Inflatable Refugee | A Giant Refugee From The Canals Of Venezia And Into The World

by Johanne Affricot - Published on 21/11/2015

Two days after last week’s Paris attacks, the Belgian artistic duo Dirk Schellekens and Bart Peleman, placed a man on a little boat, a 6 meter tall inflatable refugee and took it for a spin down the Venezia canals.

A work of art to remind us the enormous tragedy that millions of people go through every day, too often inhumanely, hit by the geopolitical developments.

The installation is made with the same material as inflatable boats used by men, women and children for the crossings. A material too fragile to withstand the powerful waves of the sea, making the passengers on these boats extremely vulnerable.

The overwhelming dimension of the work wants to represent the magnitude of the phenomenon and how people perceive him, “a problem yet opportunity for the West welcoming yet pushing him away”, as stated by the artists.

The name of the work is not casual, considering that an “Inflatable Refugee” is an inflatable structure used for the very first triage and medical screenings for refugees and migrants once ashore.

The installation is set to sail through other horizons, to Italian and European cities – Rome, Florence, Warsaw, Barcelona, Prague, Wien, Madrid, Amsterdam, Kiev, Copenhagen -Asian – Tokyo, Hong Kong – “eurasians” — Saint Petersburg, Moscow — American – Washington, New York – then Sidney, Dubai, Il Cairo and Rio de Janeiro.

In early September, Humans of New York, a Facebook/Instagram page sharing the stories of people picked at random among the streets of New York, changed its editorial line for a few days, sharing testimonies of crossings of those who made it into Europe. Indeed, it has been an important online spotlight that made millions empathize with these people.

Will this work have the same effect?

Photos | Anouk Focquier

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Johanne Affricot
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Visual and performing arts, culture and music, traveling: I could just live on this. Graduated in International Cooperation and Development, I am an indipendent Culture Curator and Producer, and Artistic Director of GRIOTmag and Spazio GRIOT.