The magazine, on the one hand, is a platform for the sharing of knowledge and the building of solidarity: while also connecting with other non-central geopolitical regions of the world, it initiates dialogues mainly among the art and cultural scenes of the region described as Eastern Europe. It endeavors to discuss how this region with a common but locally varied communist past confronts the influence of both global and local socio-political turbulences. On the other hand, Mezosfera also endeavors to mediate these local and regional discourses to a broader, international audience.
The first thematic issue of Mezosfera contributes to the on-going societal debates around migration and migration politics in Europe, introducing and examining related work by artists, activists, and thinkers from diverse cultural and geographical contexts. It addresses overarching key issues, from the crisis of citizenship and the challenges of a post-identity politics to the unequal access to rights and privileges that pervades all phases of the migration experience from the freedom of movement to the right to work.
Nationality is the quality that infuses to a person the fact of belonging to a national community that is organized as a state. The project emerges from my dis-identification with the structure of the nation-state, as well as from my refusal of the construction of the self in relation to national identity, since I consider it fictional and imposed. (Núria Güell on her work “Stateless by Choice. On the Prison of the Possible”)
In 2014 Bogdan Droma worked on the construction of the famous Mall of Berlin. As a result of weeks of work going unpaid, as well as of various forms of abusive treatment, he protested together with other workers on an almost daily basis, turning the popular designation of the mall into the “Mall of Shame”. The case of the Mall of Berlin workers is not an isolated one, therefore we wanted, together with Bogdan, to start a conversation regarding non-declared or off the books work as performed by immigrants in the West. This interview was first published in Gazeta de Artă Politică #12—“In the name of the periphery: decolonial theory and intervention in the Romanian context” in Bucharest and is re-published here with an introduction by Ovidiu Pop, co-editor of G.A.P. #12.
“Russia, The Land of Opportunity” board game is a means of talking about the possible ways that the destinies of those millions of immigrants play out who come annually to the Russian Federation from the former Soviet Central Asian republics to earn money (…). The characters, situations, and monetary amounts (fines, payments, bribes, etc.) are not fictional. Any resemblance to actual events is not coincidental. Each year, thousands of people are victimized by the system outlined here. (The artist Olga Zhitlina on her collaboration with human rights advocate Andrei Yakimov)
The “Refugees’ Library” is an archive of court sketches on the topics of asylum and migration. The artist Marina Naprushkina documents the trials of refugees through illustrations and dialogues between the different actors of the trial: the plaintiff (the refugee), the lawyer, and the judge. The library’s intention is two-fold: on the one hand, it aims to spark debate about German and European asylum and migration policy by making available to a larger public the cases of refugees coming from diverse geographical, political, and social contexts. On the other hand, the project aims to provide the refugees with the information resources in order to prepare for their own cases.
Fluchthilfe & Du / Border Crossing & You addresses the critique of the EU border regime and its migration policies. Formally it echoes PR campaigns by Caritas, an organization that collects donations with an appeal to charity, while distancing itself from those it denounces as human smugglers: people whose assistance to refugees made it possible for them to come to Austria and to apply for asylum in the first place. Fluchthilfe & Du / Border Crossing & You envisions escape aid as a paid service and publicly solicits support for refugees' struggle for freedom of movement.
The Bavarian Refugee Council organized an International Conference on Human Smuggling and Trafficking. The participants disagree with the established image of human smugglers as criminals. According to them, smugglers also carry on the tradition of escape aid at the times of the Third Reich.
During the International Conference on Human Smuggling and Trafficking (ISS 2015) in München, over 800 people were imprisoned in pre-trial custody in Bavaria on charges of human smuggling. Meanwhile in Austria, every 5th person in pre-trial custody was accused of human smuggling. With these terrifying numbers and realities in mind, it is not only necessary to explicitly demand the abolishment of the paragraphs on human smuggling, but also to take a closer look at these trials and follow them. Katarzyna Winiecka critically revisits the ISS conference and analyzes the structural racism and class issues that pervade trials on human smuggling and criminalize solidarity with people on the move.
