VENICE / REFUGEE ART

13-May-2019 00:02:58
A new exhibition at this years’ Venice Biennale aims to put refugees centre stage in a debate over whether art should try to change society. UNHCR
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STORY: VENICE / REFUGEE ART
TRT: 02:58
SOURCE: UNHCR
RESTRICTIONS: PLEASE CREDIT UNHCR ON SCREEN
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH / NATS

DATELINE: 10 MAY 2019, VENICE, ITALY
SHOTLIST
1. Wide shot, city view
2. Wide shot, pull focus from an Italian flag to a Venice Biennale information panel
3. Various shots, people looking at installations on the first floor of the exhibition
4. SOUNDBITE (English) Carlotta Sami, Regional spokesperson, UNHCR South Europe:
“It’s a way to dignify human beings that are forced to flee. It’s a way to bridge different worlds, the world of art that may be a bit of an elite, and the bigger and wider communities.”
5. Various shots, visitors looking at work by Chinese artist Ai WeiWei
6. SOUNDBITE (English) Carlotta Sami, Regional spokesperson, UNHCR South Europe:
“It’s an opportunity to think about humanity, the condition of humanity in all its expressions and of course migration is considered one of the biggest topics of our humanity nowadays.”
7. Various shots, people looking at an installation of a UNHCR housing unit
8. Wide shot, sculptures of Syrian refugee artist, Rasha Deeb
9. SOUNDBITE (English) Rasha Deeb Syrian Refugee Artist:
“War it’s my big problem and it’s my big message. Not the refugees. Because of the war there are refugees. If there is no war there are no refugees. I don’t have to leave my country. Why?”
10. Various shots, Irish art photographer, Richard Mosse talking to visitors about his work
11. SOUNDBITE (English) Richard Mosse, Irish Photographer:
“I see the camera as an excellent medium to allow the viewer, or at least myself, to meditate on many of the concerns of the refugee crisis and of course the struggle of the people who come to Europe looking for asylum.”
12. Various shots, people looking at Mosse's photographs
13. SOUNDBITE (English) Richard Mosse, Irish Photographer:
“The camera in a way foregrounds this struggle, this struggle for survival by showing the viewer quite literally human body heat.”
14. Various shots, visitors looking at installation of remains of sunken refugee ship
15. SOUNDBITE (English) Carlotta Sami, Regional spokesperson, UNHCR South Europe:
“I had met the survivors of this boat. Only 24, all young boys, shaky and with staring eyes. And it was at dawn in Catania, the port of Catania in April 2015.
16. Various shots of the remains of the sunken refugee boat
17. SOUNDBITE (English) Carlotta Sami, Regional spokesperson, UNHCR South Europe:
“And then I saw that monstrous boat when it was recovered with its 800 dead bodies. That was a tragic moment that will always stay in my mind.”
18. Various shots, city views
STORYLINE
A new exhibition at this years’ Venice Biennale aims to put refugees centre stage in a debate over whether art should try to change society.

More than 100 people packed the opening of the Exhibition Rothko in Lampedusa on Friday (10 May). The exhibition showcases work by artists who have achieved international acclaim such as Ai Weiwei and Richard Moss, as well as those by emerging artists from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Ivory Coast and Somalia who are also refugees.

SOUNDBITE (English) Carlotta Sami, Regional spokesperson, UNHCR South Europe:
“It’s a way to dignify human beings that are forced to flee. It’s a way to bridge different worlds, the world of art that may be a bit of an elite, and the bigger and wider communities.”

The theme of this year’s Biennale, “May You Live in Interesting Times”, aims to provoke reflection on social issues, key among them the response to Europe’s refugee crisis.

SOUNDBITE (English) Carlotta Sami, Regional spokesperson, UNHCR South Europe:
“It’s an opportunity to think about humanity, the condition of humanity in all its expressions and of course migration is considered one of the biggest topics of our humanity nowadays.”

The emerging artists whose work is displayed have responded to their status as refugees in varying ways. Majid Adin, from Iran and living in London, displayed a cartoon video of a family enduring a perilous journey over land and sea. Mohammed Keita, who fled Ivory Coast, photographs street scenes in his new home of Italy.

For Rasha Deeb, an artist in Syria now resident in southern Germany, her home country’s war, rather than her experience as a refugee, was the impetus for her abstract sculpture.

SOUNDBITE (English) Rasha Deeb Syrian Refugee Artist:
“War it’s my big problem and it’s my big message. Not the refugees. Because of the war there are refugees. If there is no war there are no refugees. I don’t have to leave my country. Why?”

Deeb, Adin, Keita and photographer Bnar Sardar Sdiq from the Kurdistan region of Iraq are participating in the exhibition as part of a one-month residency in Venice funded by UNHCR during the Biennale. A fifth artist whose work is displayed, Hassan Yare, an illustrator from Somalia who lives in a camp in Kenya, was unable to obtain travel papers to attend.

Mosse spoke about the significance of his photographic work.

SOUNDBITE (English) Richard Mosse, Irish Photographer:
“I see the camera as an excellent medium to allow the viewer, or at least myself, to meditate on many of the concerns of the refugee crisis and of course the struggle of the people who come to Europe looking for asylum.”

SOUNDBITE (English) Richard Mosse, Irish Photographer:
“The camera in a way foregrounds this struggle, this struggle for survival by showing the viewer quite literally human body heat.”

Rothko in Lampedusa is the only exhibition specifically focused on refugees, but it is not the only exhibit that tackles the issue. At the Arsenale, the city’s main exhibition space, a boat that sank in the Mediterranean in April 2015 killing around 800 refugees and migrants is on display.

The Italian government refloated the vessel and Swiss-Icelandic artist Christoph Buchel and colleagues arranged for it to be brought on a barge to the Biennale to be shown as a symbol for our times. The bodies have been removed but “Our Boat”, as the exhibit is called, is in fact a tomb as well as an act of artistic provocation.

SOUNDBITE (English) Carlotta Sami, Regional spokesperson, UNHCR South Europe:
“I had met the survivors of this boat. Only 24, all young boys, shaky and with staring eyes. And it was at dawn in Catania, the port of Catania in April 2015.”

Art lovers milled around the damaged vessel, sipping aperitifs at a nearby cafe in the sunshine, some apparently ignorant of the horror of what happened there.

SOUNDBITE (English) Carlotta Sami, Regional spokesperson, UNHCR South Europe:
“And then I saw that monstrous boat when it was recovered with its 800 dead bodies. That was a tragic moment that will always stay in my mind.”

While the great majority of the nearly 70 million forcibly displaced worldwide people are hosted in developing countries, some two million people have sought asylum in Europe since 2014, meeting with responses ranging from welcome to tightened borders.

Rothko in Lampedusa will run at the Palazzo Querini until 24 November.
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