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Ideas without borders, by Zia Fernandez Ibarreche


The objective

Fuelled by the UK government, at this very moment in time we are only told one side of the migration story, that which I call the media story; that Migrants from the Middle East are Islamic extremists whereas the Migrants from the EU take our jobs.


The objective of MIGRANT International Photography Exhibition is to tell multiple stories.

The exhibition was triggered by the 1946 George Orwell’s column “As I Please”, originally wrote for The Tribune newspaper. Seventy years later, we fall in the same debate on Migration, showing that people are still not well informed by the media. As Orwell stated: “People are not told with sufficient clarity what is happening, and why, and what may be expected to happen in the near future. As a result, every calamity, great or small, takes the mass of the public by surprise, and the Government incurs unpopularity by doing things which any government, of whatever colour, would have to do in the same circumstances”

Orwell emphasises that disinformation triggers confused opinions “The fact is that there is strong popular feeling in this country against foreign immigration. It arises from simple xenophobia, partly from fear of undercutting in wages, but above all from the out-of-date notion that Britain is overpopulated and that more population means more unemployment"

After reading Orwell’s column, I realised that history was repeating itself and that not many people in the Arts were doing anything interesting on the subject of Migration so I decided to mobilise my contacts and bring together the group of people that has made this exhibition possible. Focusing on the subject rather than the objectified migrant of the media, “MIGRANTS, What Does Migration Mean to You?” offers the audience a platform where to become acquainted with a more diverse reality than that presented by the media by inviting photographers to submit their work and to voice their personal point of view on Migration in society. MIGRANTS' aim is to reach and engage an extensive and diverse community in the course of daily life through the interplay of "Identity – Photography - Voice".

This project has arrived in my life at the right time. I feel like Gabriele Malfatti, a character in the fabulous novel “Storyteller” by the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa. The story begins with the narrator entering a photography gallery in Florence, Italy. He gets shocked when he recognises a person portrayed in one of the photographs, the novel starts.

“Making an effort to contain my excitement, I asked if the photographs were for sale. No, she didn’t think so. They belonged to Rizzoli, the publishers. Apparently they were going to appear in a book. I asked her to put me in touch with the photographer. No, that wouldn’t be possible, unfortunately: “Il signore Gabriele Malfatti e morto.”

Dead? Yes. Of a fever. A virus he’d caught in the jungle, forse. Poor man! He was a fashion photographer: he’d worked for Vogue and Uomo, that sort of magazine, photographing models, furniture, jewellery, clothes. He’d spent his life dreaming of doing something different, more personal, such as taking this trip to the Amazon. And when at last he was able to do so, and they were just about to publish a book with his work, he died!

I thanked her, Before leaving to confront once again the wonders and the hordes of tourists of Florence, I managed to cast one last glance at the photograph. Yes, no doubt whatsoever about it. A storyteller.”

Like Malfatti I decided to travel. My trip was not to the Amazon like Malfattis’, it was a journey through other people’s stories and voices.

 The input

Put together with just a few hundreds of pounds, MIGRANTS exhibition must be the easiest project I have ever worked on. Like in a game of Lego every element fit together playfully. Thanks to the input of the formidable team of collaborators the project has been done and dusted in just three months. All the collaborators were easy to persuade to work on a volunteer basis and the research materials kept on finding me.  As Alejandro Jodorowsky said in The Tarot: “Everything is linked, but nothing is a matter of probability. If you set your spirit to something, that phenomenon will happen, when you are determined, when you deeply enter that dimension that I call “The Dance of Reality”. The world dances around you what you seek.”

One day, early in the project, I was meeting Neil Massey to talk about MIGRANTS and his role as a member of the panel at the “You don't buy me flowers” coffee shop and while he was showing me the prototype of his photography book MONOBLOC, which he presented at Photoforum, a man interrupted us and told me that as he had heard me saying how much I love books he wanted to give me a Special Edition of a beautiful book entitled "Love Poems” by Carol Ann Duffy, that had been delivered to him.

On my way home on the train I found between the poems one entitled “Deportation”, which I thought to be great piece of writing and of course relevant to the exhibition. This poem made me think on my journey home of the story of unsuccessful migration. That same day in the evening, I met Graham Evans and told him about my finding and that I was planning to contact the author, Carol Ann Duffy, and ask her for permission to include “Deportation” in the exhibition's catalogue. Graham laughed and mentioned that I should send her his regards as he knew her from when they were philosophy students at university.

I did in fact contact Carol Ann Duffy through several websites and finally received the reply from her publishers confirming that I have the permission to include her poem in the catalogue. Like Neil Massey put it when I told him the news it was a great idea to use it for Migrants because somehow it Migrated and found its way to me.


The outcome


This project is a victory, won by all its participants. Diversity is served at its best. This international photography exhibition has been made possible thanks to every photographer that has submitted work and to the contributors that have come together to select the pieces forming the exhibition. The fact that these photographs have migrated in envelopes to this country tells it all. People may not be able to enter through the UK borders but their ideas are free of borders and thanks to MIGRANTS International Photography Exhibition we can engage with them.

This project shows that diversity breaks barriers and informs us of the different points of view that reshape our own experience and in doing so it completely contradicts what we are told by this government non stop.


Copyrights ZFI Curatorial Projects

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