When Art Imitates Work: Amnesty International Visits The Warmth of Other Suns

Since opening day, The Warmth of Other Suns: Stories of Global Displacement has been resonating with visitors from all walks of life. We have welcomed many groups that work with immigrants and refugees, including Amnesty International USA’s Advocacy and Government Affairs team. Because their global priorities are grounded in protecting refugees, asylum seekers, and displaced persons, their recent guided tour shed a unique light on the work they do every day.

Grassroots Advocacy & Refugee Specialist Ryan Mace shared the significance of the group’s visit with Phillips DEAI intern Gia Harewood:

GH: What specific ties did you see to the work that you all do?
RM: It was impactful to see how the Phillips has so poignantly presented the humanity of people on the move across so many mediums. Just before World Refugee Day this year we issued a report titled “The Mountain is in Front of Us and the Sea is Behind Us,” detailing the human impact of US policies on refugees in Lebanon and Jordan.

Walking through the exhibition, it wasn’t hard to see the intersections with that report—human beings are always on the move, sometimes by choice, sometimes by force, or because there are no other choices left. No matter the reason, they all have unique stories that should be told.

GH: Was there anything that particularly resonated with you?
RM: The painting of refugees on the Island of Lesbos [by Liu Xiaodong] was beautiful, particularly as we’ve covered that extensively. Additionally, the piece [by Siah Armajani] that had models of the various rooms that migrants are forced to wait or live in was likely the one that resonated most with me. We’ve been looking at the increased use of detention of migrants for a number of years.

LIU XIAODONG b. 1963, Liaoning Province, China; lives in Beijing, China Refugees 4, 2015 Oil on canvas Courtesy of the artist and Massimo De Carlo, Milan, London, Hong Kong

Liu Xiaodong, Refugees 4, 2015, Oil on canvas, Courtesy of the artist and Massimo De Carlo, Milan, London, Hong Kong

Recently we published a report titled “No Home For Children” detailing the Homestead “Temporary Emergency” Facility which houses unaccompanied children. While there, we saw the rooms where children are held, and when I saw this particular artwork my mind was immediately brought back to Homestead, thinking how these are the rooms that welcome children to America. Is this the vision of welcome we want to give them?

SIAH ARMAJANI b. 1939, Tehran, Iran; lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA Seven Rooms of Hospitality, 2017 3-D printed models Courtesy of the artist and Rossi & Rossi

Installation view of The Warmth of Other Suns, on the left is Siah Armajani, Seven Rooms of Hospitality, 2017, 3-D printed models, Courtesy of the artist and Rossi & Rossi. Photo: Lee Stalsworth

Photos of artwork by Siah Armajani clockwise from top left: Room for Detainees, 2017; Room for Deportees, 2017; Room for Displaced, 2017; Room for Asylum Seekers, 2017

Clockwise from top left: Room for Detainees, 2017; Room for Deportees, 2017; Room for Displaced, 2017; Room for Asylum Seekers, 2017

GH: What do you want the public to know about Amnesty International?
RM: Amnesty International is a global movement of more than seven million people—including over two million members and supporters here in the USA—who campaign for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all. Our vision is for every person to enjoy all the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.

We campaign to make sure governments honor their shared responsibility to protect the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants. Therefore, we condemn any policies or practices that undermine the rights of people on the move.

To learn more about Amnesty International’s work, visit https://www.amnesty.org/en/

-Gia Harewood, DEAI Intern

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