The Art of Eating Refugees

Center for Political Beauty

Words by Charlotte Specht
Photos by Patryk Witt & Ruben Neugebauer courtesy of Zentrum für Politische Schönheit

For Philipp Ruch, there are two kinds of people in this world: the 97% and the 3%. The majority of the population whom are either lethargic or unaware during times of political unrest and the remaining 3%, whom Ruch calls ‘the martyr quota’; those that actively protest.

It was during his academic career of more than twelve years that Philipp Ruch discovered the coercive power of art on society. The self-described “aggressive humanist” occasionally slips into the role of an artist to perform for the Center for Political Beauty (CPB), the Berlin-based art collective that he founded in 2008. For more than a decade, Ruch has distinguished himself as a dedicated and visionary artivist. As artistic director of the CPB he leads the production and enactment of impactful and often heavily criticized ‘artworks’ that are usually executed in conjunction with hundreds of artists and humanists. CPB’s goal is to inspire protest and direct action by making the 97% aware of the inhumane aspects of German and EU policies by staging large-scale performances and installations in public spaces.
However, it is not only Ruch and the CPB who participate. Spectators of their performances often become complicit in the performances; ‘actors’ by default of their proximity – whether they are unassuming bystanders, law enforcement or government representatives. Sometimes the plays even grow to incorporate police helicopters, interception technology and political speeches – “without us paying them for it”, adds Ruch with a wry grin.
One of their most recent and arguably one of their most controversial mise-en-scènes is ‘Eating Refugees’, a condemnation of the German transportation ban for foreigners without a valid visa. The prohibition prevents refugees from arriving safely to a state like Germany which presumably grants them protection and asylum once they enter the country. The perversion in this scenario is the fact that the law is not structured against asylum seekers. Instead, §63 of the Residence Act prohibits transportation companies to transport foreigners if they are not in possession of a valid passport and a valid residence title, thereby blocking a legal path of entry into Germany and preventing an application for a permit on German ground. As a response to “one of the deadliest things” existing in German policy, CPB responded with something equally menacing: four living Libyan tigers.



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