Visuelle oder klangliche Spuren?

"Übersetzungsstrategien" von Migrationserfahrung in Graswurzel-Kulturarbeit und Ausstellungskonzepten


  • Eckehard Pistrick



Deutschland, Flüchtlingslager, Flüchtlinge, Kulturarbeit, Sozialarbeit, Musizieren, Musiktheater, Musikethnologie, Angewandte Musikwissenschaft


This article focuses on the emerging ethnographic field 'refugee camp' and the challenges it poses in terms of an "engaged ethnomusicology" inscribed into a larger discussion about "public ethnography" and ethically informed collaborative practices. The prevailing focus of mass media and artists serves as a starting point, as they represent migratory phenomena primarily through the visual lens, through material artefacts, denying their multisensory character, particularly their immaterial and sonic aspects. Taking as examples the artistic work of Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei and exhibition concepts presented at the documenta 14 and at the Biennale in Venice 2019, the article questions the predominance of the material approach, the inaudibility of migration because of its compatibility with our "museological thinking'" and an abstract idea of "cultural heritage" as promoted by established cultural institutions in Western Europe. The article argues that sound should instead be taken more seriously into consideration. This includes reflecting on the prominent links between human existentiality and suffering, as well as musical production and performance. It is argued that the temporariness of refugee's musical practice is related to their precarious life conditions in camps suspended in time and space. As practical examples from the French camp of Calais demonstrate, music making in this context offers refugees one possible way to counter-act imposed policies of infantilization, passivity and an omnipresent experience of waiting. In a situation where creative space and musical instruments are a limited resource, social media and music apps generate particular forms of musical creativity and assume a fundamental role which should be acknowledged in research to a larger extent. Such conditions influence also largely the ways in which migrated musicians construct their self-image as "refugee musicians". Taking as an example Syrian pianist Aeham Ahmad, the article shows that such self and foreign attributions may be reductive and result in an ethically problematic branding with commercial intentions. The second part of the article presents a collaborative grassroot-music theatre project realized in a German Erstaufnahmeeinrichtung over a span of 4 months. It offers insights into the limitations of "making audible", or "voicing migrants" everyday concerns through artistic practice. It also questions the idea of developing an "artistic agency" and an equal "cultural participation" in a working context characterized by social and power hierarchies, emotional instabilities, and a constant flow of individuals and ideas. In this context the role of the ethnomusicologist as a (cultural) translator with multiple responsibilities is crucial. Not only does he/she balance out different levels of musical professionality or different aesthetic preferences, but he/she also opens up spaces for creativity for disadvantaged or marginalized individuals in the camps. On another level the researcher's responsibility lies in the task to make practices public which originally were self-referential or of local relevance in a socially segregated space. Despite numerous obstacles to make such interventions "culturally sustainable", the article shows the potentiality of producing bottom-up "counter-images" or "counter-soundings', which could generate counter-discourses to the main media narratives on migration.






Angewandte Musikethnologie