Photo by Lucy Wimmer
By Joshua Alvarez
On March 9, Dr. Christoph Singer of the German University of Paderborn gave a presentation entitled “German Art and the Summer of Migration.” He addressed the influx of refugees and economic migrants that Germany and Western Europe have faced in recent years and focused on contemporary artistic responses to this phenomenon.
Dr. Singer is a professor of English literature and cultural studies. Much of his work involves the various cultural facets of waiting, which is where his interest in the experience of migrants and refugees who wait in temporary homes or refugee camps, oftentimes for many years, became especially interesting to him.
The presentation covered several art installations in and around Berlin, but concentrated most of its attention on photographic projects and street art that Singer believes address the issue in significant ways.
Singer focused on photographers Tobias Zielony and Stefanie Schulz as well as an anonymous street artist known only by the pseudonym Barbara. Zielony’s project The Citizen captures the lives of migrants who have settled in Germany, while Schulz’s Duldung covers refugees and migrants who live in German refugee camps. Barbara’s art provides semi-ironic social commentary by adding messages to already existing objects in the street.
Singer is particularly interested in these projects because they all rely on the viewer to interpret and find meaning from the images, as opposed to the many conflicting media narratives surrounding refugees that tell people how to think and feel.
Speaking of Zielony’s exhibition, which was originally exhibited as series of photographs in a wordless newspaper, Singer said he admired how it “brings counternarratives [regarding refugees and migrants] in contact with each other.” Singer related this to ongoing conversations regarding social media, fake news, and what appears to be the increasing polarization of society.
The presentation concluded with Singer taking questions about his work and its relation to modern issues.