The cast of the interactive international performance staged by a famous Saint Petersburg artist Olga Zhitlina is quite special. The project’s participants are refugees – activists of Lampedusa in Hamburg group.
The audience will hear on the stage excerpts from Andrey Platonov’s Jan, speaking of wanderings of a whole nation, as well as poems of Joseph Brodsky, Osip Mandelstam and many other poets. The plot is an imaginary group interview of a number of people seeking refugee status at a German registry office. The project has already been shown in Dresden, Venice and Tampere.
Olga Zhitlina, the Arts Academy alumna, has received in Vienna a grant from Henkel Foundation supporting contemporary arts projects. Olga explores in her work the theme of labour migration and creates social arts projects, such as The Agency of Utopic News. In collaboration with Memorial anti-discrimination centre she developed a board game Russia – the Country of Opportunities, offering its participants a chance to go through the quest a typical labour migrant would go through, including having to choose whether to use real or fake work permit.
“How can one tell the story of each of the participants, the story of those who crossed the Sahara desert or the Mediterranean Sea, witnessed their companions’ deaths, who didn’t know whether they themselves would survive, and at the same time share with the audience the experience of collective political subjectivisation and organization crisis? European headlines are full of heartbreaking first person and third person narratives of hardships and roaming. Yet how “translatable” the experience of mortal danger and trauma really is for those who come from a relatively affluent and safe background remains very much open.<...> I offered to the projects’ participants as a base of their narrative Platonov’s story Jan. As it turned out, many of Platonov’s stories of a lost nation trying hard to find their way through Turkmen desert could easily be illustrated with some snapshots from the refugees’ own mobile phones”.
Olga Zhitlina at Colta.ru