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Art & Refugees: Shine the Light

Multi-Media Art Exhibit, Lectures, Master Classes, Outreach

January 5 – February 1, 2019
Indiana University Bloomington and Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis

There are more than 65 million refugees and internally displaced people in the world. The impact of this upsurge of refugees, the most the world has ever known, has only begun to be fully felt. Education, national security, humanitarian aid, social services, policies, economics, children, families, and identities are being impacted in communities all over the world. This is a true global issue that may have roots in places such as Syria, Myanmar, or Somalia but is quickly transcending the boundaries of displacement camps, receiving countries, and war-torn nations. Further, like all major global challenges, there is not one way to tackle this issue; it calls for collaborations and conversations that integrate multiple perspectives, peoples, and nations. It also demands new approaches to promote understanding and action about a complicated transnational problem.

Art & Refugees: Shine the Light is a month-long exhibit with corresponding master class workshops, lectures, and outreach that will investigate the complex intersection of art and refugees by combining scholarship, performance, practice, and art. The project approaches art as a social and political agent and as an illustration of human struggles and accomplishments. Participants will explore the refugee situation through an array of artistic expressions; they will engage with the artists as well as the sociopolitical contexts and global trends from which art about refugees is created and defined. The project’s overall goal is to use art as an entry point to more meaningfully and intimately understand the experience of refugees, connecting the past and present. Organized to coincide with the International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27th, this project will include a variety of events in Indianapolis and Bloomington to appeal to community as well as university audiences.

In partnership with the IUPUI Office of International Affairs, DEEP Arts and the Center for the Study of Global Change is organizing the multi-media arts exhibit at IUPUI’s Campus Center Cultural Arts Gallery. The multi-component exhibit, Shine the Light, tells the refugee story in a format that transcends cultures and time, with the ultimate goal of creating awareness of the current and historic refugee experience. Three components are central to the multi-media experience: Todesmarche Revisited, a glass installation; Take Me To Jermany, a photography installation; and Finding Home, a preview of a full-length documentary film. These pieces connect the experiences of Holocaust survivors with refugees from contemporary events, providing a variety of ways for academic departments and community organizations to engage and further contextualize these artistic works for students.

This project includes several international artists, who will travel to Indiana for talks and master classes. Canadian artist Laura Donefer will present an installation of cast glass and plaster footprints, some of which were taken from Holocaust survivors, which tells the story of the forced marches and displacement. Blackened plaster footprints, representing the burden of terrible suffering, lead toward a circle of illuminated glass footprints. According to the artist, the pain of displacement is in juxtaposition with a sustained glowing life force.

Todesmarche Revisited Glass Installation

Todesmarche Revisited Glass Installation

Surrounding the glass installation will be the work of Charlotte Schmitz. Charlotte is a professional photographer from Germany who will be presenting Take Me To Jermany, a series of provocative Polaroid images of refugees who took the dangerous journey from Turkey to Greece searching for a new home. The refugees wrote simple but poignant messages on the photographs, and some even snapped the Polaroids themselves, thus becoming co-creators of the art and co-authors of the refugee narrative.

Take Me to Jermany Photography Installation at 2017 Art & Refugee Symposium

Take Me to Jermany Photography Installation at 2017 Art & Refugee Symposium

David Marshall, an Emmy-Award Documentary Filmmaker, and Deborah Haber, creator/playwright of Moses Man: Finding Home, will present a 10-15 minute preview of the documentary Finding Home, which captures artists navigating the growing refugee crises and engaging with scholars and other artists whose work relates to the stories and issues of refugees. Also included in the film is the development of the musical Moses Man: Finding Home about the experience of Holocaust survivor and refugee Kalman Haber’s flight from Austria during Hitler’s annexation, and its collision with the stories of contemporary refugees linking them across generations by discrimination, persecution, genocide and displacement. While in Indiana, Marshall will also film interested IU faculty to be included in the full-length documentary, which will raise awareness of IUB faculty research and teaching relating to migration, displacement, human rights, and refugees.

Art & Refugee Symposium

This project is a continuing collaboration with Deborah Haber, Executive Artistic Director of the nonprofit DEEP Arts and Moses Man creator, who partnered with the Center for the Study of Global Change on the widely attended April 2017 Art & Refugees Symposium and photography exhibition. The Symposium expands a relationship with the Borns Jewish Studies Program at IU Bloomington; the Department of Theater, Drama, and Contemporary Dance; the School of Art, Architecture, and Design; and the Media School to engage a variety of faculty and students. Through the partnership with the IUPUI Office of International Affairs, the project will link with artistic, faith-based, and refugee supporting community organizations in both Bloomington and Indianapolis, as well as the Herron School of Art and Design. The project’s goal is to create a widespread conversation around this timely global issue about human rights, international law, migration, and refugees to spark discussions that explores the challenges facing refugees locally, nationally, and globally.

“This project was supported by Indiana University’s College of Arts and Sciences Ostrom Grants, Indiana University's Office of the Bicentennial, the IU Center for the Study of Global Change, the IUPUI Office of International Affairs, DEEP Arts Rochester, the IU Center for the Study of the Middle East, the IU African Studies Program, and the IU Institute for European Studies.”