“A Lighthouse for Lampedusa!”

Danish artist Thomas Kilpper’s installation stirs humanitarian values in Brussels

August 15th, 2016
Daniel Erhardt, CD News

The artistic installation “A Lighthouse for Lampedusa!” by Danish artist David Kilpper has been on display at the Brussels Palais des Beaux Arts (Centre for Fine Arts or “BOZAR”) since June 19th, International Refugee Day. It aims at raising debate on the situation of the tens of thousands of refugees, who are reaching Europe in life-risking conditions across the Mediterranean and our responsibility as citizens towards it.

The installation, resembling the shape of a makeshift lighthouse, is mostly made of rubber and plastic collected from the shoreline of the island of Lampedusa, belonging to the remains of actual dinghies used to transport refugees and migrants. To complete the realism and meaningful expressiveness, the installation showcases pictures taken on the island, as well as personal objects of the migrants also found on the spot.

The artist himself, in collaboration with the Turin-based artist Massimo Ricciardo, took the pictures in 2014. African asylum-seekers as well as participated actively, wanting to show the suffering of their catastrophic journey. The whole installation refers to real lighthouses. One was the legendary Alexandria lighthouse, one of the Seven Wonders of Antiquity, while the other is the actual lighthouse on Cape Grecale, in Lampedusa.

The reason behind the reference of the last mentioned lighthouse is that it is of no use for the migrants and refugees coming from Africa, as it is set facing Europe. Therefore, the final aim of the installation, in addition to posing ongoing questions to heavily criticized EU policy-makers, is to spread international solidarity and a call for respect for human rights and to serve as a model for an actual lighthouse to be built on the island of Lampedusa.

This lighthouse would serve as a welcoming sign and point of guidance to the refugees and migrants coming from the only 80 miles-away coast of Tunisia. It would be a symbolic sign from us as Europeans, as Lampedusa is the first piece of European soil the migrants find on their often terrifying and life-endangering way to a hopefully better future.

The lighthouse would also serve as a cultural centre for the people of Lampedusa on its ground floor, where cultural diplomacy and exchange would be promoted and put into practice to bring the migrants and the locals, as well as other Europeans, closer together. For the time being, the artistic installation is still a work in progress, but it has taken its awareness-raising message across cities of five European countries.

Since 2008, replicas have been staged in Reggio Emilia, Florence, Naples, Rotterdam, Poznań, Berlin, Venice, Lucerne, Zurich and Mechelen. The installation will stay in Brussels until September 8th, when it will move on to the Dresden Kunsthaus art centre. This stop of the exhibition has a specifically meaningful purpose, as the eastern German city is one of the most active hubs of anti-immigrant movement “Pegida”.

The present showcase of the project is also the result of an international cultural collaboration with BOZAR, the European Cultural Foundation, Goethe Institut Brüssel and the Instituto Italiano di Cultura di Bruxelles.


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