This week marks a year since Art Refuge UK and Médecins du Monde France (MdM) - instigated by the brilliant Naomi Press - sat down together and agreed that a partnership to establish psycho-social support for the residents of the large camp in Calais who found themselves there was much needed.
We have found ourselves very much moving with the tides and shifting landscapes of the camp, starting in a small sinking tent in the formally run MdM and Médecins Sans Frontières clinic, moving to what is now the state run hospital and clinic at the far Northside of the camp, the Hummingbird Project- Calais and Dunkirk - Aid and Solidarity 'safe space' nestled in next to the large church and services such as Jungle Books, to new psycho-social spaces. Always responding to physical, social, psychological changes and needs, but very much standing our ground and letting residents know that this is what we intend to continue to do; returning each week; offering consistency. This is proving to have really paid off. We work with many new people each week but also individuals who have been with us for a considerable amount of time, and who are feeling worn and despairing of this time, which painfully reminds them of changing seasons around, changing / aging characteristics and character, whilst they feel physically stuck, some would say paralyzed.
Each week we continue to think together as a team about ways we can remain 'unstuck' in this context - working in solidarity with residents and other services to acknowledge these strong external pressures that often none of us have control over, but whilst hoping to find some fluidity, strength and survival in the internal resources that we can lay claim to own, occupy and utilize. To me, our weekly updates are one of the elements of the work that I feel supports this on different levels. We continuously reflect on the work with the individuals that we work with, and we share our and their perspectives on what feels to be the essence of that week via the Art Refuge UK Facebook page and website blog. Whilst remaining a-political as an organisation, the very being of the 'portable studio' practice is underpinned by a social action perspective. Working in collaboration with individuals who have experienced political conflict and social upheaval - who have been persecuted for who they are and what they believe in - makes an online playing field even more valuable.
An ‘online resource’ - the world wide web – often feels an ‘in between’ space; not internal, not external, but a bridging 'potential space'. As we might see a piece of paper, an art material or art object, which allows the internal, the personal, to feel fluid; be externalised; freed; shared. It is a space outside of self which could be considered to be self-managed (or at least it can be in the UK where we are lucky enough not to be monitored and where space can be reclaimed and voices can be heard).
The partnership of our bringing the work back, to supposed safety, to freedom, to be posted online - on an international platform, to a multi-national community- feels more and more substantial and symbolic to me. Of course this online space / resource/ internationally shared place (reinforced with my first troll caller also marking this week!) is a vast subject area and it's vast space can feel uncontrollable, exposing, falsely perceived as fairly owned by all, and we do continue to hold this in mind, trying to find balance on this fine line.
Last week's update can be found in full below. Follow the links to the full ‘collection’ across the year/ 365 days/ 8,760 hours, which are starting to feel like a small but solid way of making sure we can make sure that the lives of so many inspiring individuals we have worked with in the camp and the life of the camp itself is shared - honestly and without sheltering others from the truths, highlighting the stomach wrenching realities. For the people that we work with and due to the others who continue to struggle to make humane decisions and actions in order to support human rights, freedom of movement and speech.
Please continue to follow the work and support. We are so grateful of the support that has been given in all different shapes and forms, thank you!