Forty thousand moments of mourning

UNITED for Intercultural Action’s List of Deaths (installation view), photo Brandon Soder

Technically, a spreadsheet that lists migrants and refugees who have died while trying to get into Europe isn’t art. The efficiently ordered data isn’t beautiful to look at or otherwise aesthetically pleasing. It’s a brutal mix of briefly described violence and incomplete sentences. Names and ages, if they’re known, go in one column; countries of origin go in another. The most detailed column reveals the ways in which the migrants died.

Some drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. Some were crushed trying to get from raft to land. Some killed themselves after their applications for asylum were denied.

Every year since 1993, the European NGO network UNITED for Intercultural Action has maintained and updated what is known as the List of Deaths as a way to monitor the human cost of Europe’s strict immigration policies. The list is free to download at unitedagainstracism.org, and as of June 19, the PDF document contains information about the deaths of 40,555 people at European borders. Turkish artist Banu Cennetoğlu stumbled upon the list in 2002 and decided it needed to be seen by as many people as possible. Because of her efforts and those of other like-minded artists and curators around the world, the list has been displayed, in a variety of formats, in Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, and Los Angeles, among other locales, since 2006.

Forty thousand moments of mourning

A detail from The List of Deaths PDF, which can be downloaded and printed at unitedagainstracism.org

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