Out of Place

Learning Lab: Out of Place

Image: ‘Spaces of Refuge’ Febrik, 2014

Launch of multidisciplinary action-research programme and cross-sector collaboration between Counterpoints Arts’ Learning Lab, Royal Holloway University of London, and FilmAid in association with Shoreditch Trust.

Counterpoints Arts’ Learning Lab runs in partnership with the British Council

Date: 23 January 2015

Venue: Shoreditch Trust, Units 1–2 Waterhouse, 8 Orsman Road, London N1 5QJ

10:00 am – 8:00 pm (with lunch provided and evening reception)

The specific aim of the Out of Place  is to explore the role that arts, culture and new technologies play for communities in the midst of global humanitarian crises and human displacement and re-settlement.  Out of Place embraces the potential of bringing like-minded global projects into a productive dialogue in order to make sense of diverse yet complimentary practices and to establish collaborative alliances.

Learning Lab brought together a mix of participants working as change-makers with and alongside refugee individuals and groups living in precarious global communities of place. People and projects working within the creative arts and culture, development and NGO agencies, academics, cross-sector practitioners, activists and technology innovators.

Out of Place is used as both historical homage to the late Edward Said’s memoir of 1999 evoking personal legacies of displacement and exile, together with acknowledging rich, creative legacies and ordinary practices of place-making.

Initial call:

The number of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people now exceeds 50 million people. ‘We are witnessing’, says Antonio Guterres, head of the UN’s refugee agency, ‘a quantum leap in forced displacement in the world’. Journalist, Harriet Sherwood, imagines this geographically: ‘if displaced people had their own country it would be the 24th most populous in the world’.

Filmmakers, visual artists, theatre practitioners, architects, writers, performers and musicians are producing powerful and provocative work on the lived realities of refugee communities in camps and urban settlements.

  • What is the place of culture and the arts in the refugee experience when identities and basic human needs are stripped away?

Bring your knowledge, stories and experience to help us reflect on the role of culture and the arts in refugee camps and urban settlements.

During the course of the day, we explored the role of the creative arts and culture as a catalyst for change within the everyday infrastructures of refugee groups, as well as far flung refugees in outlying communities and urban settlements in global host countries.

We discussed imaginative and practical ways of bridging silos and sector languages, unpacking techniques, outlining priorities, and communicating and sharing hard-won experiences gained on the ground. With presentations from a range of practitioners across film, photography, social media, visual arts, design and architecture and cross-platform production: Reem Charif, ‘Edge of Play and Refuge’ – Febrik; Benjamin Dix, Positive Negatives; Mary Mitchell, ‘The Humans of Al Rashidiya’; Georgina Paget, ‘The Trojan Women’s Project’, Andrej Mahecic, Tracks Project, UNHCR, among others.

Learning Lab questions:

  • In what ways can the creative arts and the power of everyday storytelling constitute a restorative role in the re-building of recently formed communities of place, specifically refugees?
  • How are stories and experiences on the ground mediated first hand through literature, film, photography, theatre, music and the visual arts? Who is listening and engaging locally and globally?
  • What do arts and culture do that humanitarian support and infrastructures cannot? How do arts and culture work with and alongside humanitarian practices and agencies to develop educational opportunities for potentially lost generations of children and youth, particularly young women and girls?
  • How is it possible to re-think ‘first response’, reckoning with a diversity of cultures in the design and messaging of humanitarian aid?