Migrant Narratives Exhibition


Year |  2016
Location | Yorkshire Sculpture park, West Bretton
Client | Nishat Awan
Funding | Independent Social Research Foundation,ESRC Festival of Social Science, Yorkshire Sculpture Park

For six intensive weeks, the Migrant Narrative of Citizenship (MN) team worked with the team at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) and artist and academic Nishat Awan to produce an immersive installation in the Bothy Gallery at YSP. The exhibition  traces the borders of Europe along the Black Sea, documenting areas of the current refugee crisis. Narrating stories of these migrant journeys and the illicit crossing of borders, this project visualises the continent from the perspective of those who inhabit its edges and those who are in transit.

Our role was to transform the initial idea of the exhibition into  a detail design and to construct the installation. There were three main concerns that needed to deal with. The artist proposed fabric to be used to trace the borders of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea in the gallery. Through working with one-to-one models we tested different types of fabric and hanging techniques. This process was very important, as not only did the fabric have to hang precisely in order to give the correct shape of the borders, but it was also to be used to project films We also laser cut the shapes of the sea in plywood and painted it to represent the sea floor. One of our challenges was to create the type of look and finish required on a very tight budget.  Finally, we decided to paint the floor and walls of the area enclosed by the curtains (the sea) in black. This not only allowed the projection to be seen clearly but also created a stark contrast between the white gallery space and the sea where many people have lost their lives while attempting to get to Europe.

We were also involved in the publicity for the exhibition and we prepared leaflets and flyers in consultation with YSP and helped to promote the exhibition through social media.  In cooperation with the YSP team, we were able to face the challenges of installation on site and we learned first-hand some of the difficulties involved in translating what seemed like a simple design into a robust installation that would last a month.

Migrant Narrative Exhibition was finally opened to public on 31st October and lasts until 27th November. An impressive feedback came from visitors and we hope that the exhibition will provide them with a renewed understanding of  the refugee crisis. Although beyond the timescale of the Live Project, we will return to YSP in the next few weeks for a community event that will introduce the gallery to refugees, asylum seekers and those who work with them. We are looking forward to their feedback.

We would like to thank Damon Waldock and the whole team at YSP for their help and support in installing the exhibition.


  • Credits.

    School of Architecture.
    Yusuf Abushama
    Yingyi Yang
    Tong Dong
    Tong Wu
    Ningyi Chen
    Ziewi Liu
    Xiaofan Wang
    Shaoshuai Zheng
    Pooya Hosseini
    Xinfei Zhao
    Run Wang
  • Coordination.
    Damon Waldock