100 years (2011 – 2012)

The research for the 100 years project was done as part of the FAIR residency at the Factory of Art and Design in Copenhagen in 2011.

In Denmark, there are over 7500 asylum seekers living in camps, which are mainly old military bases able to host up to six people in each four by four meter room, in most cases.

The original installation copies a typical room from the Avnstrup asylum camp. The room hosted a man of Russian background for a period of eleven years. One of the projected videos is a time counting loop, taken from different individuals who live in these camps. Various asylum seekers were asked to tell the number of years that they have spent living in those detention centres. 

The 100 years project responds to the outcome of a survey that artist Oscar Lara performed at the Taste the World festival (August 2011), a festival organized by the ‘TASKFORCE Inklusion’ project at the Integration Department of the city of Copenhagen. The statistics showed that of the sixty eight participants in the survey, fifty nine believe that there are no more than two asylum camps around the city of Copenhagen, and fifty four think that asylum seekers don’t spend more than a year in these detention centers. 

Footage taken from the red cross centres: Sandholm, Auderød och Avnstrup. 

“The video installation 100 years by Oscar Lara is a film that places the human subjects/victims at the center, yet conveys no initiated experience of migration. The video shows the cropped faces of asylum seekers who have lived in a small cell in a Danish detention center. What is seen is the mouths of these faces stating how long each has been detained while waiting for asylum. This was installed at first in a show at Fabrikken in Copenhagen in a replica of a cell from the detention center. The piece is very straightforward, reminding of all the years destroyed, adding up to 100 years. But the brutally cropped faces de-individualize and explicitly hide or withdraw information, details, so as to intentionally anonymize, most obviously by hiding the eyes. But a jarring sense of loss is forced upon the audience, hearing the years in detention: “7 years…five years…3 years”, and so forth, while identification that also allows for a displacement of the trauma, outside of ourselves, is inhibited by the opacity of the cut image. Lara uses this blocked identification as a tool with which to keep focus on the structural matter. The dehumanization of the image reflects the dehumanization of the system, which is shown by the work’s installation in a replica of a detention cell; in the quantity of faces and years; and also in the very anonymity of the protagonists/subjects/objects of the piece. Still, the work also stirs an emotional register, precisely because of what it leaves for the audience to figure out. The image vaguely reveals age, the number of years in detention, how much life has been robbed, and the repetitive character of the work speaks of mass incarceration. But there are no names, countries, stories, relatives, hopes, dreams. We can fill in the blanks. And in so doing we have to engage our own references – hence become interactive through interpretation.”

Extracted from, Erik Berggren (2019). Representation, Victimization or Identification. Negotiating Power and Powerlessness in Art on Migration. Journal of Mediterranean Knowledge-JMK