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Film and Multimedia

Memory and Revolution
17th January 2017
stephanie gervais

By Stephanie Gervais.

I am an artist with a proposal for an exhibition during Refugee Week 2017 in association with the Manchester-based Syrian advocacy organization Rethink Rebuild Society.

Below I outline the projects and the different exhibition format they could take. I am looking for an appropriate space to exhibit this work in whole or in part, depending on the agenda and concept for Refugee Week 2017. If you are interested please contact me on

Project 1: Europe, the Land of Generosity

Europe, the Land of Generosity is a multimedia art installation including framed prints, works on canvas and a multichannel sound installation. The work began with the handwritten stories of people I met in Calais, France, trying to cross the border to reach the UK. The authors, in conversation with myself, were asked to recount in writing their journey of arriving in Europe.

The installation draws together the original stories transformed into ink jet prints, sewn works of text on canvas, and a multichannel sound installation of conversations, moments shared, and stories retold through English translation. A narrative of place and time spent with a group of people, the work is a historical project as well as a cultural testimony of contemporary movement, showcasing traditional and emerging heritage, including the potential unleashed by the collision of cultures.

The space required to exhibit the entire work is roughly 9 m x 4 m, including 20 photographs, 4 works on canvas and an installation of four speakers. A smaller space could also be used to exhibit a portion of the work.

Project 2: Memory and Revolution: The Songs Collect Us

Memory and Revolution: The Songs Collect Us is a work of two parts. The first is a series of videos in which Syrian refugees in the UK narrate stories about life in Syria, the origins of the 2011 uprising and the ensuing conflict. The project sits within a campaign by Rethink Rebuild Society to dispel misconceptions about the conflict while promoting a better understanding of Syrian refugees within British society.

The second part is a series of videos in which Syrian refugees are filmed in their UK homes singing popular songs from the period of the revolution. Songs and chants that spoke of freedom quickly became a galvanizing force for peaceful protesters and the opposition as well as a renewing source of strength and refuge for the general public, and are still sung and cherished by Syrians inside and outside the country.

The idea of this work is to construct a living history piece by piece, through the many personal voices collected. The reliving of the songs and the musical heritage of the Revolution in a new time and place reinforces the primacy and ongoing relevance of original events and the ideals and impusles behind them.

Each video is between 1- 5 minutes in length, and there will be roughly 60 videos included in the final body of work. The videos are designed for a physical exhibition as well as online use.

Full exhibition:

The exhibition has been designed for two adjoining rooms, one displaying narration videos and the other singing videos. The videos will be directly projected onto the walls or shown on projection screens. The sound from each video will be played aloud and with directional speakers. In the room with the singing videos, one wall will display a continuous projection of written English translations of song lyrics. Periodically, all sound from the singing videos will be silenced in favour of one of the videos’ soundtracks being played on loudspeaker.

It would also be possible to design the exhibition for one large room. The sound may also be reconceived depending on equipment and resources.

Partial exhibition:

A few select videos could be displayed either as projections or on small screens within a group exhibition or a smaller space. A minimum of four videos should be exhibited in a showing, and the sound could be played on headphones. There is significant variety for the scale of this work.

About Stephanie Gervais:

Stephanie Gervais is an American artist living between Manchester and London. She completed an MFA at Goldsmiths College in 2016. She combines works with photography, video, language, and sculpture to approach culture, history and belonging. She has exhibited her work in Brazil, France, London and the US. Her recent work Europe The Land of Generosity is based on the stories of people she met in Calais, France, trying to cross the border to reach the UK. The work was shown as an installation including handwritten stories transformed into ink jet prints, sewn works of text on canvas, and a multichannel sound installation. She is currently collaborating with Rethink Rebuild Society of Manchester to produce an upcoming video series on storytelling and songs around the Syrian Revolution and memory.

About Rethink Rebuild Society:

Rethink Rebuild Society (RR) is a Manchester-based Syrian advocacy and community organisation working since 2013 to improve the lives of Syrians in Manchester by helping them become positively established within British society, striving to clarify the complexities of the Syrian conflict to the wider British public and to promote Syrian issues within the British landscape. RR work comprises of community support, advocacy, and education. 

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