Migration as Avant-garde

Michael Danner

The sun is sinking into the ocean in a postcard-perfect view, a watermelon is being sliced up on the beach, and a gold blanket glitters in the summer heat. Yet Michael Danner’s photographs subvert our expectations and counter our clichés of a sojourn on the Mediterranean. Since autumn 2015, such gold survival blankets have come to symbolize Europe’s so-called refugee crisis.

Danner’s long-term project Migration as Avant-Garde (2008–2017) begins with Hannah Arendt’s notion of flight as a radical act of self-determination and faith in progress. It is a moving, critical, and rousing work about Europe’s borders and a counterpoint to the conventional narrative offered by the daily news. Instead of simply informing or deliberately shocking his audience, Danner (b. 1967) creates a visual dialogue about one of humankind’s oldest activities: moving from one place to another.

C/O Berlin is the first institution in the world to exhibit this project, for which Danner received the Dummy Award at the 2018 Kassel Fotobook Summit.