Aikaterini Gegisian
Little Refugee, 2017
125 found figurines, porcelain, clay, plaster, resin
Courtesy of the artist
The work Little Refugee constantly activates the dialectic of the universal and personal or individual. On the one hand, the small figures depicting children, arranged by the Greek artist Aikaterini Gegisian in a quaint procession, are a symbol of bourgeois well-being and a comfortably ordered domestic life. On the other hand, having been collected in flea markets all over the world and purchased over the Internet, these sculptures clearly lost their original symbolic meaning long ago, and rather represent the idea of a lost home, the loss of a rootedness that gives people the luxury of surrounding themselves with non-functional objects. They are fragments of human lives whose circumstances are unknown both to the viewer and to the artist herself.

The title of the work refers to the 1st century BC marble sculpture of a boy with a dog, kept in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. This small sculpture was brought to Athens by refugees during the Second Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922). And the museum artefact has in fact shared a similar fate with the sculptures that make up Gegisian's work, with only its immense and universal cultural value saving it from oblivion.

Grouped by the artist into "families", the figures merge together into a single procession, united by the common fate of objects that have lost their symbolic value (which they, unlike the museum exhibit, only had for their owners). However, upon closer examination, each of them reveals the geographical and cultural peculiarities of its place of origin.

Another semantic layer laid down by the artist in this work is connected with the general thrust of her artistic strategy. In her practice, Gegisian seeks out alternative ways of presenting images and events that have received broad coverage in the mass media. Created in 2017, in the midst of the European migrant crisis, this installation not only addresses the history of forced migration, but also current news headlines and shocking images, suggesting a gentler and more intimate tone for their reflection and discussion.

Anna Zhurba
artistic director of the project: Viktor Misiano
National Center for Contemporary Arts
Moscow Museum of Modern Art
Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center
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