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Pale vessels in dark tranquility stand facing the sea
Alien vessels approach,
Pushed to shore by silent filth,
Ripples of silver steal monsters
Streaming the horizon line in oblivion
In the summer of 2015 what was witnessed in Greece, apart from an increasingly unstable socio-political and economic situation nationwide, was an influx of people mainly on the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros, Kos and Mytilene. Arriving often on overcrowded, flimsy, rubber rafts from the Turkish coast, the majority of these people were Syrians fleeing their war torn home, among them migrants from countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and Eritrea. In hopes of using the islands as stepping stones to the Greek mainland, which would thereafter make it probable to travel further into Europe, sadly many lost their lives at sea. The situation, persisting throughout the winter and continuing today, with both tragedies at sea and more recent tensions at closed boarders that have kept multitudes of people waiting in ill-equipped camps, is without doubt and above all a pressing humanitarian crisis.
I don’t know what it is like to be in a reality of forced displacement.
I don’t wish to be the voice that condenses countless stories of individual struggle in one of my own. History is better left to those who are impacted by its trajectory.
I can though, be conscious and empathetic.
I can, through the tools that I have, try to make work that responds to the present, for the present.
The raft, not strictly as symbol, but as form, can act as landscape, as body, as a vacant vessel that brings attention to what is absent. It allows for a respectful distance. The mark, the rhythm, the pressure and the surface, which too becomes as important as the weight that is imposed on it, are where the immediacy is. That the work is to a certain extent legible in form and material expression is important to the sense of hardship that is trying to be communicated. This sense of hardship is not meant to be generalized, but used as means of focusing on the crisis as a humanitarian one. I hope that in times of political, economic and social division in Europe, as well as circulating feelings of xenophobia and Islamophobia, the perception of the crisis as a humanitarian one prevails.
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Pilitsis, Theodora Eleni, "In response to the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis and migration through the Mediterranean" (2016). Senior Projects Spring 2016. 418.