Leicester Cathedral is to host Arabella Dornan’s unique artwork Suspended, as well as a series of events, to highlight the experience of refugees.
This startling and internationally-acclaimed artwork will be installed and on show, free of charge between 20 June and 28 August 2018 – from Refugee Week, through the Cathedral’s ‘Conversations’ season until Leicester’s ArtReach-led Journeys Festival International.
Composed of hundreds of items of clothing discarded by refugees upon their arrival on the island of Lesbos, a ‘stilled explosion’ will be created over the Cathedral nave, inviting the viewer to contemplate the violent fragmentation experienced by the inhabitants of the garments. Suspended will be the centrepiece of a unique summer of events, which it hopes will help people grasp the experience of real refugees and promote empathy for those individuals. An interactive wall of clothing and shoes salvaged from Lesbos and Calais will also be in place with an invitation to touch and handle the clothes, and to imagine the lives of the individual men, women and children who have worn them as they risk everything to escape the violence of their homeland.
The Very Revd David Monteith, Dean of Leicester, said: “I cried when I read about Suspended. This is art that connects us with the biggest movement of displaced peoples on record. These displacements are caused mainly by war, poverty and injustice and so many of them are children. Leicester Cathedral is humbled to host Suspended as we learn what it means to be more compassionate, prayerful and hospitable.”
The artist, Arabella Dorman said: “I recently stood amidst the ruins of Aleppo having travelled to Syria to bear witness. A buried shoe, a lady’s handbag, a child’s toy in the rubble are the only traces of the men, women and children who once lived there, refugees now stuck between a past to which they can never return, and a future to which they cannot move forward.
“Suspended seeks to brings these lives to our attention and remind us of the urgent need for compassion, empathy and understanding as we reach out to our fellow human beings in plight. In doing so, it is a call to re-find the common thread that binds the mosaic of life together in celebration of our shared humanity.”
The Revd Canon Karen Rooms, Canon Missioner of Leicester Cathedral, who is managing the project, said: “Suspended vividly expresses both a sense of ‘being at sea’ and exuberance of the human spirit through clothing we might easily recognise as our own.
“In recent years the Church has played a significant role in working alongside people seeking sanctuary in our communities from persecution and violence in other parts of the world and this installation portrays something of the stories we hear. In a city with a strong heritage of welcome I hope Suspended moves us all to celebrate the richness human flow brings and do more to help people move forward.”
A full programme of events, co-ordinated by ArtReach, will include family art sessions, performances, a film screening, theatre arts and creative writing workshops, refugee-led coffee shop conversations, talks, seminars, and volunteer taster sessions. Full details will be listed on the website in the coming weeks.
Suspended, In Search of Light – An Artist’s Journey by Arabella Dorman July 4, 18:30–20:00. Tickets £12. Booking via Eventbrite here.
The Cathedral’s partners and funders – ArtReach with Arts Council England, De Montfort University, the University of Leicester, Leicester City of Sanctuary and the British Red Cross – are committed to support, promote and celebrate activity that shares refugee experience.
David Hill, Director of ArtReach, said: “ArtReach is thrilled to be working in partnership with Leicester Cathedral to help facilitate installation of the inspiring and powerful Suspended artwork by Arabella Dorman. This is a major work, raising questions and creating empathy with thousands who are forced to flee their countries of origin. We look forward to creating an associated programme of events to further contribute to our Journeys 2018 and Journeys Festival International programmes.”
Pete Hobson, Chair Leicester City of Sanctuary, said: “Leicester City of Sanctuary is delighted to be a partner with the Cathedral in bringing Suspended to our city. This installation speaks powerfully to the experiences that lie behind many of the lives of those we work with, as asylum seekers and refugees. It offers us all an insight into what it can cost to live a life suspended between a traumatic past and a hoped-for future.”