This week I looked at the project Call Me By Name, an exhibit run by the organization The Migration Museum Project that focuses on issues of migration and British nationalism. The exhibit’s goal was to share the lives of the thousands of refugees living in the Calais camp with the world. Through a multi-media, multi-perspective, multi-cultural platform, Call Me By My Name shook it’s viewers with it’s art work that displayed what life really is like as a refugee. From painting,to sculpture, to photography, and written works and auditory pieces performed by the refugees themselves, Call Me By My Name acts as a visceral representation of the migrant experience.
The project humanizes the refugee situation and creates more than sympathy in it’s viewers. Each piece encourages deep community engagement and reflection and binds the viewer and subject in a way that sensitizes us and nurtures basic human connection. Each piece urges us to show humility, engage with the material, and think critically about the big issues surrounding immigration. The subject’s voices speak through the art work. One young child living in the Calais camp draws his father and brother drowning during their crossing to the camp. His drawing is part of Safi’s larger piece that displays work done by Calais’ children.
Another aspect of the exhibit is the many workshops and discussions held in the art space. One such workshop took children from refugee backgrounds and American children and had them come together to talk about these issues. This sort of deeper engagement prevents someone from thinking they have done their part by simply viewing the artwork on display. I think this unique overlap between subject, viewer, artist, and community allows for the farthest reaching social impact without undermining the integrity or rights of those being “looked at.”
This honest representation of the refugee crisis with a continuing education component really sets this exhibit apart. Below are some of the most impactful art pieces on display:
Nikolaj Larsen creates the sculpture, Wanderers to display the reach of this crisis.
Sarah Savage created an impactful piece titled The Dignity of Life. This part of the exhibit shows lifejackets that mark the journey these refugees take to get to the Calais camp.
These pieces just offer a taste of the rich exhibit. With a hugely positive reception, Call Me By My Name goes beyond a rigid discussion of immigration, and rather poses larger questions of human rights, ethics, and humanity.