October 18th, 2002, Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, Berlin
The Refugee: Services rendered to Undesirables
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An installation by
Anselm Franke and
Hannah Hurtzig
in cooperation with
Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz

Coordination: Patricia Hecht
Organisation: Jana Bäskau

The tides are coming in from the oceans of the world and flooding our countries. The horrific images of refugees as a faceless, anonymous mass tend to conjure up metaphors of nature. But even the individual refugee appears as a menacing figure. The label of the barbarian is attached to his displaced existence, deprived of all rights and reduced to sheer life. The refugee disrupts the fundamental agreement of our civil society: the inviolable link between being human and being a citizen.

Photo: Thomas Aurin

A constant state of emergency in a country based on the rule of law manifests itself in the figure of the refugee. A marginalized group becomes the decisive figure of crisis in the modern nation-state and a key political question. The refugee has no place in civic society; he is denied full membership (except as part of an economically calculable mass of seasonal workers). To a large extent, he remains invisible, unperceived by the public and their models of representation - as long as he is not included for image reasons in an advertising campaign of Benetton. At the same time, the refugee stabilizes a topography of security authorities, of control and surveillance bodies and of being subjected to military action: he marks the places of a legalized lack of rights.

The state of emergency, in which every refugee finds himself and that simultaneously controls and neutralizes, includes and excludes him, points to a neurotic gesture with which civil society defends its obsolete politics of exclusion. The event "Services rendered to Undesirables" traces a concealed geography in which the figure of the refugee moves about. Experts who are concerned with refugees in their professional life - lawyers, reporters, social workers, activists and theoreticians - have been invited.

The discussions between the experts focus on themes such as global migration and reasons for fleeing, the creation of media images of the refugee, trauma therapies, border regimes and police operations, questions pertaining to the philosophy of law, the self-organization of refugee initiatives, and the discourses of Hannah Arendt and Giorgio Agamben. The themes will be dealt with in a narrative way by eye-witness reports, analyses of practice and individual case studies, circumventing the dominant media representation and production of images.

Madjiguène Cissé and Percy MacLean
Photo: Thomas Aurin

Photo: Thomas Aurin

The audience, which is free to roam about in the buildings of the urban scenery "NeuStadt (New City)" designed by Bert Neumann, can follow the one-hour dialogues and the films commented on by various authors via headphones. They can switch to different channels transmitting the discussions that are held simultaneously. Against the theatrical backdrop of "NeuStadt (New City)", the event creates a non-hierarchical space for discussion and information and stages a fictionalized urban life in which one's imagination can be trained not only with the help of imaginary characters but also by believing in the reality of people unknown to one.

Photo: Thomas Aurin

Press: de:bug