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Accepted Paper:

The dead are coming: public mourning and strategies of community empowerment in the context of the struggle for refugee rights.  


Ewelina Chwiejda (École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS))

Paper short abstract:

This paper focuses on an art project related to the so-called European migration crisis that mixed public performance with a real political activism in order to let European citizens express their grief for refugee deaths, mourn them collectively and articulate the claim for migration policy change.

Paper long abstract:

In recent years one could observe a diversification of aesthetic strategies that socially engaged artists use in the struggle for human rights. In my paper I would like to focus on a very particular art project called "The Dead Are Coming" that was realized in Berlin in June 2015 by German art collective Center for Political Beauty. This multi-part action consisted of bringing to Germany the bodies of two dead migrants in order to bury them with dignity "at the heart of Europe" and organizing a protest march which ended by the transformation of the terrain in front of the chancellery into an improvised symbolic graveyard for victims of European migration policy. With such a controversial initiative operating at the intersection between art and a massive happening, the artists managed to engage and empower thousands of Berlin inhabitants ready to defend refugee rights. The aim of my analysis is to examine the mechanism of CPB's strategy of community creation and empowerment by art. This will be done by invoking the works on the power of collective mourning and considering the socio-political potential of Aktionskunst (a term used by CPB). I will also discuss the manner in which the artists activated and orchestrated affects and space (physical and metaphorical) in order to reach their goal. Finally, I will ask the question of the real capacity of art to not only temporarily empower the public or community but also to authentically accompany it on the way to the change of status quo.

Panel Body03b
Disruptive bodies: transgressive encounters in law, art and performance II