An Artwork About Migration Doesn’t Have a Home

Dr Luiza Prado de O. Martins

An Artwork About Migration Doesn’t Have a Home

Mixed media on canvas, moving boxes

Berlin, 2022


This artwork explores current movements of migration within/without Fortress Europe, asking — once arrived in this continent, what is the space that artists from the Global South occupy? Enclosed by the walls of a gallery, our artworks risk becoming part of a tradition of exploitation and commodification. Enclosed by the constraints of immigration offices, displaced people are subjected to taxonomies that delegate value to human life according to nationality, race, class, gender. What happens, then, when we refuse to conform to these disciplinary enclosures? What happens when encircling walls come undone?

The installation attempts to tease out and link the bureaucratic and architectural structures of the building of the Landesamt für Einwanderung (State Office for Immigration) in the Friedrich-Krause-Ufer in Berlin. The industrial construction, erected in 1938 for lamp manufacturer Degea AG (formerly Auer Gesellschaft), had its permit issued by Nazi General Building Director Albert Speer and was designed by Egon Eiermann. From anti-suicide nets inside the building, to faulty elevators that obstruct the circulation of those with disabilities, to lack of bathroom access for those waiting in often long queues outside, the construction is a study in dehumanization and hostility. Similarly, its organizational structure coalesces racist constructs of nationhood, nativeness, and origin.

The work consists of two sections — a large-scale collage on canvas, and several moving boxes with the artwork title — placed outside of the gallery at the Haus der Statistik. With this piece, the artist invites the public to intervene, vandalize, and steal pieces of this work, atomizing its presence and message in the city of Berlin.

Luiza Prado de O. Martins is an artist, writer, educator, and researcher investigating plant-human relations, reproduction, herbal medicine, and radical, decolonising care. Her body of artistic work spans video, food, performance, installation, and sculpture, examining questions of reproductive rights from a feminist and anti-colonial lens, with a particular interest in herbalist medicinal practices. Her ongoing artistic research project, “In Weaving Shared Soil” explores sites of encounter between human and more-than-human actors implicated in spiritual and medicinal reproductive care. The project will take place in Brazil, Lebanon, the UK, and Germany throughout 2023. She is an assistant professor and vice-director of the Centre for Other Worlds at the Lusófona University in Lisbon. She is one half of the artist duo We Work in the Dark and a founding member of Decolonising Design.