REFUGE features two poignant and timely works – Candice Breitz’s Love Story, 2016 and Angelica Mesiti’s Mother Tongue, 2017, both utilising the cinematic medium to present the complex experiences of their immigrant and refugee subjects through music, performance and the spoken word.
Australian-born, Paris-based Angelica Mesiti’s work offers unusual insight into the immigrant experience through an elegiac journey into the song and music of diverse communities displaced from their homelands and living in the Danish city of Aarhus. Exquisitely captured with the artist’s characteristically dream-like nuance, Mother Tongue has universal resonance, presenting a series of diasporic encounters between those who seek to belong yet also to retain and preserve a sense of cultural identity and tradition. Mother Tongue was commissioned by the Aarhus European Capital for Culture 2017 in association with the Adelaide Biennial 2018. Angelica Mesiti will represent Australia at this year’s Venice Biennale.
South African Candice Breitz challenges audiences not to ignore the stories of refugees, deploying a provocative juxtaposition of storytellers – influential Hollywood stars Alec Baldwin and Julianne Moore, with six real-life refugees. Acclaimed at the 2017 Venice Biennale, Love Story is based upon narratives of six individuals who fled their countries: Sarah Ezzat Mardini, who escaped war-torn Syria, José Maria João, a former child soldier from Angola; Mamy Maloba Langa, a survivor from the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Shabeena Saveri, an Indian transgender activist; Luis Nava, a political dissident from Venezuela; and Farah Abdi Mohamed, a young atheist from Somalia. This multi-channel work prompts viewers to consider: why is it that the same audiences driven to tears by fictional blockbusters, remain unaffected in the face of actual human suffering.
The forced migration of people from developing countries as a result of violence, conflict and climate-related extreme events, is often presented in an unpalatable way through polarising political rhetoric and scare-mongering. REFUGE depicts the human reality of these issues through the persuasive medium of cinema, bringing to life the plight of people forced to flee their homes and make new lives in often strange and inhospitable lands.