If I could draw cartoons I know exactly what I’d draw right now: a tall and steep cliff that looks unsurprisingly not unlike the White Cliffs of Dover . And at its foot, almost lost in the vast shadow cast by the very cliff: I’d draw a small little building saying ‘Gallery’. Still, you’d be able to see the beauty of the gallery: a modern yet quirky design, welcoming and vibrant, colourful and bright, inviting and cosy with lots of paces to hang out, get comfy, share and listen.
The gallery showcases Birds Crossing Borders. In the vast shadow of today’s EU-Referendum. For the past three weeks a small selection of our Birdcards have been exhibited alongside other art work in response to the situation in Calais at an arts exhibition curated by the Migration Museum Project.
While outside the gallery space, ‘migration’ was finally outed as the major matter at the heart of the referendum debate. Over the past three weeks the rhetoric around ‘migration’ got even more desperate than it had been last summer when the first groups of people from Calais came knocking at our doorstep – prompting us at deep:black to develop Birds Crossing Borders.
But, then, maybe I wouldn’t draw the referendum as a huge white cliff but as a giant-turned-windmill that cunningly knows how to evade an honest battle – at least one fought with the unconventional arms of dialogue and compassion. In the run up to today’s referendum, the public discourse about ‘migration’ felt increasingly divisive with people on the one side throwing themselves behind the argument of compassion and solidarity – ‘Call me by my name: Stories from Calais and beyond‘ received huge accolades and interest from the public – and on the other side throwing arguments steeped in frustration and anger at those people across the divide. At deep:black we respect anger: we know it as a feeling that indicates something much more complex at a much deeper level – often shame, always fear. And we, hope no matter how the people decide today that we can take this on board as a hugely important issue to look into: that there are deep levels of fears, anxieties and possibly shame in midst of our communities that get in the way of consensus about who we are as a society and as a nation. That we need to address with the same compassion that we would like to generate in our projects where we share perspectives of migration and experiences of refugees.
The exhibition has closed last night, on the eve of the referendum; I went in this morning to take down our Birdcards and was greeted by huge puddles stretching across the first two rooms from last night’s torrential rain. Incidentally, because I had been cycling around in the rain I ended up entering the gallery rather appropriately in ‘the Jungle look’: waterproof trousers over waterproof wellies…
By now – 6 hours later – the gallery will be pretty empty again returned into a concrete-walled car-park-like space with no shadow left from 3 weeks of conversations about migration: it’s down to us to take the conversations outside and continue the dialogue. We will do so in September: from 01-09 September we will showcase the Birds Crossing Borders collection at Rich Mix. Watch this space for details and get in touch if you would like to find out more!
Petra Hilgers, Co-Director deep:black