DUNKERQUE

a multi-collaboratory installation

Dunkerque is an immersive installation chamber produced by the Liva Collective, in direct collaboration with past inhabitants. Through sound, physical building, and video installations visitors are taken into a now destroyed refugee camp near the ferry terminal of Calais in France.

Our goal is to have a bigger reach than just displaying art – we are actively searching for a group or organisation working in the area who would be open to collaborating and allowing us to support them through a donation campaign and potential art project. For more information, please email georjie@livacollective.com

CAMP CONTEXT

Following the closure of ‘The Jungle’ in Calais, over 300 untreated plywood shelters were constructed in Dunkerque, France, to replace the almost inhabitable muddy camp which survived before it. Whilst initially providing a clean and dry option, the decision to build the shelters with untreated plywood, no simple protection from ground water, no insulation or ventilation, meant conditions began to worsen.

Extensive mould, which had developed layers of dangerous spores, infiltrated the majority of the shelters in the camp. The mould was in direct contact with blankets, clothes, food and the inhabitants themselves as they slept. It was growing rapidly on the walls and also on the floor, which was consistently damp due to the ground water below. Not only were the refugees getting wet at night (and their blankets developing fungus), but they had no choice but to breathe in the mould which, given the small size of the shelter, reached a hazardous level of exposure. Bronchitis, chest infections, illness and asthma were all negative effects taken on through the dangerous space, including young children and even new born babies. Not only did the health effects have some serious and potentially long term effects, but the emotional and mental burden on citizens of the camp, having to eat, sleep and protect their entire belongings from being encased in mould and damp, were just as negative.

Garnering support for the self-organised groups working within the camp felt like wading through mud, due to the heavy shadow and bureaucratic system held in place by government authorities placed in control of the camp. At one point, distribution of basic materials and needs were restricted and even banned, leaving some individuals sneaking in blankets. As a result, there was no central management or coordination of a unified relief system in the camp and the environment became frustrating for refugees and volunteers alike. Close to no social activities were promoted under the authoritative system, and with the ever-looming undertone of inevitable camp closure, it overruled all attempts to make the environment an emotionally or physically comfortable space to live. Its only supported process was to keep the citizens fed and, as cynical as it sounds, enclosed.

In April, 2017, the camp burnt down. We might forget the shelters, but will we forget the people and their endurance?

OUR CONTEXT
In November 2016, in efforts to help improve living conditions in the vastly worsening structural environment of Grande-Synthe refugee camp in Dunkirk, we ran a project along with Care4Calais to treat shelters of mould and damp. During our time there, we strongly discovered the importance of a dignified and respected sanctuary and how the lack of it was incredibly damaging to a persons spirit and energy. We also felt strongly, as was the general consensus with any individual who witnessed the conditions, that having a simple space to live, eat and sleep without extensive damp, trapped air and layers of dangerous fungus, is a human right. With our documentary mindsets (in-between the motions of the project) we gathered consenting imagery, audio and video of the camps ambience. Now, an artistic collaboration between volunteers and refugees has evolved into an physical, visual and audio installation, for others to experience the mental frame of mind such a space of living would extract.  
This installation acts to be un-judgemental but critically observational; inconclusive but rhetorical: Was it enough, and if not, are we justified to forget? Would I put my child in one of these shelters, and if not, why should any child (or human being) endure this under one of the richest governments in the world. If we forget the shelters, do we forget the importance of sanctuary? The installation doesn’t attempt to blame or point fingers, but to bring attention to how dignity and respect come not just from words but in physical space, too.
PREVIEW OF ART WORKS
 from mixed voices of volunteers and refugees
‘To forget is to offend, and memory, when it is shared, abolishes this offence. If we want to share the beauty of the world, if we want to be solidarity with its suffering, we need to learn how to remember together’ -Édouard Glissant