Nasir Khalid stands in front of an attentive crowd on the opening night of Berlin based artist, Julien Barrat’s, exhibition: Imported. There are six large-scale portraits hanging on the walls of the Spirograph Gallery, all taken of African refugees currently seeking asylum in Germany. Khalid is one of them. With all eyes upon him, he is discussing his personal experience as stateless individual in Berlin. ‘I have the papers to exist, but what is my existence,’ he says quietly. ‘I am denied any right to education and to work. So on paper I exist, but what kind of life can I have without any means to support myself.’
Khalid’s account of life as a refugee is all too familiar to the thousands of others who are currently seeking security within the EU. The majority of individuals coming to Berlin were forced to leave their lives behind when the brutal civil war in Libya broke out in 2011. Although there are various support groups throughout the city, the government has continually denied refugees the right to work and receive education.
Imported has created a space where the refugees can feel represented beyond the mess of bureaucratic paperwork, as each photograph is accompanied by the subject’s personal story. With this series, Barrat attempts to reveal the very human suffering that these 6 refugees have had to endure. The artist’s beautifully rendered film based photographs put a face to the numbers and headlines that are so often used to describe the refugee ‘crisis’ taking place in Europe.
Julien Barrat’s work continually begs the question: when we look into the eyes of a fellow human being, how can we deny them basic human rights? And in the case of Berlin’s growing refugee population, what are the essential steps we need to take in order help others when they need it most.
‘Imported’ will be open to the public every day from 3 to 10pm, except Sundays.
The final day of the exhibition will be November 6th. Spirograph Gallery is located on Revalerstr. 99 – Tor 4 | 10245 Berlin