"our new neighbours"
october 2 - november 14, 2015
nikola pašić square, belgrade, serbia / mariahilferstrasse, vienna, austria
The expectations that refugees have from Europe seem to be sometimes idealized and the route that they pass implies facing a reality quite different than expected. Many of those who arrive are disappointed and they think that the system will never allow them to integrate and become the citizens of their new environment, nor that they will ever fully exercise the right to work and to have a normal life. There are those who have found their place in the new society. However, they should not be an exception.
Our aim was to get the public interested in the exchange with the people we had met. We believe that they should be seen as a wealth of the community, and not as an expense; as neighbors, not as intruders. Meeting them was quite surprising for us: we realized that it was more important to offer information and establish a connection than to organize conventional workshops. Everyone we spoke with in Serbia and Austria planned the next step – to travel further. Those who had already reached the destination wished to make a step towards becoming real neighbors to someone somewhere in Europe.
The exhibition “Our New Neighbours” was, in fact, a closer look at the period in which the present situation began to develop. We presented the material collected while communicating and working with refugees in Belgrade and Subotica and in Vienna (in the integration centers Ute Bock and Macondo) – the preferred destination for a large number of refugees. We focused on the route they were passing and trails they were leaving, as well as on the reactions to their new surroundings.
We exhibited the collected material as an outdoor installation, in the shape of a tunnel, almost like a labyrinth. Through this tunnel visitors could see the artifacts on the walls, but the space itself was barely wide enough to move in one direction. If you entered the tunnel, there was no going back because there were other visitors behind you, and it would have been very difficult to pass them. This way we wanted to show how painful and exhausting moving was for the migrants, as well as the fact that for them returning home was not an option.
This project was made in collaboration with Serbian film director Srđan Keča and the Blockfrei organization from Vienna.