· The British Council brings displaced Syrian artists and their art to the centre of European politics to demonstrate to EU policy makers that art and culture can play a vital role in responding to the mounting refugee crisis.
· Unique and emotive exhibition of 30 works by 78 Syrian artists displaced by the conflict in Syria and are now living in ten countries.
· As the EU debates how to respond to the mounting challenges of internally displaced people in the Middle East and North Africa, the exhibition shows that art and culture can unite communities affected by conflict and build resilience among displaced communities.
Brussels, Belgium, 1st June 2015 – A unique and emotive exhibition “Syria: Third Space” was launched today at the European Parliament in Brussels. The event is part of programme of support to Syrian artists by the British Council, the UK´s international organisation for culture.
The exhibition showcases 30 works by 78 Syrian artists who have been displaced by the conflict in Syria, and are now living in 10 countries. The exhibition tells the story of the conflict from the perspective of the artists and the communities they are now living in. It shows how art and culture can strengthen civil society from the ground up; creating a safe space for artists to express opinions, explore issues and unite marginalised communities that are living as refugees.
Projects on display in Syria: Third Space include Stitching My Syria Back by Mohammed Khayata, a patchwork blanket sewed from material donated by refugees in communities across and outside Syria. Photographs shot by activists Mohammad Ghannam, Doha Hassan, Mezar Matar, Keenana Issa, Mohammad Abdullah, Zaina Erhaiem, Hassan Abou Nouh showing alternative and sometimes surprising views of life in Syria will also be on show.
Films including Mohammad Omran and Bissan AlSharif’s Without Sky, a complex piece of animation depicting the destruction of a city, will be showcased alongside A Memory of A Woman, AlSharif’s installation that focuses on displaced women and children and their memories of communities and possessions left behind in Syria.
Through X-RAY SYRIA Zaher Omareen provides his short, low-fi films and videos/sounds installation shown on a loop, a challenging view between absurd, cynical and gruesome vision of Syria, reflecting the sometimes creative treatment of news by the media.
Commenting on the exhibition, Joel Bubbers, Director British Council Syria said; “some of the work is disturbing and affecting, but it is some of the most challenging images and pieces that best demonstrate artists ability to see and value the human experience.”
Artists involved in the exhibition received funding from the British Council’s Grants for Syrian Artists initiative, that enabled artists to continue their work and build capability whilst in diaspora.
In 2013, 220 artists have applied for a grant of between £1,000 and £3,000 to fund their creative projects. In addition to funding, successful applicants received ongoing support via a collaboration of the British Council with The Space, a not-for-profit public service for artists set up by the BBC and the Arts Council England.
Joel Bubbers added; “The scheme and the resulting exhibition demonstrates the British Council’s strong belief in the right to free expression, and in the power of art to build bridges and dialogue between communities. The art contained within this exhibition and other cultural activities that are currently happening is helping to raise awareness and solidarity among refugee host communities and unite those displaced by the conflict.
Jean Lambert MEP, who is co-hosting the exhibition at the European Parliament said: “Displaced people have stories to tell, and we need to listen to them.
'Art is an important medium for telling stories, it is a profound way of making sense of the world. This exhibition expresses different ways of how humans in a crisis talk about their situation. We need to look and listen more, and judge less because we can choose to be influenced by the entirely inaccurate rhetoric of "illegal asylum seekers", or we can see a person, with a story. This takes us behind the often-hostile rhetoric to see the reality and resilience of the people affected and to hear their voice.’