CITIZEN | Butler Gallery Kilkenny, Ireland, 2016 Photos Roland Paschhoff
Citizen was a multi-media exhibition that addressed one of the most pressing issues of our time—the refugee crisis—and our response to it. Orchestrating site-specific installations, video projections, and drawings, the work draws attention and compassion to the plight of displaced people. Focusing on specific current events, their archetypal and psychological resonances, the work traces urgent connections between the experience of Syrians driven from their homes by armed conflict and my own life and family.
Two immersive site-specific installations, Citizen and Witness, feature scores of tiny, black, meticulously cut-out silhouettes of refugees. In Citizen the people move frieze-like along more than six hundred twigs planted in the walls of a gallery in a grid to form an enveloping minimalist forest. In Witness, we see the silhouettes head-on in a row on one wall that expands endlessly in mirrors placed at either side. While each one of these figures is unique and based on a specific individual in one of the thousands of photographs of displaced people she compiled during her research, as a host of silhouettes they become universal and timeless symbols that suggest the enduring magnitude of the phenomenon of the refugee.
The exhibition, Citizen, counters what I see as an emerging collective alienation by encouraging the viewer to walk in the footsteps of a multitude of anonymous people on the move, without a country and without a home. It incites an imaginative journey between present and past, between here—the geographical, social, and cultural locations of the spectator—and there—the site of the represented trauma.