stolen from Lgbtqi+ Refugees in Greece
— LGBTQI Refugees GR (@LGBTQIRefugeeGR) May 21, 2017
‘Between a rock and a hard place’ – LGBTQ refugee group steals Documenta 14 artwork.
An Athens-based network of LGBTQ refugees on Sunday seized a sculpture featuring in the Documenta 14 festival in an act of defiance at the renowned European arts exhibition.
The artwork, commissioned by Spanish artist Roger Bernat, consisted of a replica of the so-called ‘Oath Stone’ at which the trial of Socrates took place in Athens in 399 BC. The 2-metre monolith was walked through locations across the city over the past fortnight, being ‘blessed’ by various groups in mock a funeral before it was to be flown to the Documenta base in Kassel, Germany and buried. Among the groups invited to engage with the artwork is the ‘LGBTQI+ Refugee Solidarity Group’, a support network advocating for the rights of LGBTQI+ asylum seekers in Greece.
However, in protest at the arts festival’s perceived exploitation of refugees, the group has stolen the work during an event at the Polytechnic University in Athens. Under the counter-title of “#rockumenta14”, members released on online video statement, claiming that the stone will not be returned. The message condemns the ‘fetishization’ of refugees and disparages the use of vast resources on the high-profile arts event, while the hundreds of thousands of refugees languish invisibly in Greece and across Europe.
“You have come to Greece to make art visible, graciously offering to purchase the participation of invisible exoticized ‘Others’. Your stone is supposed to give us a voice, to speak to our stories. But rocks can’t talk! We can! So we have stolen your stone and we will not give it back. And like the millions of others who are seeking better lives in Europe, your stone has disappeared. Your stone may be languishing without papers in a prison on the island of Samos. Your stone may have drowned and sunk to the bottom of the Mediterranean. Your stone may have been deported to Turkey. Your stone may be on a flight to Sweden with its new 2,000 Euro fake passport. Your stone may be driven to suicide in Moria detention centre desperate for freedom. Your stone may be waiting in line outside the offices of Katehaki. Your stone may be selling its body to strangers in Pedion Tou Areos. Your stone may be legally recognized as a refugee but sleeping on the street.
But unlike your stone, no energies have been spent searching for those who have disappeared—not minerals or even artworks, but flesh and bone. And we’ve had more than our fair share of funerals. So we will use our energies otherwise, Shukran.
You tried to instrumentalize us with your grand donation of 500 euros. But you can’t play an instrument with an empty gesture. Governments and NGOS have been pulling our strings and making decisions for us for far too long. Now we are cutting the strings, dancing to our own music and speaking louder than any stone.”
The five-yearly Documenta festival will take place in Kassel and Athens until September 2017.