Europa Ladrona, 2007
photographic compositions, c-prints, dimensions variable; 5 + 2 AP
text by Julia Gwendolyn Schneider, originally published in Camera Austria

Christoph Balzar’s series »Europa Ladrona« was conceived against the backdrop of the ongoing immigration from Africa via the Canary Islands to Europe. Within this artistic project, he is searching the environs of the islands for possible means of survival. While his visualizations put him in someone else’s position, the attention is turned to the locations that his fictive counterparts may have frequented. The choice of his motives destroys the familiar image of the holiday islands by depicting which shape a landscape can adopt through the political issue of illegal migration and European fortification.

„Europe, you thief!“ how „Europa Ladrona“ translates refers to the fact that the Canaries were African before they were stolen and annexed by Europe. In one of Balzar’s photographs, the slogan can be found as graffiti on a concrete wall in a desolate harbour. From this, it becomes clear that the political and geographical truths are worlds apart. To deal with this discrepancy, Balzar acts as if he was a refugee himself by attempting to see and interpret these places through their eyes. Deliberately he doesn’t show any emigrants, but instead tracks and imagines their possible whereabouts and traces on the Canary Islands. (…)

Balzar’s photography does not always reveal actually existing places. They can be projections of imaginary beliefs. Digital micro installations function as narrative strategies for involuntary travellers in »Europa Ladrona«. They try to view these places through the eyes of the “other” and partly condense space and time, to be able to integrate certain events into the image that would otherwise stay unnoticed. These documentations are not so much showing reality but a rhetoric of the real; a translation of representations of reality through the photographic language. The reality is not documented but organized in its complexity using additive processes comparable to painting techniques.

The conceptual method that the series »Europa Ladrona« employs prevents a glorifying and heroic point of view or an educational and accusative reading. Balzar positions himself only in a subtle way. The absence of the refugees could be read as a statement about the political invisibility and the social blindness towards these people. Balzar doesn’t want to expose the truth; instead, he invites us to follow his suggestive game.

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