Crisis as appearance

Some journalist are claiming that the 2015 European refugee crisis is one of the most photographed crisis in human history. Yet, it is important to understand what kind of messages these representations convey and how they reproduce the hegemonic narrative of this crisis. When one attempts a google search using the term ‘refugee crisis’ the first image that comes up is this one from Massimo Setsini. An image shot from above picturing a boat packed with human bodies in the midst of the sea. One of the main hegemonic claims of the 2015 refugee crisis is that it began with the appearance of certain bodies on the shores of Europe. This is a very problematic notion, not only because it basically equates the presence of these bodies as the starting point of the crisis and, therefore, directly implying that these human bodies are the ‘problem’. But mainly because it forecloses, and thus keeps hidden and invisible the reasons of this appearance: war, genocide, and unbearable oppression these bodies experience in their countries of origin. Conditions that, for example, could be related to the US, the UK, and France invading and bombing Syria. In other words, the starting point of the 2015 European refugee crisis should be traced and portrayed differently, exposing the reasons of the appearance of certain bodies of the shores of Lesvos. But, this would be a story not so genteel for the European values that are supposedly threatened so much by the presence of these bodies. A story that would have to narrate Europe’s colonial histories, a story that would not easily result in the construction of ‘us’ versus ‘them’. The appearance of whose body and where can be seen as the beginning of a crisis? Which crises are declared and why and which remain undeclared, invisible, hidden and thus not recognised as humanitarian disasters that lead to international protection? The disappearance of whose bodies constitutes a crisis? 

Looking at Setsini’s image I cannot stop thinking that the viewer is looking down to a boat packed with people, the gaze comes from above. This is the state’s gaze, using drones and other technologies of surveillance to generate visual testimonies of the others, always the others. This is a gaze that places the viewer outside of this boat, what would be like to have an image shot from inside this boat, at this same moment as a visual example of Europe’s refugee crisis? 

I can’t help but remembering Susan Sontag’s claim that the function of the camera is similar to that of a gun, we ‘aim’ and we ‘shoot’ an image. ‘Just as the camera is a sublimination of a gun, to photograph someone is a subliminated murder – a soft murder, appropriate to a sad, frightened time’ (1979: 15).

Myrto Tsilimpounidi
December 2019


An image shot from above picturing a boat packed with human bodies in the midst of the sea.
Photo by Massimo Setsini, 2014

Everyday Life

Trash Life

how is the feeling to be treated as if you were a trash?

even worse -how is the feeling to live surrounded by trashes?

The living conditions inside and outside the hot spot of Moria have always been inhuman but during winter 2019-2020 they have become outrageous; piles of rubbish are dominating the scenery of thousands of people living, working and volunteering inside and outside the hotspot as well as the surrounding region covered by villages, fields, roads etc.. This accumulated waste is undoubtedly  influencing the everyday life of people; posing a threat to the health and safety of populations as well as ecosystem. 

Based on a relevant article in a local newspaper[1], during the last days of January 2020, the rubbish created multiplied risks; they were accumulated on the main streets outside the hotspot posing obstacles to access; even of ambulances and fire trucks; leaving out heavy rains and winds that were worsening the effects. As explained by the article’s writer, the situation is due to the fact that the newly contracted company for the collection of dump isn’t fulfilling its tasks. Meanwhile, the efforts to improve the situation made by he municipality and the state are poor. The ones to  dedicate to reducing the hazards associated with the over-spilling rubbish, were volunteers with the support from the local community. 

Their emergency relief operation contributed to the clearance of the emergency access roads aiming at the improvement of overall well-being and living conditions. As a continuation to this, they kept on conducting waste cleaning operations on a weekly basis.[2]

Naya Tselepi
February 2020

[1] Άρθρο, Στο Νησι, ‘Να παρέμβει η Εισαγγελία για τα σκουπίδια της Μόριας!”, 29.1.2020

[2] in moria&epa=SEARCH_BOX

Photos by Knut Bry, 27.1.2020