a collaborative installation

This is a story of a place, and a time, that without gentle recognition will be lost with the ashes of its passing. It remembers the landscape of La Linière refugee camp (Dunkerque, France) and contemplates how its physical spaces link not just to our understanding of emotional well-being within a ‘displaced’ environment, but to a wider social-human meaning.

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

In March 2016, following the developing refugee crisis in Northern France and Europe, over 350 untreated plywood huts were constructed in Grand Synth, Dunkerque. They replaced the almost inhabitable muddy camp before it called ‘Basroch’.

The Dunkerque Mayor lead the push for the build – the funds were raised by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the local town hall. Around 85% of the camps residents were Kurdish, the largest group of people on earth who don’t have an independent homeland; for centuries they have been on a quest for nationhood, rejected by a series of repression, internal political disputes and Western intervention.The other 15% consisted of various minorities from Iran, Syria, Kuwait and Vietnam. The camp population became very overcrowded, with up to 2000 refugees sleeping in the shelters, kitchens and open camp structures.

The charitable management of the camp (Utopia56) came to an end in May 2016 due to disagreements regarding the enforcements made by the French State on placing strict control on refugee admission and volunteer access. It was then run by a joint agreement between the State, City Council and the organisation Afeji.

Due to the bureaucracy of the system, gaining support for the self-organised groups working in the camp became very challenging. At one point, distribution of maintenance and basic materials were restricted and even banned, leaving some individuals sneaking in blankets through the worst of winter. As a result, there was no central management for a joint aid system and eventually close to no social initiatives were supported by the camp officials. Additionally, a constant undertone of closure overruled many attempts to make the environment a dignified, comfortable space to live in; its only eventual purpose for the State was to keep the citizens fed and, as cynical as it sounds, concealed.

The atmosphere in the camp finally reached boiling point and it tragically burnt down in April 2017 due to clashes that broke out between camp residents. It left over 1500 refugees stranded; some were moved into temporary emergency spaces, which have now shut down. Many of the refugees, including families, remained in the area of Northern France, sleeping in even more precarious micro-encampments such as the forest.

In November 2016, in efforts to help improve living conditions in the vastly worsening structural environment of Grande-Synthe refugee camp in Dunkerque, we ran a funded by ‘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, doesn’t meet basic standards of living. 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.
 from mixed voices of volunteers and refugees
LONG WAY BUT SHORT DAYS | Short film (03:09min) | by Wshear Wali
Recorded on the passage through Europe to reach safety in the United Kingdom.



Created By Scott Torrance
Kometa Festival Riga, Latvia  |  27. – 29. July 2018

Wshear WaliVideography/photography, written word and direction (https://vimeo.com/wsheareal)

Karo Amin – Written word and subject of imagery

Scott Torrance Illustrations (https://artplusmarketing.com/@scottorrance)

Georjie AdamsOverall curation and design, construction, written word and photography – (www.georjie.com)

Connor Shafran – Soundtrack and audio designer – (www.connorshafran.com) 

Ramin AryaiePhotography, audio recordings and design (https://voiiage.org)

Ján Lietava35mm Photography (http://www.janlietava.com)

Razan Alzayani – Photography and audio (http://razanalzayani.com)

Amelia Gentleman – Photography (reporter for The Guardian) (guardian.co.uk/profile/ameliagentleman)

With heartfelt thanks to the anonymous contributors who, for protection, are unnamed – Audio recordings, thoughts and direction.

‘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