We have commissioned socially-engaged artist Bern O’Donoghue to bring her participatory art installation, DeadReckoning, to Bedford for Refugee Week 2024 this June.  

Artists & Associates

During Refuge Week 2024, artist Bern O’Donoghue will present two installations from her DeadReckoning project, which invites host communities to connect on a human level with the devastation caused by hostile borders, inviting the audience to recognise the people hidden behind migration statistics.

DeadReckoning is a 10 year-long project dedicated to the migrants and refugees who continue to die attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea in search of sanctuary and a better life. Begun in 2015, the project has taken the form of a series of annual installations, incorporating private vigil and public engagement activity. 

Using data collected by the International Organisation for Migration, Bern will create hundreds of origami paper boats and then invite the general public to collaborate in building an art installation in St Paul’s Church, during Refugee Week. Each tiny, hand-marbled paper boat will be marked with a relationship to another person, a fragile reminder of the individuals caught up in the biggest humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War II. If, for example, 2,500 people were to be recorded as having died in one specific year, 2,500 individual objects would have to be made to represent each loss of life. Every object made represents the death of a significant individual and will have the words “son”, “daughter”, “neighbour “ or “friend” written, sewn or painted upon them.

Participants are encouraged, through the collaborative process and through conversations, to consider not only the experience of migrants and refugees, but also to think about how those of us living more secure lives might engage supportively with refugees.  The work is dependent on participation of the public, with O’Donoghue asking questions, exchanging stories and dispelling myths. O’Donoghue says, “It is in the small and the simple where human scale may be found, where one mind is changed, and we begin to change the world.” 

The installation will be created in St Paul’s Church, Bedford from Tuesday 18 June to Saturday 22 June between 11:00-15:00 each day as part of this year’s Refugee Week programme.  The public participatory workshops to engage in creating the work will be held on Wednesday 19 June from 11:00–15:00 and Saturday 22 June from 11:00–15:00.   

Supported with funding from Arts Council England.

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