film by Ronan Glynn
Space of Refuge: A Spatial Installation & Symposium
‘Space of Refuge’ is an installation that was initially erected within the Baqa’a refugee camp in Jordan in Summer 2015, and Burj el Barajneh camp in Lebanon in Summer 2016. The installation looks at the spatial production and subsequent evolution of Palestinian refugee camps, with particular focus upon unofficial acts of ‘spatial violation’ that have emerged because of the increasingly protracted nature of the refugee situation, with no sign of any political resolution to a condition that has existed since the late 1950s. By applying a superimposition of two Palestinian camp-scales, the installation reveals how each group of refugees in both countries has come to adopt a very different method of spatial production that go beyond mere requirements of humanitarian relief as part of resolving their everyday struggles, through engaging in very different forms of spatial violations.
By bringing this spatial installation into P21 Gallery’s space, it engages in knowledge transfer between refugee camps in the Middle East and London as a wealthy global city that is one of the key targets of migrants today. The installation superimposes Burj el Barajneh camp-space (grey map) with P21 Gallery’s space (in blue), creating in turn another form of public engagement with academic and non-academic partners, by passing on research data, fieldwork documentaries and refugee testimonies about issues of space and refuge. The installation illustrates some fascinating scenarios of resilience and adaptability within the constrained conditions of the camp, whilst also exposing the feelings of hostility and aggression that a conflictual state of inhabitation created with the host governments and host communities.
In short, this installation is about scale, a “constructed” spatial scale, social scale, economic scale, and more importantly a political scale. This “political scale”, constructed over years of accumulated violations of social, humanitarian, and economic acts inside the camp, is constantly generative of new power-relations which take the form of everyday performances, but when confronted as an autonomous organism of space and people, of assemblages and networks is when the “political scale” expands and is at its most political, and violent.
The emerged ‘political scale’ in the camp was very much dependent on the foundational humanitarian architectural and planning standards, yet what the ‘political scale’ was able to achieve in this humanitarian spatiality and conduct is throw “the humanitarian” off its track and create alternative spatialies serving as the field of power-relations.
For more on Opening Night: https://refugeehosts.org/2017/03/11/space-of-refuge-opening-night/
Space of Refuge was generously funded by UCL's Grand Challenges (Installation) & UCL's Institute of Advanced Studies (Symposium), and Supported by UCL's Refuge in a Moving World, and HUB Collective.
All images by Samar Maqusi, unless indicated otherwise.