With reference to Sara Ahmed’s analysis of the stranger as figure and Mieke Bal’s term “migratory aesthetics,” this article considers some of the affective qualities and ethical challenges that emerge in recent artistic work that features forced migration. It focuses on three examples: Law of the Journey (2017), an exhibition by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, The Jungle (2017), a theatre play by Joe Robertson and Joe Murphy, and CAMPQ (2019), a collectively created immersive performance. The article examines the ways each of these works generate environments of encounter with the refugee migrant, in which the camp and the journey operate not only as thematic content, but also as affective propositions for audiences, viewers, or participants. The modes of recognition and relation these works afford or foreclose are assessed through discussion of the aesthetic strategies they use ‒ namely, installation, immersion and participation.
Migratory aesthetics; installation art; immersive performance; theatre of migration
Ahmed, Sara. Strange Encounters: Embodied Others in Post-coloniality. London and New York: Routledge, 2000.
Ai Weiwei. Law of the Journey. Exhibition leaflet. Prague: National Gallery, 2017.
Alston, Adam. Beyond Immersive Theatre: Aesthetics, Politics and Productive Participation. London: Palgrave, 2016.
Bal, Mieke. “Lost in Space, Lost in the Library.” In Essays in Migratory Aesthetics: Cultural Practices between Migration and Art Making, edited by Catherine M. Lord and Sam Durrant, 23-36. Amsterdam: Brill/Rodopi, 2007.
Bishop, Claire. Installation Art: A Critical History. London: Tate, 2005.
Clayton, Jonathan, and Hereward Holland. “Over One Million Sea Arrivals Reach Europe in 2015.” UNHCR, 30 December 2015. https://www.unhcr.org/news/latest/2015/12/5683d0b56/million-sea-arrivals-reach-europe-2015.html.
Cox, Emma. Theatre & Migration. London: Palgrave, 2014.
Dasgupta, Sudeep. “The Aesthetics of Displacement and the Performance of Migration.” In Art and Visibility in Migratory Culture: Conflict, Resistance, and Agency, edited by Miguel Á. Hernández-Navarro and Mieke Bal, 91-106. Amsterdam: Brill/Rodopi, 2011.
Dolan, Jill. Utopia in Performance: Finding Hope at the Theater. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005.
Drbohlav, Dušan, and Kristýna Janurová. “Migration and Integration in Czechia: Policy Advances and the Hand Brake of Populism.” Migration Information Source, 6 June 2019. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/migration-andintegration-czechia-policy-advances-and-hand-brake-populism.
Greig, David. The Suppliant Women. London: Faber and Faber, 2017.
Hernández-Navarro, Miguel Á., and Mieke Bal. “Introduction.” In Art and Visibility in Migratory Culture: Conflict, Resistance, and Agency, edited by Miguel Á. Hernández-Navarro and Mieke Bal, 9-20. Amsterdam: Brill/Rodopi, 2011.
Jones, Jonathan. “Ai Weiwei is Making a Feature Film. I’m Worried,” Guardian Blog, 3 May 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2016/may/03/ai-weiwei-feature-film-refugee-crisis.
Kauppinen, Otto. “Chci uvěřit …” (I Would Like to Believe…). Divadelní noviny, 24 June 2019. https://www.divadelni-noviny.cz/campq-chci-uverit.
Kubart, Tomáš. “‘A teď jste všechno zkazili!’ CampQ” (“And Now You Have Spoilt Everything!” CampQ). Teatralia 22, no. 2 (2019): 267-69.
Phelps, Jerome. “Why is So Much Art about the ‘Refugee Crisis’ So Bad?” openDemocracy, 11 May 2017. https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/5050/refugeecrisis-art-weiwei/.
Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space Catalogue 2019. Prague: Arts and Theatre Institute, 2019.
Rancière, Jacques. Disagreement. Translated by Julie Rose. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004.
Rancière, Jacques. The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible. Translated by Gabriel Rockhill. London: Continuum, 2004.
Robertson, Joe, and Joe Murphy. The Jungle. London: Faber and Faber, 2017.
Rodríguez, Verónica. “Theatre of Migration: Uncontainment as Migratory Aesthetic.” In Performing Crisis in Contemporary British Theatre, edited by Clare Wallace, Clara Escoda, Enric Monforte and José Ramón Prado-Pérez. London: Bloomsbury, forthcoming.
“The Jungle: Meet the Writers.” Young Vic London, 8 November 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0TSJGu0xXzE.
Trueman, Matt. “Review: The Jungle (Playhouse Theatre).” WhatsOnStage, 6 July 2018. https://www.whatsonstage.com/london-theatre/reviews/the-jungle-playhouseyoung-vic_47048.html.
Turner, Victor. “Liminality and Communitas.” In Victor Turner. The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure, 94-113. Chicago, IL: Aldine Publishing, 1969.
Welton, Emma. “Welcome to The Jungle: Performing Borders and Belonging in Contemporary British Migration Theatre.” Theatre Research International 45, no. 3 (2020): 230-44.
Zaroulia, Marilena. “Performing That Which Exceeds Us: Aesthetics of Sincerity and Obscenity during ‘the Refugee Crisis.’” Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance 23, no. 2 (2018): 179-92.