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‘The New EU Flag’: art installation at UCL

9 June 2016

A striking gold flag made from foil blankets used by refugees has been raised on the flagpole above the UCL portico. The piece is by UCL Slade School of Fine Art student Mariana Bisti. 

The new EU Flag Mariana Bisti

The art installation is part of the school’s 2016 MA/MFA/PhD Degree Show, which is open to the public between 9-10 June and 13-17 June from 10am-8pm, and 11-12 June and 18-19 June from 10am to 5pm.

‘The New EU Flag’

Explaining the thought process behind the project, Mariana said:

“The flag is made of four used foil blankets, collected from Lesvos Island (Greece), where they were utilised by volunteers and rescue teams to drape the refugees who reach the shores. The blankets prevent hypothermia and offer relief from the cold to refugees whose clothes are often soaking wet after a perilous sea journey. On a symbolic level, the blankets become the rescuers’ open arms and hugs.

“Creating and raising the refugee flag is an attempt to substantiate and elevate the refugees to the status of their most deprived attribute: that of a citizen. A flag is a potent patriotic symbol, and this particular one can function as a means for the re-appropriation of the refugees’ lost citizenship and the celebration of their identity as citizens of a new nation in its own right – a nation on the run to freedom. The raising is an attempt to create and disseminate a powerful social and humanitarian message marked by solidarity.

‘The New EU Flag’ is part of a multifaceted project. Whilst the flag was raised on the UCL flagpole, a string quartet and a singer performed Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’, the anthem of the European Union. 

The event was live streamed on UCL's official Facebook account and can be viewed here

Mariana explains that: “the performance is a comment to EU’s reluctant attitude towards the refugees. The European Union was formed to share democratic, humanitarian and liberal values. But today, several EU states have closed their borders to thousands of refugees and, as Syria’s humanitarian crisis is spinning out of control, more borders are likely to close.

“Europe is undermining its moral values by turning its back on hundreds of thousands of people who are in despair. At the same time, nationalism and fascism are rising across Europe. In this regard, the making of the ‘New EU flag’, as the flag of its new found refugee nation, alerts us against the demise of the European Dream, the need to reinstate its founding principles and by using a ‘nationalist’ connotation, reminds us to unite against the rise of extremism.”

The installation will remain raised half-mast on the UCL flagpole until the Degree Show closes on 19 June.

Images

  • Above: The New EU Flag: 4 used foil blankets, collected from Lesvos, Greece, clear and duct tape. 400 x 240cm (Credit: Mariana Bisti, 2016)
  • Visible in video: Razzle Dazzle: 8 PVC banners of re-redacted CIA documents from the FOIA archives hidden by dazzle camouflage. 4.5 x 1.5 m each (Credit: Emily Lazerwitz, 2016)

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