Vienna International Airport: a hub for people yearning to see distant places and globalized business relationships. But many people get onto a plane, because they are forced to—they are being deported. “I Ain't getting on No Plane! How to Stop a Deportation” shows ‘safety instructions’ for those who would like to prevent a deportation and take action showing solidarity: ‘Don't fasten your seatbelt,’ ‘Stand up and refuse to sit down,’ ‘Talk to the captain’ are some of the recommendations. (Protest Productions Collective)
The scenes shown in the film are a reconstruction of a forced “Level 4” deportation carried out by the Swiss authorities. By conducting numerous interviews with people who have been personally involved in the deportation procedure, and by analyzing the training material used by the Swiss police, it was possible to obtain a clear picture of the procedure. By publicizing this film, augenauf highlights the procedures that Switzerland is implementing behind closed doors.
What will 2016 bring: fences or open borders? On January 8, 2016, tranzit.hu organized a talk and a workshop with the title “I Have A Scream,” as part of the two-day finissage of Babi Badalov’s exhibition “Poetical Activism.” Curator and moderator Katalin Erdődi invited human rights experts, activists, and humanitarian NGOs to participate in a discussion about what the new year will bring in Hungarian migration and asylum politics. This exchange not only served as a starting point for the thematic issue “A Weird Geography,” but also marked a period in which the borders were still partially open (although only for Syrian, Iraqi, and Afghani citizens) and measures to be taken by European policy-makers were still open to debate.
Artur Żmijewski led a three-day workshop in Budapest, during which he sought to find an issue together with the participants to which all of them could relate. The group worked together on searching various ways to connect with the issue, and gathered possible solutions to solve/articulate the phenomenon. The last day of the workshop saw the realization of three team works. The following interview with Artur Żmijewski was conducted by one of the workshop participants, artist Lilla Szász.
I conducted this interview with Maja and Reuben Fowkes on the occasion of the recent publication of two of their books. River Ecologies and The Green Bloc: Neo-avant-garde Art and Ecology under Socialism show how environmental discourse, albeit an essentially global one, has important regional dimensions and specific local histories.
The Csakoda collective was founded in 2011 by artists Dominika Trapp and Márton Dés, after they were invited to realize an exhibition in a cultural center in rural Hungary. It was here that they came up with the idea of forming a dynamic group with a changing number of participants, who would primarily exhibit in cultural centers, further away from the elite art scene, but more in touch with local audiences. I interviewed Dominika Trapp about shifts in their praxis since 2011 and their most recent project in the framework of the art festival Nocturnal Interchange at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Dunaújváros.
In 2014 Andrea went to Budapest Pride again. Dressed in a priest’s cassock, he blew bubbles and blessed the crowd from atop the float named as the “International Gay Lobby.” A piece of cardboard dangled in front of him—outlined with the shape of Greater Hungary, patterned with the red-and-white bars of the House of Árpád, and in the center of which a large cock was splashed that easily could be decoded as a biker. The result: two months of rabid harassment (online, at work, at home, etc.) and a civil lawsuit against him that eventually was dismissed.
Alexandra Pirici and Manuel Pelmus were invited by tranzit.hu to realize a process-based action as part of the first OFF-Biennale Budapest that took place on April 25-26, 2015. In the following interview, I asked the Bucharest-based artists about enactment as a strategy, the relations of immaterial works and museums, and the sustainability of an “off-scene.”
The “System of National Cooperation,” as the government of Viktor Orbán named itself in 2010, has polarized every segment of society, not excluding the sub-system of contemporary culture and art. As the most effective means to serve this end, the Hungarian Academy of Art (HAA) has not only divided the community of artists and cultural workers owing to the circumstances of its founding and continuous institutional existence, but each of its programs, open calls, or invitations also imply yet another provocative pressure to make a statement: are you with or against us?