The Syrian refugee crisis has gripped the world since it first came to the public eye in 2011. The struggle of being uprooted from your home and your family is an action that many have not nor will endure. Sadly this is a reality to roughly 10.9 million Syrian refugees. With millions of refugees seeking asylum in neighboring Middle Eastern and European countries, many stories are being lost in the media and voices left unheard. This exhibit helps shine a light on those stories.
Laundromat is an exhibition paying homage to roughly 15,000 refugees that briefly found shelter in Idomeni, Greece in Spring 2016. The exhibition showcases clothing left behind from the refugees, when the camp was closed. The clothing are hanging around and carefully organized, one will find shoes, jackets, pants, and photographs. The clothes found within the Idomeni refugee camp were washed, dried, and ironed thus earning the name of this exhibit Laundromat. The gallery also features videos of the experience that the refugees endured crossing into countries and the sheer resistance they faced from local police. The video takes you beneath the surface and takes you deep into their everyday lives. Throughout the gallery the floors and walls are populated with Whatsapp messages and photos that kept track of specific individuals. The use of social media is engaging and allows the public to contribute anyway that we can.
Ai Weiwei who is known for his contemporary art and activism, created this experience. He has become a human rights advocate and has suffered his own persecution from the Chinese government. In April 2011, Ai was arrested and detained for alleged economic crimes. His studio facilities were searched and many of his team’s equipment were confiscated. The international art community demonstrated and called for his release. He was released several months after his arrest but remained under heavy surveillance for four years until he received his passport back in the summer of 2015. Finally able to leave China, Ai traveled to refugee camps to witness the horrific treatment that they were receiving.
With social media and the efforts of artist such as Ai Weiwei the public is able to witness more of the stress and heartache that refugees are facing. It is also our duty to help in anyway that we can. We can do more to raise awareness and extend a helping hand. This exhibition shows that can more can be accomplish and we have a long way to go. Be sure to visit Deitch Projects to see this exhibition.
All images: © Isaiah Carter