Exhibit offers firsthand accounts of the global refugee crisis

Exhibit offers firsthand accounts of the global refugee crisis

Written by Thomas Ward

Offering a potent combination of first-hand accounts of global refugee crisis and a scathing critique of American media consumption, “Love Story” by Candice Breitz, is a powerful new exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts. Six screens show the stories of Sarah Ezzat Mardini, a Syrian swimmer; Shabeena Francis Saveri, an Indian transgender activist; José Maria João, an Angolan former child soldier; Mamy Maloba Langra, a Congolese survivor; Luis Ernesto Nava Molero, a Venezuelan political dissident; and Farah Abdi Mohamed, a Somalian atheist.

All six have their own unique struggles within a growing worldwide refugee crisis, and all six are captivating. Their stories range from the brutal violence of central African conflicts, told by both a victim and a reformed perpetrator, to the seeking of asylum due to political, religious, or sexual persecution, to the fleeing of the homeland due to war. It is powerful to sit in front of the screens and hear the actual stories of the real people involved in many of the headlines that come and go in the global discourse.

The first room of the exhibit features actors Julianne Moore and Alec Baldwin acting out the stories of the six people the exhibit focuses on. Two of Hollywoods golden children, immediately recognizable and respected throughout the country, are the first thing that greets visitors to a sobering exhibit of the refugee crisis. It is an artistic statement dripping with irony, using some of Hollywoods finest to critique the sweeping indifference to the refugee crisis. The second installation is a display of six screens playing out the original footage of the refugees recounting their experiences.

When the screens turn black, its over. The credits roll and Baldwin and Moore return to a life of luxury and fame. The six stories mentioned above are real, and their suffering does not end when the final lines are delivered.  Brietz highlights how it is easier to shut ones self off  to these problems, despite knowing that these  these crises are occurring around us, and that perhaps there is something a bit more that can be done to help.

Breitz weaves all of this into her exhibit, a critique of American media consumption and a self-aware look at the hypocrisy of arts role in that consumption. Above all, however, “Love Story” contains the stories of six incredible people who have endured unimaginable struggles to reach where they are now. The exhibit is on display at the MFA until Jan. 21 of next year.

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