"Who wants me?" is the question posed by Deborah Sengl in her series on the refugee issue, lamenting a disturbing loss of empathy with the suffering of refugees. "We can do it!" (“Wir schaffen das!”) was the famous if controversial slogan in the face of the refugee crisis years ago. Was this optimism naïve or premature?
In the exhibition Lost in Transition, five female artists address different aspects of the complex reality and the human dimension of both the suffering and hope caused by the loss of homeland and familiar culture, by being uprooted, expelled and forced to flee.
For years, we have been confronted with images of overcrowded and capsized boats in the Mediterranean and desperate people at Europe's borders. Hundreds of thousands of people fleeing armed conflicts, persecution and economic hardship regard Europe as a place of refuge. As always, the first victims are those most innocent and weak, the children. The individual fates and the suffering of refugees again and again unleashed waves of solidarity, empathy and compassion. But the arrival of a large number of people from different cultural and religious backgrounds also caused social, political and cultural tensions in the receiving countries. Instead of addressing the root causes of the crisis, policymakers' responses are often limited to treating symptoms, proposing short-sighted solutions and unsatisfactory compromises. The increasingly noticeable effects of climate change, however, give rise to the fear that we are only seeing the beginning of a new global mass migration with all the conflicts and transformations it will bring, and which will in the long run fundamentally change world demographics. So can we really do it? Or are we all sitting in the same sinking boat?
In her provocative works of the series "Who wants me?", in which – as is her style – animals take the place of humans, the Austrian artist Deborah Sengl laments the astonishing loss of empathy in our society, in which the foreign "immigrant" is perceived as a threat.
Patricia Waller, in her bitingly ironic crochet-work sculptures, once again dedicates herself to the suffering of children, the most innocent but unfortunately often the first victims of war, expulsion and the dissolution of fixed social structures.
The work of the Austrian artist Lies Maculan is dedicated to Cornelia James, one of the many talented and important personalities who were expelled from Austria (and Germany) by the Nazis and had to find a new home abroad. The reference to our own history should sensitize us to the current refugee situation.
In her series "Darning memories" and "Dialogue", the Japanese artist Yukiko Terada addresses abrupt ruptures in the individual culture of remembrance and interpersonal relationships that arise from loss of homeland and cultural context.
In her spatial installation "The Lost Identities of Century", which was conceived especially for the exhibition, guest artist Sara Nabil, born in Kabul in 1994 and forced to leave Afghanistan in 2015, processes her experiences of being a refugee and the need to find a new identity against the backdrop of the radical misogynistic policies of her home country and her uprooted status in a foreign cultural environment.