janet grau



Participatory project, staged photography, long-term process, 2016–2018

Wunschbilder was a participatory project with about 30 refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as with other creative professionals. Over an extended period of time, I worked with the participating refugees using various artistic means (e.g. drawing, playing, dancing, painting, writing, storytelling, acting) to encourage them to express their hopes and wishes. 

Based on their experiences as refugees and the complicated situation of arriving in Germany, they created images that represent both what they had experienced and what they wanted to experience. These images do not document reality or truth, but rather mark a possible path. The resulting series of images, Wunschbilder, shows constructs, hypotheticals, imagined things, and thus acknowledges fiction as an important cultural technique.

Participants Mohamad Alraghban (Damascus) and Taisir Al Nakib (Mosul) directed the staging of the images. Several other project participants performed in front of the camera.

"A young man was forced to come to Germany. He didn't want to, it wasn't his idea. It came very suddenly for him. He hasn't had many experiences in life yet. He is not yet independent. He has never had to take responsibility for his own life."

The staged Wunschbilder photographs were exhibited at the Heidelberger Kunstverein in 2018.

In 2017, we created an exhibition in the GEDOK gallery in Heidelberg – Wunschbilder Zwischenspiel – which focused on the working process. The images, performances, talks, readings and music in this ‘interlude’ conveyed the working methods in the project, as well as offering an insight into the cultural backgrounds of several of the refugees.

Project blog: wunschbilder.wordpress.com

Photos: Ella Kehrer

Many thanks to Clemens Bellut and Christian Buck for their generous support of this project.

Many thanks to all the wonderful people who helped make this project possible, including the more than 30 refugees who participated in our workshops and helped bring these stories to life. A very special thank you to Mohamad Alraghban and Taisir Al Nakib.

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