 2012 until April 2014, when it was cleared. From the dozens of tents that once covered the southern side of the square, only one – an information tent – was allowed to remain, and that was burnt down a few weeks ago. The refugees based there demanded the right to work, the abolition of residenzpflicht – the regulation that in Germany forbids asylum seekers to leave a certain radius – and assurances that they will not be deported. In short, they campaigned for an existence free of constant uncertainty and the right to be allowed to settle in Germany. " ( Nina Rossmann)