Refugee archives found by Manchester experts inspire new exhibition
A new exhibition is being held as part of Journeys Festival International, which has been created in response to historical material discovered by researchers from The University of Manchester’s Department of History.
Fragments by Mei Yuk Wong shares the hidden voices of refugees in the 20th century, and offers the chance to reflect on their stories in relation to experiences today. The work offers a snapshot into their lives and personal experiences, and deals with the frustration that we are unable to find closure within these stories.
The work has been created in response to petitions, letters and personal correspondence from 1919 – 1975, found in archives around the world by Reckoning with Refugeedom researchers Professor Peter Gatrell, Katarzyna Nowak, Dr Alex Dowdall and Professor Anindita Ghoshal.
Through exploring this material, the artist and researchers have been left with many unanswered questions that they would have liked to ask the refugees directly. The fragmented nature of these stories is reflected in the installation through printed textiles embedded with transferred images from research and online materials including photographs, letters, papers, notes, newspaper cuttings and forms.
The sound work which fills the space splinters this material further creating a multi-sensory environment. The audience is invited to reflect on the experience of the researcher in the archive searching for threads to follow.
“The archives opened up my mind, and I tried to imagine I was with refugee communities from the First World War to the present day,” said artist Mei Yuk Wong. “In the end, I have to admit that all these elements are only fragments - the images and audio that visitors encounter are broken pieces. Ultimately the gaps in the facts found in the archives can only be filled in the minds and imaginations of those encountering them.”
Imagine yourself with the refugees, how would you respond? Would you ignore them because it’s too much trouble? Would you give up some of your own resources to support them? We invite you to fill in the gaps though writing your own thoughts and messages on fabric pieces and pinning them to the work.
The exhibition also reflects on events happening today - such as the ongoing turmoil in Hong Kong, the artist’s home state - that will become the archive material of tomorrow.
Fragments opens with a launch at PS Mirabel at 6pm on Thursday 26 September, and will be open on subsequent Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays until Saturday 19 October. Visit https://www.journeysfestival.com/journeysmcr2019 for more information.