Giovanna Del Sarto and Bern O’Donoghue Present Another Crossing
7.30pm Wednesday 28th February at Hastings Debates (Hastings Community of Sanctuary),
The Printworks, Claremont, Hastings
BY FELICITY LAURENCE
Another Crossing is a collaborative artistic venture by documentary photographer Giovanna Del Sarto and visual artist Bern O’Donoghue, in which they explore our response to the displacement and suffering of those from afar seeking sanctuary with us, using a combination of photography, installation, and discussion.
Since 2015, Giovanna Del Sarto’s project, A Polaroid for a Refugee, has sought to show another way of looking at the refugees crossing into Europe, recording their dignity and courage. Rejecting the ‘normal’ narrative of the photographer – ‘to steal a moment in history that then becomes news’ – she uses the simplest technology, the Polaroid –’the instant photograph you can touch’. The physicality of taking these Polaroid pictures, that she must take a step forward or backwards to get it ‘right’ and be close to the people in them, is uniquely humanising; a copy of each photo then becomes a gift – a symbol of ‘unconditional hospitality with that other person’. The moment of human relationship shown in each picture is preserved in the inscription on it: Wherever your destination may be – tell me when you feel you have reached a safe space.
Bern O’Donoghue’s work, seen recently at the Tate, was described there as combining ‘scholarship and art to inspire empathy with those crossing the Mediterranean’. But what Bern documents is those who don’t make it. Her installation Dead Reckoning consists of thousands of small paper boats, each representing someone who drowned on their crossing. In 2016, there were over 5000 -there are more now. Each of the small origami boats ‘symbolises a loss – of a daughter, son, neighbour, friend…’. Bern chooses familiar places (her kitchen) and materials (paper, water) that, she says, “reflect some of the most basic similarities we share with refugees”.
Her work, often involving making the boats together with her audience, helps us get beyond the alienating discourse of statistics: “As we work, I ask them about their experience of and thoughts on migration. …without doubt, we’d all make the same decisions as refugees or migrants.”
Another Crossing invites the audience on a journey which challenges stereotypes while simultaneously encouraging constructive debate. We are very fortunate to have Bern and Giovanna as our next speakers
at the Hastings Debates, where they will take us interactively into their magical and profoundly moving work, exploring fundamental questions about an issue that challenges profoundly who we really are as a society.
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