Exhibition – Refuse/Refuge – York Art Gallery (2018)

Project Gallery, York Art Gallery, 20 July – 16 September 2018

Refuse/Refuge poster

Exhibition poster with Staring Quietly at the Backwash (2016) by Ina Lounguine; image courtesy of and ©Ina Lounguine

The exhibition Refuse/Refuge was held in the Project Gallery at York Art Gallery from Friday 20 July to Sunday 16 September 2018.  It was curated by University of York PhD students Kyveli Lignou-Tsamantani and Martha Cattell

The exhibition featured work by international contemporary artists working in a variety of media, both textual and visual: Majid Adin, Forensic Oceanography (Charles Heller and Lorenzo Pezzani), Ina Loungine, Janne Malmros, and Maria Tzanakou. Offering free admission, Refuse/Refuge coincided with and complemented York Art Gallery’s exhibition The Sea is the Limit.

Kyveli wrote about her experience curating the exhibition for the WRoCAH website.

Exhibition description:

The exhibition Refuse/Refuge explores the visual politics of the 21st-century Mediterranean refugee crisis. This crisis is underscored by many ‘political refusals’ where refuge, help or rescue has been refused.  At the same time the exhibition presents another set of ‘refusals’ – ‘visual refusals’. Can we be responsible citizens without viewing the representation of death and suffering?  In the context of Refuse/Refuge we ask you to reconsider your political stance not by looking at any images of suffering, but by looking at what could be seen as different types of ‘visual refusals’.

(Exhibition booklet)

At the core of the exhibition lies a series of ethically and politically troubling questions. What does it mean to refuse refuge to someone who has fled from their home countries due to war, violence and poverty? How can we approach these issues and our own ethical responsibility, without using a photojournalistic ‘lens’?

(Exhibition website, www.refuserefugeproject.co.uk)

Booklet and Project Website

A free booklet accompanied the exhibition, containing information about the artworks and biographical notes of the artists, as well as an essay by co-curator Kyveli Lignou-Tsamantani, ‘On Political and Visual Refusals’, in which she contextualised the exhibition and critiqued the artworks within their framework of the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean.

In keeping with the intention that the booklet have open-access availability, much of its content is reproduced on the exhibition project's website, with a blog that aims to continue the discussion of issues highlighted in the exhibition.  To date, it has published the following articles:

'On the ethical responsibility of not filming' by Zaphiris Epaminondas
'Ethical Guidelines for Documentary Filmmakers' by Bill Megalos

- as well as poetry in response to artworks in the exhibition by Louli Tsamantani and Professor Jason Edwards (University of York).


In anticipation of Refuse/Refuge, the York Festival of Ideas 2018 featured three screenings of Forensic Oceanography’s film Liquid Traces: The Left-to-Die Boat Case (2014), introduced by Kyveli Lignou-Tsamantani and Martha Cattell.

Kyveli Lignou-Tsamantani  gave a Curator's Talk to the Friends of York Art Gallery on Sunday 12 August, as well as three Curator’s Guided Tours of the exhibition on Saturdays 4 August, 11 August and 15 September, as part of York Art Gallery’s free programme of events.

Introductory panel - Refuse/Refuge - exhibition 2018 - York Art Gallery

Introductory panel - Refuse/Refuge, York Art Gallery; photo ©YAHCs

Exhibition view - Refuse/Refuge - York Art Gallery 2018

Exhibition view - Refuse/Refuge; photo ©YAHCs

Refuse/Refuge Exhibition view with 'The Power of Passports' (2017) by Majid Adin

Exhibition view with 'The Power of Passports' (2017) by Majid Adin; photo ©YAHCs

Refuse/Refuge Exhibition view with 'Corrections' (2017/8) by Maria Tzanakou

Exhibition view with "Corrections: 'We swam the same seas, even if we never met'" (2017-18) by Maria Tzanakou; photo ©YAHCs

Refuse/Refuge Exhibition view with 'Failure Requires Faith in Humanity' (2017/8)

Exhibition view with 'Failure Requires Faith in Humanity' (2017-18) and 'Corrections: Failure and Faith' (2017-18) by Maria Tzanakou; photo ©YAHCs

Exhibition view with 'Liquid Traces: The Left-to-Die Boat Case' video by Forensi

Exhibition view with 'Liquid Traces: The Left-to-Die Boat Case' video by Forensic Oceanography; photo ©YAHCs

Refuse/Refuge exhibition view

Exhibition view with 'Shifts and Contrivances' (2017) by Janne Malmros in the foreground and work by Ina Lounguine behind; photo ©YAHCs

Main image: Detail of Refuse/Refuge exhibition poster, York Art Gallery, with Staring Quietly at the Backwash (2016) by Ina Lounguine; image courtesy of and ©Ina Lounguine

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