Contemporary art on the current refugee crisis: the problematic of aesthetics versus ethics
AuthorArda Güney, Talat Balca
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This article focuses on contemporary artworks outlining the current refugee flow from the Middle East to the West namely to European countries together with the US and Canada. Drawing primarily on Jacques Ranciere's conceptualization of ethical art versus aesthetics I explore how various journeys of refugees in its many forms have been represented in the contemporary art scene. My aim is to concretize the theoretical debate surrounding the 'political' engagement of critical art on the issue of refugee representation through various prominent artworks and art practices starting with the well-known image of Alan Kurdi's and Ai Weiwei's replication of this image in his artwork. I will analyse when and in which configurations aesthetics and ethics can be found in contemporary art on the issue of the 'refugee crisis'. I argue that art on refugees can be grouped into two primary categories that I define as 'human condition assessment' and 'agency empowerment'. As such I demonstrate in practice how contemporary art on the current refugee crisis both employs and moves beyond the ethical subject matters by challenging abject victimhood as well as the ideal of egalitarian art for the underrepresented and thus assumingly voiceless depoliticized refugees.