B.Arch. Displays Refugee Life Jacket Shelter at Exhibition in France
SOS — Save Our Souls, an installation by Achilleas Souras (B.Arch. '23), is displayed at Traversèes — a French art fair founded by South Korean artist Kimsooja — whose theme is the border, displacement, and exile. Traversèes, which translates as "crossings," opened October 12 in the medieval French city of Poitiers. The event brings together 30 works and performances by Kimsooja and invited guest artists, and runs through January 19, 2020.
Souras, a second-year architecture undergraduate, began working on the project in 2016 while he was still in high school. Affected by the plight of refugees crossing from Syria to Europe, he designed a small shelter out of life jackets discarded on the shores of the Greek island Lesbos, a regular landing place for refugees entering Europe.
"The project idea was to propose a solution to a phase in the actual refugee crisis and to also attract people to find out more about it," Souras said. The first iteration of SOS comprised 52 lifejackets attached to an igloo-shaped framework approximately three feet tall.
Since then, SOS has been showcased in museums and art fairs in Barcelona, London, Cape Town, Bologna, Milan, Rio de Janeiro, Rome, Toronto, New York City, Los Angeles, and Bangkok, and it is among work featured on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' "With Refugees" website. As a result of early showings, Souras received an invitation to exhibit a much larger version made from 1,000 lifejackets at the 2017 Milan Design Week venue of Patrizia Moroso of Moroso SpA. This is the version on display at Traversèes.
Traversées is the first event of the Palais Quartier Project, a long-term cultural and urban planning project intended as a dialogue between contemporary proposals and the city's heritage. Kimsooja, a multidisciplinary conceptual artist based in New York City, Paris, and Seoul, was the artist-in-residence for the 2014 Cornell Council for the Arts (CCA) Biennial. The 11 invited artists at Traversées are from China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, France, Greece, Korea, and Japan. Souras, who is part Greek and resides in Spain, will exhibit in front of the Baptistery Saint-Jean.
For many, the igloo shape captures attention, Souras said, but for him, the refugees inside "are trapped and cannot be seen or hear what is going on outside. As the crisis is still relevant today the appeal of the design still seems to carry on," he said. "When you hold the jacket in your hand and you smell the sea, you look at things through a different prism, and you realize that every jacket represents a human life."
By Patti Witten