Green light, as the multifaceted project that it is, can and must be decoded from different approaches.
If you enter the space of Green light, the only thing you can really touch and hold in your hands is the cubic lamp. A lamp, made out of recyclable material, that is designed by Olafur Eliasson, that wants to be sustainable enclosing the challenges of the ecological crisis. The art piece, that it is, shall be assembled and made by many people, who exchange over the assembling of the lamp. Reminiscent of the Little Sun art is considered in this frame as something that many people can and should profit from.
At the same time the lamp is a polyhedral unit, a geometrical super cube, invented by Einar Thorstein (1942-2005). Its shape enables also the connecting of many lamps. So the lamp is a symbol of interconnection simultaneously, only due to its shape. If you would change its shape, it could not interconnect anymore.
These aspects we can grip almost immediately. But what about the aspects that are not so obvious…
Where Green light is embedded in
When I enter the space of Green light, I see an output of two (European) cities: with the Studio Olafur Eliasson being based in Berlin and the TBA21 being yet based in Vienna, not mentioning the transnational biographies of Olafur Eliasson and Francesca van Habsburg themselves. Green light is per se a cosmopolitan project, through which the complex worlds of two well-known different art institutions, aim to implement a project that faces challenges of modern society, most of the time even in a third state - like in Czech Republic, in the USA or in Italy, as it is now the case.
It was in 2015, when the idea started to prosper, as a reaction to the so-called ‘refugee crisis’. It is not a coincidence, though, that these two institutions reacted, since the refugee crisis hit the Eastern flank of Europe the hardest. The war in Syria affected not only people in Syria. With a whole society falling apart in Syria, millions of people fled within the state, and other millions fled to the neighboring states. With a whole political, economic system falling apart geopolitical interests began to whip up the intensity of the existing fronts.
Few know, how the realpolitical complexity of interests fighting each other in Syria leads to unperceiveable and even more desastrous factors. The Iranian Regime started sending their own inner-state refugees, most of them Afghan young men, rather boys, fighting for Assad in Syria. This is, by the way, why half of the participants in the Vienna-based Green light project where young Afghan minors. Most of them not even coming from Afghanistan.
By 2014 UNHCR, the international organization for displaced people, began running out of money. The institution could not even afford the accommodation, food, etc that could be procured before and people, elderlies, children, families chose to go away, to walk through the middle east, to Turkey, to take the more dangerous boat to Greece, and to continue walking, through countries that differed in their hostilities.
It was this very experience of people suffering and nobody doing anything perceptible about it, that led to the very moment, that those two art institutions reacted to chose to commit to a project that should in this very nature be implemented by state authorities. But the year of 2015 already showed how much the state failed in taking the responsibility to adjust to the occurring social change(s) in Europe.
Why asylum seekers?
Asylum seekers are not marginalized people within a society, because they are by definition not meant to be part of an existing society. They are standing, by definition, outside the states organization of a society. This is, why the experience of waiting, sometimes over years, is such an issue for asylum seekers.
I remember, that the generation of my parents also did not have any warm water in the winter, they slept also in barracks in wildly assorted groups, being treated like criminals with finger prints being taken, and senseless curfews, they would have to obey. They would not understand, why they were treated this way. In their view, they never perpetrated a crime. In their view they would not understand why they were avoided, or how they could be affected by isolation, racism , by loneliness, by the lack of social networks and lack of information. The bottom line is, they were no full social human beings. The situation of asylum seekers was not any better 30 years ago. Their situation was only concealed, not perceivable to the public eye. So it was the quantity of people that made the phenomenon visible in 2015, that exists in its very quality for over 50 years already. This discrepancy asylum seekers experience everyday all over the world has a lot to do with resources and the logic of nation states.
The order of the world allots that each citizen must be subject to a state authority – it is called citizenship. The state authority has the right to implement its own law on its citizens. This is why we have countries in this world, where the state is allowed over its monopoly on violence to execute its own citizens, over any reason the same legal system proclaims. Sure, the consequences of fascism in Europe made us aware, that states are not so trustworthy as we might have thought, and people can be persecuted for innocent reasons. But what if we can not speak about individuals anymore? What if a whole complex society, like Syria, is plainly falling apart? Who takes care of Syrians, if not the Syrian state authority itself? Nobody else feels obliged to do so. It is not the duty of a state to take care for people from other states. It is an altruistic act, that is mirrored by the asylum laws, and the Geneva Conventions, but no state gets sanctioned just because it would not implement the already inhuman asylum laws properly. Our world is a world that struggles over the illusion that people inside a state would have more in common than the very same market inside a state where all the people consume.
As one of the few persons inside the project, who has neither studied art, nor worked mainly inside the art field, Green light is a very particular space and a very particular project for me, reagarding the background Green light is embedded in, and that started working together with asylum seekers : For starters the project does not involve any social workers, who would automatically reproduce the dichotomy of citizens and non-citizens. It endures for a long and intense time, that automatically leads to an impact and its multidimensional concept requires from each and everybody, who is a part of it, to participate with different traits that come with each individual. To be more specific, if you have a fabric, where only a few handgrips are done, the people inside the fabric only get to know each other over this very handgrip as a common tool over which interaction takes place. The only trait that is visible is the function of the hand, and how fast or how slow the hand is doing. At the same time the person runs the risk to be reduced to the hand grip, and the complexity of his personality vanished beyond the veil of the space he finds himself in. In reality realities like this paralyzes people, the very same critic of these processes can be read in Marxist theories.
There is the common view, that Green light must be a social project, since people with ongoing asylum procedures are involved. The participants are the pillar of the workshop of course. Since the workshop does not exist without the participants and up to 50 people work together to make the workshop possible the project has definitely social aspects, that can’t be ignored and that influence the workshop on a daily basis. The same view expects at least a materialistic or social improvement for the participants in the course of the project, because when it is a social project, it must have the aim to improve the situation of this marginalized group. But there is a reason, why the project has the byname "an artistic project", because it is not in that traditional sense a social project. Green light is a Shared Learning project for anyone, who participates. Green light can not set itself over the law and change a situation, that is devised by state authorities. I remember, how not even the name of Francesca van Habsburg could hinder one of our beloved friends from being deported...
But I also remember, how the very same fact, that the participants come on a day-to-day basis into this public exhibition space, where they can attend several activities, in which they can discuss identity, without being reduced to any identity the very same time, leads for them to being heard and seen, and being inside a perpetual learning process at the same time. If we have the possibility to understand our surrounding, we will learn at the same time more about ourselves, and I can not think of a larger asset, than to get to know oneself.
I will never forget, how one of the participants went with me to the supermarket. He was eager to invite me to the bottle of cold Coke, standing with me in the queue, saying: “This project made me stronger. I did not know, that I can be that strong, but now I know...”
Theoreticall I understand why the project had this impact on him. But the complexity of his way to get there, will always be concealed - even to me - this is his private journey, that is embedded in the strucutres we are facing.
written by Anahita Tabrizi, TBA21 Green light - project