EMERGENCY ROOM PARIS - 2008 - Galerie Taïss
EMERGENCY: GENOCIDE IN DARFUR
The Emergency Room exhibition in Paris was my debut within the art format. My emergency was clear. The invitation to participate came right after I had stopped my Simple Living campaign after massive pressure from Louis Vuitton. Following the Simple Living campaign I had launched a new campaign: Simple Living 2. The goal was the same: to raise awareness about the ongoing genocide in Darfur, which was being largely ignored by the international community.
As I tried to contact some of the same reporters who covered my legal dispute with Louis Vuitton, and asked them to share my new campaign with their readers/viewers, they all responded the same: "We can not write about it, without Louis Vuitton there is no good story."
So the genocide was not "a good story". I found this very frustrating and decided to make a work about it for the emergency room.
In the western world our collective identity is based so much on logos and brands and how much we can resemble celebrities from show business.
We are raised by advertising and it is a language we are taught to respond to.
Therefore, I decided to make a work which would link Darfur to a commercial phenomenon and imitate the popular trends of the west.
The result was a large sculpture of a handbag which was transported to the gallery. Then I invited Darfurian refugees, living in France, to come to the gallery and paint the bag with me. We would try to brand the bag with Darfur and make it fashionable and thereby "a good story".
Several women showed up, and other Emergency artists joined in while we wore Paris Hilton masks and painted the bag.
Because of this event, many reporters showed up, and this way Darfur got media coverage again.
During the event, the Darfurian women asked me if they could write on the bag and share their experiences in Darfur, and of course I agreed to this The bag was their canvas. After we finished painting, they had a chance to tell their personal stories to the reporters.
One of the women told me: "I lost my entire family and experienced the most horrific things. This is the first time I had a chance to talk about it and share it with the community."
I explain about the work.
Members of the French organization Urgence Darfour nad a Darfurian woman.
Everyone painting the bag were wearing Paris Hilton masks.
The bag is branded "Darfur".
A large number of reporters and visitors showed up at the event.
The owner of the gallery also painted with us.
Artists and audience.
The finished bag.
GALLERY FROM THE EMERGENCY ROOM IN PARIS