2015 was the year in which Europe was seriously confronted by a large refugee crisis that tested existing agreements and legislation between countries. The various countries practiced the common legislation differently, and most of them wished to shift the responsibility on to another country, in particular the counties to the South, that experienced, and still experience, the largest influx.
Did Europe pass the compassion test? Here opinions differ. But, what is certain is that the political rhetoric in Europe changed; it became harsher, more antagonistic and more populistic. People in flight are described as external treats, weeds, as something that changes our culture and erodes our welfare system, instead of seeing each individual as a participant in society. The art project “Shelter” is a reflection on thoughts and feelings about the refugee crisis that Europe experienced, and still does: thousands of people risk their lives to reach Europe in flimsy inflatables, in stifling ship’s holds and trekking on foot; the danger of living on the streets, families that disintegrate and children that disappear.
“Shelter” is a poetic three-dimensional light drawing of a quiet, seated child that hides its head between its knees. It has found its place specific haven in various locations. Who is this child? Where does it come from? Is it abandoned, missing or captured?
The light drawing was first displayed in a grove at Vilnius International Light Festival Beepositive, Lithuania 2015, and was later selected for StaroRiga Festival of Light in Latvia 2015 (part of UNESCO’s Year of Light 2015), where it was awarded a central position on St. Peter’s Church Square, in the centre of the idyllic old town. The Baltic experienced the refugee crisis less than in other countries, and has always had stricter immigration policies. Italy’s experience is the opposite to that of the Baltic, and in this context “Shelter” will again find its specific haven and be experienced differently. Each place and each personal experience changes the perception of what the installation is saying.
It’s up to the individuals to find their own answers.