REFUGEES

As Far As Isolation Goes // Tania El Khoury and Basel Zaraa

As described in the Care & Destruction programme, “As Far As Isolation Goes uses touch, sound, and interactivity to bring audience members in contact with those faced with inhumane detention centres and a mental health system that disregard their political and emotional contexts.”

I faced a wall with headphones hung at the side and a seat facing sideways. Right next to it was a hole big enough for an adult arm to go through. I put on the headphones and started hearing haunting music. Suddenly a voice starts speaking and I’m told I need to put my arm through the hole - which is gently guided in. I listen to the voice telling me about systems and policies, about separation, isolation and loss. I feel strange, a little disoriented, and start to get lost in my own thoughts and feelings on the matter.

All the while, I feel the touch of someone who I cannot see drawing on my arm. It is a strange feeling for me and I start to concentrate on what’s going on around my arm. I find myself thinking “I wonder what is happening?”. It feels uncomfortable that my arm is being drawn on by an artist, who I am assume has lived the experiences and whose voice I am hearing through the recording in the headphones. My feeling is not unlike other feelings I have experienced when hearing the stories of migration, of loss, of struggle, of the need to be respected as a human being. This feels like it needs to be heard.

At this point I get lost in my thoughts about this particular issue and the audio is a bit of a blur. I quickly regain focus because I want to listen to and hear what’s being said. At the heart of it all is a story, a story where hope has been eradicated in places like Palestine, a story where people are literally fleeing for their lives, a story where upon reaching the so called promised land they’re treated as unwelcome guests, aliens, as not worthy of having access to opportunities. At the end, my arm is freed, and I feel relief, and passed to me is a piece of chalk to write what I like on the wall that divides us. For a fleeting moment, I feel I am the refugee and write a comment about how capitalism needs reform, as this struggle is related to the capitalistic ideals much of the world holds dear.

- Amar Hussein

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Tania El Khoury / Basel Zaraa

Music in Detention

‘The Jungle’: Putting the Refugee Crisis Centre Stage - NY Review of Books

The Jungle - National Theatre

EU Claims Migrant Crisis is Over - Quartz

My Head Hurts

My Head Hurts explored grief beyond that which stems from the loss of a person. In this talk chaired by Michael Bassett, the speakers shared their experiences of grief:

Artist, Jim Lockey spoke of ‘feeling orphaned’in the seeming conflict of being both an artist and a Christian, through the suspicion of a liberal art world towards churchgoers. He accepted the feelings of loneliness and loss that ensue. The latter is reflected in his work Boat, also exhibited at Normal? There he comments on the ‘entropy of all things’ by constructing and setting sail in a cardboard boat which inevitably disintegrates. 

Occupational Therapist Rayya Ghul relayed the grief experienced by her refugee parents through geographical changes and cultural shock.  Her German mother’s way of coping was to enact an elaborate, traditional German Christmas every year, even changing the curtains. Ghul also expressed her grief in ageing and accepting ‘the loss of a past that cannot be had and the loss of hopes for a future that is no longer possible’.

Clinical Psychologist Reinhard Guss raised the notion of political grief in terms of the current US presidency and Brexit. His own grief, as a German who calls the UK home, stems from being in a place where he is no longer welcome.  He remarked that although there seemed to be a pressure to ‘work’ on grieving or to refer to stages or psychological models, in reality the ways of grieving are less structured.

The panel all pointed to acceptance as key in coping with grief.  Rituals, in their widest sense, such as Lockey’s creating Boat or through the performative aspect of Ghul’s mother’s German Christmas may act to assuage grief.  My sense is that although every grief has a shape of its own and cannot be easily boxed or wittingly healed, and certainly not to a convenient timeline, through acceptance and practices like these there lies a possibility for its eventual transmutation.  

- Lubna Gem Arielle

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Boat - Jim Lockey

Ephemeral Art, What a Beautiful Thing - That Creative Feeling

Why the Five Stages of Grief Are Wrong - Psychology Today

Pema Chodron / When Things Fall Apart - BrainPickings

Physical Effects of Grief - BBC News

Talking to Grief - Denise Levertov

Grief is the Thing with Feathers - Max Porter