Gusto Zagg's Untitled Fireworks.MOV
Gusto Zagg, a French-Sengalese artist, repurposes the celebratory symbol of fireworks in his latest art performance. Set at undisclosed coordinates on the Mediterranean sea, the performance represents distress signals as opposed to celebration. Zagg stages the struggles of immigration within his performance. The unknown time, date, and location of the event redirects from what is being portrayed in the news. The only records of the performance are shot on a cell phone. We took a moment to speak to the artist about his awesome political statement.
Did the lack of disclosing the time and location represent the larger perception of the refugee expérience ?
This is a relevant commentary because uprooting and exile are radical choices for refugees. During their journey at sea, the notions of time and space become particularly abstract. In recent years, shipwrecks of migrants have been highly located around Lampedusa, in Italy and Lesbos, in Greece. But these migrations were already noticed in the 2000s in the Canary Islands and the Strait of Gibraltar, in Spain. The operating mode is still the same today : an overcrowded and insecure boat. The dramas have been spreading for years all over the area, so it was clear to me not to share a date and precise location of the happening. The action turns away from what is in the news and looks at the Mediterranean Sea as a whole, beyond a specific spot.
Why did you chose to document the happening via phone ?
The mobile phone is an essential tool for refugees. It is used to communicate, locate or translate during the migratory journey. It was the fitting medium for recording the performance. Choosing a precarious aesthetic, close to the style of amateur videos that migrants have broadcast, the project also wanted to go beyond traditional media photographs. The happening is closely related to Land Art movement, using the Mediterranean Sea as a natural setting. I wanted the action to be completely isolated in this seascape and that its location remains unknown. Archived in low resolution, the images released are the only existing memories of the night performance. The composer Bedis Tir then wrote an original soundtrack with brutal electronic sounds for video content created for immersive exhibitions.
What type of response have you received and what was the response you wanted to get from the public?
My work focuses on the violences and the identity issues. For this happening, I wanted to present a symbolic creation on the failure of the crossing to Europe, without using the image of migrants. The challenge was to show a violent reality by refusing the aestheticization of the tragic. As an emergency marker and metaphor for the sinking, I set off a clandestine fireworks, composed only of red rockets and inspired by the distress signals launched at sea. I tried to share a free and subversive representation of the current chaos. Exhibiting a tragedy with a universal symbol of celebration: the performance could have been seen as immoral by the public. But instead, it has awaken a sensitivity and produced an other perception of the migration drama.
Photos Courtesy of Gusto Zagg
Written by: BJ Panda Bear