Born in Europe

New Identities. Photographs and Video Works

21 August to 17 October 2004

Poster of the exhibition “Born in Europe – New Identities”

Poster of the exhibition “Born in Europe – New Identities”

Design: Steenbrink Vormgeving, Berlin

The exhibition “Born in Europe – New Identities” consists of photographic and video works by twelve artists from ten different European countries who have dealt in their various ways with the desires, hopes and fears of people who live in Europe and plan to spend their future in European countries.

The photographs of the Spanish photographer Matías Casta, who was granted the World Press Award in 2001 for his photo series “Cruzar el Estrecho”, portray the faces of people who risk their lives to overcome the borders of Europe. They show the fear in the eyes of African immigrants who see Europe as the land of their dreams and who set their sights on an uncertain future. The “Border Rescue” project of the Austrian artist Harald Schmutzhard and the Social Impact group took up this topic in 2002 and put refugee routes between the borders of Austria and the Czech Republic on the Internet in order to call for political and not only police solutions so that the death of still more people could be prevented.

“Identity Checkpoint”, an installation by the Berlin artist Peter Kees, takes up the topic of the background and identity of the “new Europeans” in a very original way. On a trip through Prague, Bratislava and Budapest he took passport photos of participating passers-by and then recorded various data by means of an “official” identification form, finally adding material containing DNA traces to the dossier. The results of this artistic action can be seen in the exhibition. Exhibition visitors will also have the opportunity to take part in this action within the framework of an accompanying programme.

“I and Us”, a video work by the French artist Sylvie Blocher, was shown last year at the Biennale in Venice. The work came about in collaboration with the Campement Unbain group in Beaudotte, north-east of Paris, a satellite town in which many immigrants live. The inhabitants were drawn into the artistic action and asked to formulate a very personal sentence about loneliness, beauty, themselves or other people. Despite the fact that private life there is largely taboo, which made it particularly difficult for women to present themselves in public, more than 100 people were willing to stand in front of the camera wearing a T-shirt on which their sentence is printed. The observer experiences this in an almost shamefaced, embarrassing atmosphere, because intimacy collapses in a public place and the observer cannot avoid being drawn into the dialogue. The work addresses those who come from abroad in a way that calls for empathy and understanding and takes their right to respect and dignity seriously.

The A team of the youth footballers of Tasmania Gropiusstadt in the Berlin district of Neukölln are the object of a portrait series by the Italian photographer Denise Vernillo. The team plays in the recently founded federal league for young players. We see a group of young men from Berlin whose parents have immigrated for the most part from Turkey, Poland or Bosnia and who dream of one day making it big in the European soccer scene. A multimedia installation and a video film by Andrea Behrendt depict the immigration routes of the families of tenth grade students of the Albert Einstein Secondary School in Neukölln and the self-perception of six girls from this class. The film shows ways of finding identity that develop within the context of the different cultural patterns and religious influences. All three works show the European dimensions of urban culture.

In the video “Homeland Europe” by filmmaker Anna Henckel-Donnersmarck, bi-national couples from Poland, Belgium, Japan, Germany, the USA and France who live in Berlin take on the experiment of finding a mutual approach to such key terms as border, homeland, Europe, language, culture and birth.

Portraits of altogether 25 immigrant families with their newborn children from Berlin, Gothenburg, Lisbon, Copenhagen and Aarhus are presented as the result of a joint project by five European museums which was supported by the EU Cultural Fund in 2000. Working together with the curators of the participating museums, the photographers Nelly Rau-Häring, Jeanette Frank, Jorge Diniz, Linda Horowitz and Connie Sörensen have observed and documented the reality of the lives of these young families from twenty different countries of origin. Their joy in living a new life in Europe, but also their experiences of humiliation, lack of understanding and their loss of their own former ties find expression here. An impressive European gallery is the result.

The exhibition “Born in Europe – New Identities” is being organized by the Museum Neukölln and is part of the joint project “Born in Europe” of the National Museums of World Culture, Gothenburg, the Danish Museum of Women, Aarhus, the Danish National Museum, Copenhagen, the APOREM (Association of Portuguese Company Museums), the Museum of Water (EPAL), Lisbon, the Austrian Museum of Folklore, Vienna, and the Museum Neukölln, Berlin. With the generous support of the Museum Educational Service Berlin and the Museum of European Cultures, State Museums of Berlin.

Further information under www.museum-neukoelln.de

Organizer: Museum Neukölln, District Office Neukölln of Berlin/Cultural Office
Curator and head of project: Udo Gösswald
Under the patronage of Walter Schwimmer, General Secretary of the Council of Europe, György Konrád, President of the Academy of Arts, Berlin-Brandenburg, Jorge Sempaio, President of the Republic of Portugal