On 10th March, the P21 Gallery hosted the Opening Night of Samar Maqusi‘s remarkable spatial installation, Space of Refuge. Samar is a PhD student at the Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL), whose research in Lebanon and Jordan investigates the spatial production and evolution of Palestinian refugee camps since the 1940s.
The installation implements a series of spatial interventions and superimpositions to examine how diverse policies in different host countries affect the architecture of the Palestinian refugee camps, turning them into intensive forms of socio-political co-existence.
Through a variety of multimedia fora – including video projections and soundscapes – and by physically ‘reconstructing’ part of the alleyways of Burj al-Barajneh refugee camp in the P21 Gallery (to scale), visitors are challenged to navigate the evolution of scale and space in such protracted spaces of ‘refuge’.
The historical development of Baqa’a camp in Jordan and Burj al-Barajneh camp in Lebanon – including processes of extending thresholds and growing vertically to accommodate the camps’ increasing population within the same total land area – is illustrated through spatial mapping and photographs, and through videos and audio recordings of the residents of Burj al-Barajneh camp.
In addition to congratulating Samar for the Opening of her Installation, Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh thanked the funders of the event (the UCL Grand Challenges and UCL’s Institute of Advanced Studies) on behalf of the convenors of the Installation and related Symposium (Prof. Murray Fraser of UCL-Bartlett School of Architecture, Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh of UCL-Geography, UCL’s Refuge in a Moving World & RefugeeHosts; and Samar Maqusi herself).
Samar Maqusi then explained the concepts underpinning the installation, outlining the creative means through which the inhabitants of these and other camps have made the camps their ‘own’ in spite of having no right to ‘own’ the land upon which their houses are built. Samar also introduced the actor, Ahmed Tobasi, a Palestinian refugee from Jenin camp who recounted the destruction and reconstruction of his home-camp, and his decision to help establish Jenin’s Freedom Theatre, illustrating another form of creative intervention in contexts of conflict and displacement.
The installation remains open (and free of charge) to all visitors until Wednesday 15th March 2017, when a one-day Symposium on the topic of ‘Space Refuge’ will take place from 10am – 5pm. The Symposium will gather scholars from UCL and beyond working on refugee studies, to situate the issue of Palestinian refugees as a precursor of urgent matters of ‘refuge’ on a wider scale around the world.
Installation opening times
Exhibition dates: 10 – 15 March 2017
Opening times: Saturday 12–4pm, Tuesday – Friday 12–6pm, and Wednesday until 8pm
Free Admission and All Welcome
The Installation and Symposium are kindly supported by UCL’s Grand Challenges, the UCL-Institute of Advanced Studies, and UCL’s Refuge in a Moving World.
(Words and photos by E. Fiddian-Qasmiyeh unless otherwise stated; video by A. Greatrick)