Textile Touches of Escape and Migration
your clothing touches me
graduate textile and fashion designer (FH), costume designer, work instructor and social worker
Irene Schüller: Project initiator, visual artist, curator, filmmaker (Freiburg, Germany)
My artistic work is increasingly occupied with the question of which forms of perception are available to us as people, and how we grasp them. I wonder how much freedom we allow ourselves in decisions about our own behavior? Can we influence our own intuition and our gut instincts?
Through “Textile Touches of Escape and Migration,” I’d like to put a focus on the challenges that escape, migration and integration pose not just on the individual participants, but also on an entire society. While the refugee situation was a major topic in the media prior to the pandemic, I observed a rise in my direct environment of rhetoric on the right.
These trends — the inhumane conditions on the outer borders of the EU, reporting about these conditions and hate on the right — left me with feelings of impotence and horror.
In 2019, I bought a one-way ticket to the Greek island of Lesbos, with the intention of gaining a clear image of what escape means for the individual, and the path that was traveled by the people arriving here in Germany. I visited the Moria camp, where I got to know Afghanis and Somalis in particular. They let my accompany them — initially into their tents and then on the path that led them from their homelands to Moria, in the hope of traveling as soon as possible to Germany. I also helped with “Beach Clean,” a campaign to restore the shores of the detritus of their exoduses. Soon thereafter, back in Berlin, I met a fashion designer from Syria who recounted in great detail his path from Syria via Turkey to Lesbos, Athens and Berlin, and kept recounting the importance of clothing during his escape. But more about that in the blog.
As with all previous interactive works, I approach the topic through physical bodies and emotion, intentionally avoiding a cognitive approach. For the “Textile Touches of Escape and Migration” project, I am inviting interested parties to express their experiences and emotions in the form of an artistically created garment, giving others the opportunity to put it on and walk in the shoes of another, so to speak.
In producing this type of garment, the artist is opening space for an intense dialog and exploration of one’s own viewpoint, experience and vulnerabilities. Visitors to the exhibit, in turn, gain an opportunity to engage in an intimate and potentially surprising experience prompted by their encounter with the emotional world of another, a situation that inherently leads to a confrontation with one’s self. This process creates the opportunity to adopt new perspectives in an entirely physical way and to see which things change — for example through the unusual invitation to touch the work of art, which beyond its ‘being art’ also transports experience or emotion. As well as to see what changes when one dons a piece of garment artwork on one’s body and through the direct perception of weight and texture. Beyond this, this form of reception offers the unusual situation of putting the visitor in the role of presenting the artwork to other visitors, including looking at oneself in the mirror. What kind of changes does that make to someone? In this way, I hope to achieve honest access to visitors, presenting their own vulnerability to them visually, and thus awakening greater empathy for others.
Integration can only function if the refugees and the folk receiving them truly engage in dialogue. “Textile Touches of Escape and Migration” explicitly invites people, with or without refugee backgrounds, to participate, and seeks to provide a space and occasion for this crucial encounter.
We welcome any and all who wish to participate in this project as communicators and organizers.
More on my work at www.irene-schueller.de
Annrike Udroiu, graduate textile and fashion designer (FH), costume designer, work instructor and social worker
Besides my work as a freelance designer, I have been working with socially disadvantaged people for many years. Initially in occupational therapy as the supervisor of a sewing and creative workshop and since 2015 in social work with refugees.
Flight and loss of identity were also present topics in my personal environment, as my grandparents and their families had to flee during the Second World War. The experience of being displaced, of being left behind and of losing our homeland had a strong impact on our family biography.
I have heard from numerous people in detail about their flight stories, about the various stages and emotions before, during and after the flight. These accounts are as individual as the people themselves and often words alone are not enough to express what they have experienced. Therefore, I am looking forward and excited to approaching the topic from the creative side and to working with interested people on their individual dress-art works in workshops on the project.
Ece Ates: Curatorial Assistant, Administrative Staff
As an art historian who has focused her work around biopolitics and its effects on human life, I have always been interested in borders and refugee policy as a method of control. Born and raised in Izmir, on the Turkish coast, but also having lived elsewhere, I easily sympathized with refugees and soon became involved with their lives. After my time abroad working at various non-profit arts organizations involving artists from the US, I returned to Turkey during the pandemic to continue my education and find new opportunities. There I unfortunately witnessed racism against refugees and asylum seekers.
Working with ‘Textile Touches’ is very important for me for several reasons. First, I want to help create a medium for refugees and asylum seekers to express their emotions and their experiences; also, I hope to help raise awareness about refugees in general. Throughout this project we are not only delving into the refugees’ experiences and memories but also their relationship with intolerance and discrimination. To further understand this relationship, we will examine the thought process behind discrimination. Therefore, this project aims to create a medium of discussion for both parties: the holder of prejudices and the refugee.