Art & Activism
*In conversation: Aida Silvestri, Valentine Nkomo & Something Human
*Presentation by Dave Hewitt (Nottingham and Notts Refugee Forum)
Aida Silvestri, born in 1978 in Eritrea, lives and works in London. She studied photography at Kensington and Chelsea College and has a BA (Hons) in the subject from the University of Westminster, London. She was voted one of the British Journal of Photography’s two Best of Show Winners at the Free Range exhibition, London in 2013. Her work concerns sensitive issues of migration, culture, ethnicity, identity, health and politics. She explores new and unique approaches of documentary photography in order to raise awareness.
Valentine Nkoyo is the Director of Mojatu Foundation and the Managing Editor of the Mojatu Magazines. She chairs the Nottinghamshire Community FGM Steering Group and sits in different boards including the City and County FGM Strategy Board. She is also the Organising Secretary of the Kenya Nottinghamshire Welfare Association. Born and raised by a polygamous family, in a small Maasai village in Narok, Kenya. She is a human rights activist, public speaker, advocate for education and FGM campaigner. Her passion to support girls and women has been influenced greatly by her own experiences, growing up in poverty and being surrounded by women’s inequality.
Dave Hewitt (Nottingham and Notts Refugee Forum)
Nottingham & Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum (NNRF) is an independent voluntary organisation and registered charity set up in 2000 to work with and for refugees and asylum seekers in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire offering practical advice, information, support and friendship. Dave Hewitt, one of NNRF’s volunteers, will be in conversation with a local refugee / asylum seeker about their experiences of the challenges they face, and their experience of seeking a home in the Nottingham area.
Drawing on examples from theatre, film and the visual arts that focus on the impact of ‘the refugee crisis’ on two European islands (Lesbos and Lampedusa), this paper will return to questions of ethics, politics and aesthetics when making and watching performance that engages with ‘the pain of others’. I will propose that in order to think through questions of efficacy and value of performance that seeks to engage with/respond to migration, we must consider the interrelation of migration and excess. The paper will explore the multiple meanings and performances of excess in artistic practice and interrogate the contradictions and potentialities that emerge in works that perform excess as a form of investment in a form of ‘political responsiveness’.
Presentation Home is where the WiFi connects automatically… Notions of Home in Contemporary Travel Culture and Literature
Are the days of “home is where the heart is” long gone and have they instead been replaced with “home is where the hard disk”? In our technology mediated Western world, realms in which we can instead connect with our online persona are becoming increasingly important to the perception of homely spaces. This need and wish for an increased spatial flexibility is catered to by an ever growing travel industry. In 2012, the airline easyJet launched a grand scale advertising campaign celebrating “generation easyJet”; a generation that “can’t wait to go”, wants “more places, more choices, more often” and at the end of the day does not “want to go home” anymore. Airbnb, the alternative accommodation service, in contrast, wants to provide those “escape artists” with homely alternatives everywhere because they “believe in a world where all seven billion of us belong anywhere.” In times of refugee crises and Brexit, slogans like these seem painfully sarcastic and scornful. In my presentation, I want to unpack these twenty-first century notions of travel culture further before turning to literary examples of alternative modes of travel as laid out by selected contemporary women writers.
Something Human curated section of artist talks and performative lectures: Lynn Lu, Tanja Balac, John Clang, Tuan Mami, Soni Kum.
Performance Global Circumnavigations: The year-round ranges of migrants
The journeys are punishing; migrants fast, swim upstream, fly unceasingly, and face hungry predators and a multitude of barriers. The odysseys are frequently deadly, yet at the heart of migration is one instinct: survival.
Screening Citizens 1 and 2
Tanja Balac was born in Skopje in 1968. She first graduated from the Department of Painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Skopje in 1991, and then in 2008 she continued her training there and received her Masters degree. As a member of the Association of Artists of Macedonia (DLUM) since 1996, she was also its president between 2006-2013. Her professional and artistic experience has been constantly enriched by work and exhibitions abroad, fulfilling her efforts with numerous awards. Besides working in painting, Tanja is also interested in creating installations, video art projects and performances. At present, she lives and works in Skopje, Republic of Macedonia.
Artist Talk On Crisis For Krísis
To me, there’s macro crisis and micro crisis. I further separate micro crisis into external and internal crisis.
For the last two decades, some macro crises I have personally encountered are Asian financial crisis in 1997, World Trade Centre September 11 attack in 2001, SARS outbreak in 2003 and Wall Street financial crisis in 2008. There’s also the growing, everyday fear of global terrorism and global warming. It will be very compelling for an artist to create work focusing on these concerns, which are affecting the world population as a whole.
