LGBTQI+ Refugee rights group steals sculpture from Documenta in Athens

Lgbtqi+ Refugees in Greece with Roger Bernat’s replica of the oath stone. Courtesy Lgbtqi+ Refugees in Greece

LGBTQI+ Refugees, an Athens-based activist group, has stolen a work by Spanish artist Roger Bernat and dramatist Roger Fratini from Documenta 14, Hyperallergic reports. The activists say the theft is in protest to what they claim is the ‘exoticisation’ of those seeking asylum in Greece and an exploitation of the refugee crisis. The 50kg sculpture, a replica of the Greek monolith known as the oath stone, was taken during a performance in which it was to be carried around Athens before being transported to Kassel, Documenta’s other host city. Bernat had invited various groups and collectives to help take the ‘stone’ on a week-long tour around the city’s museums, public schools, bars, embassies and homes. On 21 May, LGBTQI+ Refugees were paid €500 to participate in the tour. They subsequently seized the stone and issued a statement condemning ‘the “fetishization” of refugees and disparages the use of vast resources on the high-profile arts event, while the hundreds of thousands of refugees languish invisibly in Greece and across Europe.’ Members of the rights group then wrote in the statement, titled ‘We have stolen your stone and we will not give it back’, a collection of wry suggestions for where the sculpture could be including: in a prison, without papers; on a flight to Sweden with a fake passport; selling its body in Pedion tou Areos; sleeping on the street; or driven to suicide in the Moria detention centre.

Bernat and Fratini, having anticipated a theft, have said they can ‘afford to lose the stone, having already created two copies of the original’. LGBTQI+ Refugees’s defiance towards the artwork reflects the overall frustration felt by many in Athens over the arrival of Documenta 14 while the city has been struggling in a state of social, economic and political turmoil. The activists have called their act of protest ‘Between a rock and a hard place’.

8 June 2017