Photography by Knut Bry
Who are we? is an exhibition and workshop that was recently exhibited as part of the Tate Exchange on the 5th Floor of Switch House at Tate Modern, London. The week-long exhibition aimed to provoke questions around identity, belonging, migration and citizenship through art and public participation, and was specifically designed for Tate Exchange. The project is a cross-platform event, designed to facilitate co-creation, co-production, and exchange of knowledge between artists, academics, activists, and the general public about the multiple crises of identity and belonging in Europe and the UK. Acclaimed photographer Knut Bry is one of 24 contributors. He made a video installation from his stay at the Pikpa Camp, a refugee camp located at Mytilene, Lesvos.
“I wanted to show the reality of the way these people are living. The refugees that are able to get to the Pikpa Camp are the lucky ones. Most of them have the most tragic stories. I’m ashamed of being a Norwegian these days, our government is closing their eyes on these people.“
Built on the principle of solidarity, the camp is a self-organized, autonomous space run by volunteers, and it houses some of the most vulnerable refugees: The disabled, sick, pregnant and families of shipwreck victims. The camp offers its residents food, clothes, hygiene kits, medical assistance, as well as organising language classes, social support and activities for children. For his first visit, which lasted for two months, Knut brought his camera hoping to document a glimpse of the people living there. Expecting to see poor conditions and hopelessness, he was surprised to find the opposite; the refugees where cared for and given hope. After returning to Norway, it didn’t take long before Knut felt the urge to go back.
“I hate the hysteria around gifts and money. I figured I'd rather help out at Pikpa than staying in Norway eating greasy food.” Knut says energetically, talking about his feelings towards our typical Christmas celebration.
Knut travelled back to Pikpa for a month during the holidays. He spent most of his time in the kitchen cooking with other volunteers and making sure the refugees could make food for them selves. The refugees hoping to inhabit Pikpa has to register at the Moria Camp first — a camp with extremely high security and therefore strictly forbidden to photograph. Knut was able to sneak in without being detected and took several photos with his cell phone.
“That camp needs to be shut down immediately. It's hell on earth. People are living without any water, and are sleeping in small tents or concrete huts. It is unbelievable that people actually live there”.
For the Who Are We? project Knut collaborated with Marie Gillespie, the Co-Director of the Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change in Manchester, UK, and performance activist, Elena Boukouvala. Among their video installation, other contributors are working with interactive work shops, performance, poetry and paintings — all aiming to show what solidarity can be by shedding light on the people that are experiencing these extreme crises.
“We've had a massive positive response from people that have seen the exhibition, and we are very happy with the outcome of the whole project,“ says Knut.
Knut's photographs will be exhibited at the The Nordic Light International Festival Of Photography in Kristiansund in May.
The last photography is from the Moria camp. Here you can clearly see the contrast between the two camps.