Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Cultural Citizenship

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 4th April, 2013

Patrick KeillerHélene Amouzou2013 is the European Year of Citizenship, though you could be forgiven for not knowing, especially as so much of the recent related discourse in Britain and several other EU member states has been about national identity, restricting immigration and questioning the right of free movement of people within the Single Market. But an exhibition currently running at Europe House in London’s Smith Square — the offices of the European Commission’s and European Parliament’s representation in Britain– challenges the visitor to face head on the relationship between Cultural Citizenship and Mobile Loyalties, focusing on the shifting self-perceptions of immigrants and workers away from their original home and the often conflicting concepts of self in communities made up of diverse peoples. The most powerful (in my view) of the various contributions in the exhibition is a series of black and white photos by a Togolese woman artist living in Brussels, Hélene Amouzou, shot on film rather than digitally, and blurring both her physical reality and the transience or impermanence of her situation; in one image she is entering or emerging from an empty suitcase, reflecting her insecurity as she waits for papers that will allow her to remain. Less obvious at first glance is Magda Fabianczyk’s “Blocks”, a set of personalised playing cards laid out on a small green card-table, which was installed in a recreation room at Folkestone Harbour that was used by both international lorry drivers and artists who had largely not communicated with the each other until the cards attracted the drivers’ curiosity. One other notable work is a 19-minute film by an exact contemporary of mine and fellow Lancastrian, the Blackpool filmmaker and former architect Patrick Keiller: The End, which uses post-War footage of border posts, half-empty motorways, train stations and other glimpses of a Europe now disappeared; the viewer becomes a wanderer surveying these often forlorn scenes, including the Atomium Park in Brussels, once the height of post-modernity but now so very dated. I reviewed Patrick’s 1997 visual journey round some of the bleakest vistas in Britain, Robinson in Space,  when it was shown in East London some time ago. The Europe House exhibition was put together by the new UK branch of the Association of Creative Professionals and the Brussels-based Société Mutuelle pour Artistes EU and is running until 12 April.

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