Mechthild Schmidt: Involuntary Journeys. Refugee stories, lights + maps

  • ©, Mechthild Schmidt

  • ©, Mechthild Schmidt

  • ©, Mechthild Schmidt

  • ©, Mechthild Schmidt

  • ©, Mechthild Schmidt



    Involuntary Journeys. Refugee stories, lights + maps



Artist Statement:

    Involuntary Journeys started as a photo-blog of refugee stories I collected on Lesbos in Greece. The doubly disadvantaged among them, minors and women, told most harrowing stories of their journey to Europe. However, theirs are also stories of courage and resilience, stories to break stereotypes – such as women traveling alone or teenagers who proudly wear their hair open.

    I had started with questions: How do I respond as a media artist to the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Syria? How can I reach out and make a difference with my work? I decided to develop a field project to work directly with affected people, listen to their stories, and start a blog to lend them a voice as individual humans. The suffering endured on their involuntary journeys is commonly summarized in statistics but overall, remains unrecorded, even by refugees themselves whose energy is taken up by living day-to-day.

    In the next project stage, I mapped some journeys to geo-locations on Google Earth and Google Maps. Aside from the plain data, I added image and typography overlays into the Google Earth path to experiment with artistic and poetic additions to cartographic imagery. The viewer can choose to follow the story along the interactive geographic path or view the journey as a time-based video.

    My engaged media practice combines media art with socially relevant advocacy. While much of my involvement is focused on the Climate Crisis, this particular project tries to use an artistic, interactive interpretation to a humanitarian crisis that is in part triggered by climate change and mismanaged drought. By expanding the use of maps as storytelling devices and not just as information platforms, I want to newly engage the viewer who may have been disengaged or overwhelmed by the flood of news.

    My project hopes to

    • Empower refugees to trace, remember, and chronicle their own stories
    • Help to amplify their voices in the face of a weary public opinion
    • Bring interactive visual media to the storytelling process to make their fates more accessible

Other Information:

    Identity, Mapping, Narratives, Refugees, and Storytelling