Critics’ Picks

Mahdi Fleifel, A World Not Ours, 2012, digital film, color, sound, 1 hour 23 minutes.

Mahdi Fleifel, A World Not Ours, 2012, digital film, color, sound, 1 hour 23 minutes.


“A World Not Ours”

Art Space Pythagorion
Pythagorion Port
August 5–October 15, 2016

The exhibition “A World Not Ours” reflects on the powerful concept of a homeland. For The Persecuted, 2015, asylum seekers captured on the move by photojournalist Yannis Behrakis are presented as newspaper clippings with headlines announcing one tragedy after another, alongside a slide show of lush, emotional portraits. By contrast, Giorgos Moutafis’s black-and-white photos of refugees in limbo for Europa, Europa, 2016—taken with a disposable camera and displayed in light boxes—take on the soft, romantic sheen of a remote past like family portraits.

In Marina Gioti’s video Saint Marina, 2016, the artist’s elderly aunts recall their family’s traumatic 1922 expulsion from Asia Minor to Greece, first Samos and then eventually Piraeus, where they were spurned as “refugee wasps,” evoking the reception such interrupted lives often receive, even among people of the same ethnicity. Tanja Boukal’s Memories of Travels and Dreams, 2016—an advertisement for the ferry from the Turkish port Kuşadası that is framed by mock postcards of the detritus of deadly migrant boat crossings, the price of the trip either €35 or €3,000 depending on who you are—reveals an absurd, and devastating, disparity between dream and reality.

Historical amnesia—and its sibling selective memory—is the most serious malady of modern society: We forget that migration has long been the norm. The show’s titular film, Mahdi Fleifel’s intimate 2012 documentary about life in Ein el-Hilweh, a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon that has gradually become permanent, examines three generations of exiles, acknowledging their stark differences as random twists of fate, and hints at how hopelessness can easily breed extremism. “I love my country,” says the Syrian mother who narrates her journey to Samos in an interview taped by activist Sallie Latch. “It wasn’t our choice.”