(Un)common Ground: An Installation by Vivianne Perelmuter

“(Un)common Ground” offers another take on reality. Like everyone, I saw images on television, I read articles. Suddenly, I had to go there, see it with my own eyes. I left for Greece. How would I communicate this ordeal? How to give back more weight to the witness’s word? Make feel the difference between the here and now of a presence, between information and testimony? The answer can only be acquired in person. For the first time, the idea of an installation presents itself to me. To see implies a journey. To see implies a presence. To see implies a choice – the duration introducing the possibility of staying or leaving. To see realization. -Vivianne Perelmuter, 2016

This fall, the Modern Languages and Literatures “village” transformed into a multimedia art installation. Open through November 4, “(Un)common Ground” is artist Vivianne Perelmuter’s take on the refugee crisis in Greece and consists of three distinct spaces:

First space: a shipyard in Greece where tourists’ ships cross path with those of refugees, with you if you chose to “walk in the water”; hypnotic sound, mermaids calling?

Second space: a tryptic staging daily life at a refugee camp in Athens in a disaffected airport at the center; children play, women and men pass by, sunset to sunrise. The camp is framed, on the left, by Shahin, a young Iranian refugee who lives in this camp, conversing via FaceTime with his young mother still in Iran, on the right. Although Shahin and his mother text each other every day, they avoid video calls, and it is the first time in six months that they see each other; their conversation seems casual yet deeply emotional and emotive.

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Third space: a small vintage black and white picture of a Greek temple with refugee tents in the forefront, and a caption: “Hephaesteion Temple, Athens. In 1922, Turkey evicted orthodox Greeks who had been in Anatolia for decades. More than a million and a half refugees were forced to return to Greece.” Perelmuter does not offer a specific interpretation; instead we are invited to take away what we want: sounds, images and much more. She shows us this (un)common place from the common place of our senses. Truly mesmerizing…

“(Un)common Ground” is co-sponsored by the European Studies and the Modern Greek Studies programs, the department of Modern Languages and Literatures, the Bellarmine Forum (Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts), and the Academy of Catholic Thought and Imagination.

Véronique Flambard-Weisbart