Also, I see the advancement of modern technology a macro crisis too. It changes our way of living and thinking. It forces us to adapt to these changes.
Micro crises are those that happen close to us. Marital, family, financial, employment, health etc. And usually such micro crises can be easily affected by the environment. These, to me, are the external crises.
For my art practice, I’m interested in how the environment impact the way we think and react internally. Both macro and micro crises have an impact on the way we conduct our everyday life. Our everyday life is shifting gradually according to these crises and since we are constantly adapting, we may feel indifference to these changes. My work focuses on the response to such shifts. This response is a reaction of our own internal crisis, a constant struggle to comprehend the meaning of our own existence, which are set against an ever-changing culture and environment.
Artist Talk Art as Survival
As an artist, I see myself as an observer of society, and have brought into my artwork methods of “playing” to express the complexities of society.
In my ongoing research around ideas of the “Humans on the Move”, I have been exploring the in-between spaces between the political, geographical, cultural and mythological fields to understand our aims and approaches to adapting to the increasingly critical states in movement.
In the context of Krísis, I have been thinking about how art should and could engage with social issues and/or the other way around. I will discuss how I use dual-meanings in my work that create an aesthetic of “Hiding”, that reflect how we are usually caught up behind the camouflage of “manners” in our every day social existence. I would present my art practice as a personal strategy for survival that flows from the desires for the freedom of expression, and to excavate in the gaps between our mental and physical existences, past and future, reality and our self-constructed mythologies.
Performance Prayer request
I know that by this acts of praying in the desert, out of love, something might be already good in myself, like a therapy… through this prayer, I’m a little better and reconciled. — Derrida
When I got to know people who have been through a kind of hell, I didn’t know what to do. Some of my relatives still live in North Korea and my great grandfather died in North Korea.
Up to 3 million were reported to have died of starvaation in 1990s and the other survivors are still suffering from social and political pressures.
Many of the people I got to know recently in South Korea are North Korean migrants. They all went through a rite of passage; they took the risk of losing their lives or being caught and sent to concentration camps, to cross the border. They survived.
It made me realize that at the same time, many people I will not get to meet are the ones who failed to cross the border, and who instead died or were sent to the concentration camp to live a life of hell. I recently read about a friend of a friend of mine, who was one of those who failed to cross the border and was sent to the concentration camp. We still don’t know if he survived or not.
When I heard about their experience, I was at a loss at what to do, and I could only pray.
Derrida said that he prayed all the time. His way of praying was absolutely secret, singular and silent. And for him, skepticism was part of the prayer. Derrida’s prayer was a ritual that involved the body using coded gestures in common languages, and secret and sacred idioms that evoke a familiarity of physical memory in our bodies. Prayer requires we embrace hopelessness, which is a part of what authentic prayer should be. On the other hand, Derrida believed he had hope.
I invite the audience to be a part of ritual of prayer during this performance piece.
Presentation Sacred Shores
Phil Leonard (NTU Centre for Postcolonial Studies)
Literature and theory have often reflected on boundaries and border crossings, and recent – now tragically familiar – images of refugees arriving on Europe’s shores provoke a renewed consideration of how Europe’s limits are to be understood. The precarious transition from making landfall to admission into a new homeland has resulted in both the reinvigoration of liberal cosmopolitanism and calls for stricter enforcement of Europe’s borders. Focusing on Giorgio Agamben’s and Jean-Luc Nancy’s rethinking of ‘the political’ (habitually expressed in terms of a shared participation in the governance of the nation-state, or as an intelligible series of social events to be addressed by the application of systematic rationality), this paper will explore the possibility for a different understanding not only of home and elsewhere, but also of the spaces between that are marked by images of the refugee’s arrival.
Book Launch Surviving Art School (A publication produced by Collective Creativity and Nottingham Contemporary 15/20 min)
Collective Creativity is an intentional informal non-hierarchal collective space created to share ideas to reflect on texts/films/art (and more) in a group setting, that inspire, interest or provoke us and/or our practice.
Collective Creativity is a group formed out of necessity, to carve collaborative space outside of the institutional framework where a specific Black QTIPOC (queer/trans* people of colour) voice and experience could be nurtured. Collective Creativity are Evan Ifekoya, Raisa Kabir, Rudy Loewe and Raju Rage.
Krísis: critical interventions is chaired by Professor Duncan Higgins, (NTU School of Art & Design), Dr Roy Smith (NTU School of Arts and Humanities) and Dr Anna Ball (NTU School of Arts and Humanities) in partnership with the curators from Something Human, and Nottingham Contemporary.
For more information on the symposium’s programme and to book your free place click here