Refugees: Fugitive Images, Memory in Motion

refugees – Terry Diamond amateur recording posted on September 16, 2012

Due to both historical events and recent political developments, in Poland today refugees are mostly present as images, subjects of news from other parts of the world. Although migration has recently become a hot political topic – almost like in countries with long tradition of multiculturalism – it has entered public debate without significantly modifying Polish society as such. Increasing isolation from all kinds of others, mainly those who arrive from places torn by military conflicts, ruled by dictators or destroyed by natural disasters, results in using images as tools for sustaining and intensifying fears. The phantasm of the other relates to his or her visibility, an image characterized by systematic reduction and stereotyping, if not deliberate manipulation.

In the fourteenth issue of the View, we decided to take a completely different stance to refugees themselves, as well as to their visual representations. We want to let them appear in the most differentiated, free and reflective way possible. To achieve this goal, we invited authors who look at images carefully and tenderly without any resort to fearful enclosure or worn out clichés. We try to show not only that the phenomenon of migration could be perceived outside of the frame defined by television journalists or populist politicians, but also, that this perception could produce intriguing and multifarious effects. In this issue, readers will find an analysis of different ways of representing the immigrant in Francophone comic books (Martyna Steckiewicz), but will also have an opportunity to look closely at a single press photograph and the way it reflects the public debate on immigration in Danish society (Włodzimierz Karol Pessel). Exceptional space is given to artists, as it is them who most often counter stereotypical perception of refugees. Aleksander Kmak analyses the film Havarie by Philip Scheffner; Paweł Mościcki writes about the work of Laura Waddington and the photographic series by Estefanía Peñafiel Loaiza; Iwona Kurz interprets artistic projects by Margot Sputo and examines recent films that address the problem of immigrantion. We also give voice to artists themselves by presenting interviews with Anna Konik and Arno Gisinger, artists who often touch upon questions related to migration.

An important thread connecting many of the essays is the historical dimension of contemporary representations of refugees – understood as both a reference to the past and a construction of the frame for future memory. This issue is thus closely connected to – and should be viewed together with – a recent project of one of our editors, Paweł Mościcki, who, together with several European institutions created the Refugee Atlas, inspired by the tradition of Aby Warburg’s understanding of and work with images. Dealing with questions of possible legacies of migrant fates, its images and forms of transmission, the Refugee Atlas is a crucial point of reference.

Editorial Team