Dermot Healy, Resourceful Playwright

Book review:

Hopper, Keith, and Neil Murphy, eds. Dermot Healy: The Collected Plays. Victoria, TX: Dalkey Archive P, 2016. xxxiii + 583 pages. ISBN 978-1-56478-930-3. Pbk. $21.00/£15.00.

Unpacked Cases: Migratory Aesthetics as a Mode of Participation and Agency

The manifold notion of migratory aesthetics serves as the critical grounding for this analysis focusing on Mohamad Hafez’s and Ahmed Badr’s multimedia installation, UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage (2017-2020), a socially and politically committed artistic project. Migratory aesthetics as a conceptual frame can encompass artifacts reflecting upon the experience of forced migration, displacement, and uprootedness. However, the concept also proposes the engendering of a platform for the confluence of art and the political. In accordance with the theories of Mieke Bal, Miguel Á. Hernández-Navarro, and Jacques Rancière, “political” is meant to signify a space of generative conflict, an active, communal, participatory encounter between sentient bodies and artworks. UNPACKED confronts the audience on many levels: physically, by leaving them in limbo, suspended between the inside and the outside, the private and the public, safety and threat; conceptually (owing to the phenomenal, embodied experience of the viewers), by provoking a sense of dislocation and homelessness, resulting in the potential for identification with the status of being a refugee, a migrant, and an asylum seeker. UNPACKED encapsulates, both spatially and temporally, the invisible and silenced trauma of forced migration, eventually effectuating collective understanding in the constitutive political space of art. (GM)

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