Originating or traveling from places like Romania, Greece, Essen (Germany), Sweden, Poland, Turkey, France, Finland, Slovenia, Hungary, Czech Republic, and the United Kingdom, nearly every artist has the immigrant experience in one way or another here at the Fresh A.I.R. Residency at Urban Nation.
The current theme for this sixth edition of the residency, “Reflecting Migration,” naturally strikes a chord in each – but that is where the similarities stop in this widely varied and complex examination of the immigrant experience.
On a recent visit to the current exhibition on the second floor of a well-illuminated historical Berlinian building on Bulowstrasse in Schöneberg, the works and installations in separate galleries reflect the span of interests and disciplines. Thanks to a wide selection of artists, the story of the immigrant experience here is told from multiple perspectives. Participants in the “Migration” exhibition draw from the fields of education, photography, independent art spaces, architecture, data technology, science, philosophy, fine arts, graphic design, and film. The show gives a well-rounded collection of viewpoints, with various routes of expressing those observations.
The storylines can be quite personal, such as the installation by Romanian artist Denise Lobont, whose own parents labored as an itinerant worker in Germany “because there was not enough work available in her small hometown.” The long mounds of soil are planted with printed screenshots of social media postings of fields and workers, bringing a historical capitalist reality to the current moment. The timing seemed especially appropriate as Berlin is brimming with the annual white asparagus crop – appearing on grocery shelves and restaurant menus for a limited number of weeks every year – dependent on migrant labor to make it possible.
Elsewhere the Essen-based documentary photographer and performer Andreas Langfeld features interviews with and photographs of persons familiar with racist attitudes and behaviors of the dominant German society directed toward them in ways obvious and subtle. His frank observations are refreshingly open in the project “Encounters in a post-migrant society (which unfortunately is not able to overcome its racism,”. Here Langfeld uses his experiments, public performances, and observations to move the social discourse forward on those and related topics, including sexual and other minorities in a pluralistic, evolving society.
One of the more striking examples of migrant life includes no physical representation of migrants themselves but the places they live and work, rebuilt painstakingly in miniature by Ecaterina Stefanescu, a UK-based architectural designer and artist. Visitors can lift the roof off and closely examine her models of homes and businesses she has mapped here in Berlin belonging to Romanian immigrants, revealing detailed environments that respond to the inhabitants’ cultural, psychological, and physical needs. She calls the project “Rooms.”
By carefully recreating these “intimate portraits of their interior spaces and possessions through a series of large-scale models and paper collages,” she says she illustrates the “liminal identity of immigrants and how this is expressed through their material culture.”
Here you glean a better understanding through “the transient domestic places they inhabit, the objects they surround themselves with during their migratory experience.”
Using techniques as varied as film, sound, gouache, painting, illustration, photography, and sculptural installation, the artists at Fresh A.I.R. present the impact of migration on people and societies from a great range of perspectives. One sees colder, harder themes of data collection, xenophobia, survival, and sacrifice contrasted alongside more inspired viewpoints of liberation, independence, equality, – and even the development of bohemian culture. Clearly, one can take away something meaningful from this migration experience.
Our special thanks to Dr. Anne Schmedding and Mrs. Dasho-Stierand for giving us a great and educational tour. To learn more about the Fresh A.I.R. Residency program at Urban Nation Museum, please click HERE.
Fresh A.I.R. #6. “Reflecting Migration” is currently on view at the Urban Nation Museum. Berlin, Germany. Click HERE for details.