The stranger arrives with a new dress. It is a woman, wearing an assembly of emergency blankets that artist BR1 put together for her. She managed to escape the adversities of her country and she now looks relieved, even glamorous, while proudly stating “I arrived with nothing, now I have a new dress made with gold.” It is a strong message, a beacon of hope, an example of a happy ending in the midst of a roaring refugee crisis that is shaking Europe to its core. But for BR1, exploring the topics of migrants, the mediterranean culture, or Arab women and their position in today’s society, surely is nothing new, as these have been the topics of his artistic practice for over ten years. But with his latest solo exhibition, to be hosted by OPEN WALLS in Berlin during Gallery Weekend, the Italian artist will not create statements about the migration crisis; rather, he will simply put his signature portraits on display while looking for plausible solutions that will effectively help those in need and actually make a change in their lives.
The Encounters with Strangers
“In every encounter, I look for analogies between my culture and the Stranger’s one.” BR1 dedicated himself to telling the stories of people he met in Turin in Northern Italy, the city he’s been living in. Coming from the Mediterranean basin or inner Africa, they were forced to flee their homes, looking to survive and have a brighter future. In their heartbreaking stories, but still high spirits, we see the core of the human existence, the uniqueness of human experience that elicits compassion and respect, making us realise that we’re all strangers in this world that can and should lean and hold onto each other. And when we do, magical things happen. Honest things. We see them in the portraits created by BR1, of Middle East women he encountered perhaps long before the refugee crisis of today began revealing hypocrisy and discrimination among European societies. In fact, the Arab women have been taking the stage in BR1’s art ever since he graduated in Islamic art from the University of Turin, with the thesis on the veil. Through the power of public art and advertising systems, he began to explore and point out the contradictions and the paradox that happen once two cultures collide.
Beyond the Refugee Stereotypes
Through his signature urban interventions, posters, billboards and street art installations, BR1 has been drawing our attention to the socio-political issues that shape the times we live in and the problems that the contemporary society has self-created as a result of cultural exclusion. With his latest solo exhibition, the Italian artist will once again ask questions and reflect on the fact we need solutions that will have an immediate impact on the swirl of ambiguity and double standards we’ve been facing for years. At a time when people are trapped in no one’s land, unable to move and rejected by their fellow man, BR1 will address the fact that goods, on the other hand, have no trouble travelling, and travelling fast. With this in mind, he will create a sculpture for the OPEN WALLS exhibition space, made of thousands of soaps coming directly from the Syrian city of Aleppo, home of many refugees that’s been ravaged by war and is now almost completely destroyed.
BR1 Exhibition During Gallery Weekend Berlin
This new sculpture, along with the new trademark paintings on advertising paper, photographs and video works, will be on view as part of the first exhibition this season at OPEN WALLS gallery. The show will also coincide with the Gallery Weekend Berlin, the 12th edition of one of city’s most important art events that will kick off on April 29. Spread across the city, the participating galleries will contribute to the expansion of the already vibrant artistic scene of the German capital, with an impressive showcase of both emerging and established artists working in contemporary art today. The stranger arrives with a new dress will be BR1’s second solo show at OPEN WALLS gallery, and will run from April 30th to May 28th, 2016.