RUMEYSA – Lives lost in the Mediterranean focus of SALT Galata show

Lives lost in the Mediterranean focus of SALT Galata showThe basement floor of the SALT Galata art space in Istanbul is currently home to a poignant five-channel video project by Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen, who is acclaimed for the work focusing on migrants he has been producing since 2005.While there has been growing discussion about migration in Europe in recent years, Larsen personally felt like the debate is generally quite hostile.

andldquoThe migrants are seen [in terms of] volume, as statistics, as numbers, as parasites, as a threat. It is very much an and#39usand#39 and and#39themand#39 debate.

The debate is tainted by headlines in a rapidly moving news industry. We are used to seeing photos of migrants in overcrowded boats or badly filmed video footage of Mare Nostrumand#39s operations.

We see surviving migrants in gold survival foil and dead migrants in body bags. And everything we see is accompanied by news commentaries that briefly give us some facts.

The news industry leaves no time or space to feel, to contemplate, to show respect for the many desperate people and the people who have died in the attempt to reach Europe. and#39End of Dreamsand#39 consists of a series of objects and a five-screen video installation that aims at slowing down time in an environment meant to commemorate migrants who have lost their lives,andrdquo he said during an interview with Todayand#39s Zaman.

Asked about the strategies he uses to avoid exploiting the feelings of the audience, since he is touching upon extremely sensitive realities of life, he says he is not sure which feelings there are to exploit. andldquoIf people had feelings — compassion, empathy — there wouldnand#39t be such an issue about migrants arriving in Europe.

andlsquoEnd of Dreamsand#39 attempts to connect its audience with a sense of empathy. I hope that the work will be a space where people will spend time reflecting about the situation.

It is a [piece of] artwork about an important issue, an issue that I care about it is not here to please,andrdquo Larsen further elaborates.Initially, the artist decided to put 48 concrete sculptures shaped in the form of fabric-wrapped bodies in a raft in a small Italian coastal town.

His plan was to film them under the sea and base his work off of the gradual change in the sculptures under the sea However, a fierce storm sunk the raft, and the sculptures and his work were destroyed.andldquoOf course I was totally shocked when I first heard that the work had been completely smashed by the storm I thought that I had lost everything.

I wrote an email to a couple of people with the heading and#39Art becomes reality becomes art,and#39 and that sentence gave the whole thing a new meaning. I contacted an art student and keen diver who had helped me make the sculptures, Giuseppe Politi, to see if he could film what was left of the sculptures to give me an overview of the situation.

The footage he sent me was really interesting, and I decided to make a film From Paris, I directed him to film the underwater scenes. Over the past six months he has been filming several hours of footage,andrdquo Larsen says.

The most recent footage in the film was shot 10 weeks ago, and he has created a soundtrack in collaboration with sound designer Mikkel H Eriksen for the installation at SALT. The artist thinks that andldquoEnd Of Dreamsandrdquo is possibly one of his best works, and it is interesting to think that it wouldnand#39t have existed had the original work not been destroyed.

andldquoI would really like and#39End of Dreamsand#39 to travel up through Europe and, in a way, follow the route that most migrants are on. Istanbul or Turkey is the last land that the migrants drowning in the Mediterranean experience.

These people never see the continent they risked everything to reach. This is what and#39End of Dreamsand#39 deals with.

So showing it in Istanbul gives it meaning,andrdquo he explains.Another interesting aspect of the work is the fact that Larsen is himself a European living the dream of the migrants who died and he is producing art focused on them Asked whether he had to come up with another way to address the situation because he benefits from a system that is essentially responsible for the death of these migrants, he says it is hard to give a short answer to such a question.

andldquoFirstly, I would say that yes, I am a European, I have had a fairly stable and comfortable life in Europe. As well as being a European, I am also an individual with my own personal opinion about things.

And one of my opinions is that Europeand#39s way of dealing with the issue of migration is bad. In 2011, I made a film called and#39Promised Land.

and#39 It was filmed in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants hope to get on ferries that can take them to England. While filming, I had many discussions with my cinematographer, Jonas Mortensen, about whether we were exploiting the people in our film I personally donand#39t think we did.

We made a film that has been shown in countless places in Europe and has started discussions, and it is opening peopleand#39s minds and changing peopleand#39s opinions. The film has empathy it shows migrants as and#39normaland#39 people in extremely difficult situations.

It doesnand#39t pity them or alienate them or reduce them to being just migrants. So as a European filmmaker, I feel that my voice and my point of view are important — also in a context outside of Europe.

[andhellip] If my humanistic point of view can change peopleand#39s minds [regarding] how to deal with migrants and create discussions and awareness, I think I have succeeded. I think thereand#39s a danger in not dealing with the topic.

Ignoring it and pretending there isnand#39t a problem is wrong. I think it is dangerous to assume that because I am a European I canand#39t create a work about the issue of migration, especially because Europe is part of the problem Maybe it is really important that Europeans start a healthy and humanistic debate rather than a debate led by xenophobic right-wing politicians,andrdquo he says.

Larsen says he uses his skill as an artist andquotto create dialogues, to shake people, to depict things or places that we donand#39t normally want to see.andquotandquotI see plenty of totally meaningless art that is made to sell at art fairs.

I canand#39t do that. I think art has a potential to reach out and be far more important than a decorative and pleasing object.

andrdquoandldquoEnd of Dreamsandrdquo can be seen at SALT Galata until March 29. For more information, visit www.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman