On Exodus & Becoming The Artists of Lampedusa; a part of the project, Life & Times: Lampedusa, 2014
Documentation of an in situ project co-created with members of the group, Lampedusa in Hamburg
Curated by Fabian Jentsch for Viva con Agua de Sankt Pauli e.V.
St. Pauli Stadium, Hamburg
This project was a part of an annual benefit for the clean water initiative, Viva con Agua de Sankt Pauli e.V. and housed within the left-of-center, St. Pauli stadium in Hamburg. In Germany and the European Union at large, the story of post-conflict migration looms heavily; within Hamburg in 2013 - 2014 it was ablaze. According to the UNHCR, as of mid-2013 there were some 99,000 asylum seekers in Germany alone; what made Hamburg special was the loyalty of their supporters from within the community and specifically the area of St. Pauli. On account of the political strife in Hamburg and the historically radical nature of the stadium, Fabian encouraged me to focus on the story of West and North African asylum seekers coming through Lampedusa. To that end, collaborating with 17 members of the group, Lampedusa in Hamburg, we co-created several site specific bodies of work.
While each individual’s story is unique, I found that William Wheeler’s review, “After Liberation, Nowhere to Run,” (New York Times, 2011) aptly summarized the group's experience. Most members of the group had left Ghana for Libya years ago due to tribal conflicts or to seek employment. Following the Arab Spring, they found themselves by trial or by force on a boat en route to Lampedusa. Were they fortunate enough to have survived the journey, they arrived in Italy to scourge, physical violence, and one-way train tickets dispersing them throughout Europe. In Hamburg they found one another and began to carve a path to solidarity.
Prior to my arrival, the gentlemen in the group photographed the city and each other, using disposable cameras and looking for places which signified familiarity and home. From their photos we created stickers which we collaged and mounted onto the concrete pillar beside our booth; before adhering the stickers, we spray-painted patches of color onto the area. Added to this, we created an open-ended (take-away) love letter to the city, following a simple newspaper style format and utilizing the men’s photos and text.
The project evolved quickly and we began talking and producing intensively as a group. Soon we began to not only make work together (making multifarious, small-format paintings from left-over spray paint supplies and cardboard collected from the trash), but we gradually increased our scale of production and the men decided to show and sell what we made collaboratively during the open hours of the festival. The project was not only site-specific but alive, morphing and growing based on the needs and desires iterated by the group. The Artists of Lampedusa burgeoned and on our final day, the men were given a wall within the stadium to create a permanent installation.
The group continued working together after I left and participated in Hamburg’s Wohlwillstraßenfest, July 5, 2014. Special thanks to confidants of The Artists of Lampedusa, Korede Amojo and Katrin Völker.