By Deb A.
Four Libyan tigers are prowling in a box outside Berlin's Gorki Theatre. In two days, the first volunteer will enter the cage to be eaten alive.
The action comes from the Center for Political Beauty (CPB, or Zentrum fuer Politische Schoenheit), a controversial Berlin-based collective of activist performance artists, in reaction to a law they claim is responsible for driving human trafficking and forcing refugees to cross the Mediterranean in dangerous and often deadly conditions by prohibiting airlines from accepting passengers who do not have a visa.
The CPB has created an elaborate, ambitious, and by its own admissions vulgar project called 'Eating Refugees: Distress and Circuses' that encourages the general public to vote for and fund up to 100 individuals and families to travel safely on June 28th on a chartered flight from a Turkish refugee camp to their families who have already reached Berlin. If the German government does not revoke EU Directive 2001/51/EC and the flight is turned away, the first volunteer, Syrian actress and refugee May Skaf will offer herself to the tigers.
"I expect a clear sign within the next few days that the political world is ready to consider this inhumane law," she stated at a press conference. "Otherwise I, slave of a murderous power, will perish in the arena. With nothing to protect me, I will let myself be eaten by Europe." The government did not revoke the directive by the CPB's deadline, June 22nd.
For those who are horrified at the crass shock tactics and doubt that it will be seen through, CPB artist Philipp Ruch offers no hope: "Anyone who knows our work knows that when we promise to do something, we deliver."* The collective has already stolen monuments to those who fled East Germany and re-erected them along the EU border to protest the EU's refugee policies; most recently it exhumed the corpse of a Syrian woman who died at sea in her attempt to reach safety in the EU, then reburied it in Germany ('The Dead are Coming'). The artist group claims to engage "in the most innovative forms of political performance art, an expanded approach to theatre: art must hurt, provoke and rise in revolt."
* While the Center for Political Beauty may not intend to turn back on their promise, German authorities are obliged by the German constitution to act on a known suicide attempt.
By Deb A.
After yet another week in which one could be forgiven for wanting to cover one's ears and curl up in a corner with a favourite book, two artists gave us a merciful reprieve on Saturday.
Christo opened The Floating Piers in Italy, allowing Monte Isola's 2000 residents and an estimated half-million visitors to walk across Lake Iseo and onto the mainland. While walking on water does have some obvious connotations, Christo reminds us that any interpretation of his piece, which was decades in the making, is valid. (He likens ambling down the three-kilometre stretch of saffron fabric to "walking on the back of a whale.") The combination of the sheer physicality of navigating a 16-metre-wide floating runway covered in ruched fabric and the bright yellow-orange-red shine that varies according to the humidity and light is, at the very least, a much-needed, wondrous distraction from sadness and fear... as long it doesn't rain too hard.
CJ Hendry's latest piece offers no chance for escapism, but it does offer hope. A 3000 square foot version of her very first colour sketch was flown over New York City, Chicago and Orlando with the hashtag #endgunviolence. The image is a bloodstained T-shirt twisted into the form of a gun. Hendry lives in the U.S. but is from Australia, a country that drastically curbed gun violence after enacting strict regulations. “It is my hope that this could be a reality for the country I now call home,” she told The Guardian.
Walk on water and look to the skies for a moment, but when you get back to solid ground and return your gaze to the horizon, there's work to be done.
By Deb A.
The latest report on the state of the Great Barrier Reef has emerged (despite having been deleted), and the prognosis is alarming. Images of bleached coral practically devoid of life have become a stark, painful reminder of the impact of climate change on the world's largest living structure.
In contrast to the near-monochrome imagery of dying underwater ecosystems are the vibrant sculptures created by Washed Ashore artists and volunteers. Focused on bringing the maritime impact of our love affair with plastics into full view, each artwork is built from the a fraction of the billions of pounds of plastic pollution that float in our seas.
The non-profit organisation was founded by Angela Haseltine Pozzi, an artist who was profoundly affected by the amount of plastic she found on the beaches of Oregon. So far the plastic debris collected from over 300 miles of beaches has been used to create 65 sculptures of ocean life that are exhibited around the U.S.A., mostly in zoos and aquariums. Currently, the Smithsonian's National Zoo boasts a turtle in a coral reef and a nine-foot penguin named Gertrude is presiding over the Georgia Aquarium.
Washed Ashore hopes that its art will save the sea by encouraging its audience to think twice before purchasing plastics, and to reuse and recycle the products they do own. Viewers may be surprised to identify disposable lighters and children's toys in the fins of a giant fish; while these have been removed from the water, millions of similar pieces are finding their way into a real fish's digestive tract instead.
By Deb A.
Art can move the world. Britain Stronger in Europe is hoping that its efforts to bring internationally celebrated artists to the official Remain campaign will inspire UK citizens at home and abroad to vote against a move out of the European Union. The referendum takes place on June 23rd; voters must be registered by June 7th.
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