SAFE EUROPEAN HOME? was a wandering art installation by the artist couple Damian and Delaine Le Bas. Their art is fed by experiences that have shaped the everyday life of the Roma ethnic group for centuries. The artist couple reacted to the often explosive life situations of the Sinti and Roma in Europe with their very own “pop art version” of a camp reality.
Versions of this installation were first shown in 2011 at the Wiener Festwochen, and f.e. in 2013 at the Galerie Kai Dikhas, in front of the Collegium Hungaricum, both in Berlin, The Dandelion Project in Copenhagen and during the 1st Berlin Autumn Salon of the Gorki Theater (Berlin), in 2014 MART Dublin, in 2015 at Europäisches Festpielhaus Hellerau, Dresden, in 2016 in Art Excahnge, University of Colchester, and finally in 2017 during the first Roma Biennale in Berlin. The installation changed for each of the new locations and often had additional titles. The voluntary mobility of the installation reflects the mostly involuntary mobility of its protagonists. It focuses on what otherwise escapes our focus. SAFE EUROPEAN HOME? is a walk-in wooden shack that illustrates the history and life situation of many Roma and poses the question of a future for groups characterized by supposed “otherness”.
Postered and painted over in the style of a pop art collage, the tension between voluntary and forced mobility is illustrated. Cryptic-mystical symbols, paintings, family pictures, historical documents can be found on the walls. In between, the artists scatter popular comic figures, but the eyes of the Sleeping Beauty are widened in fear and Mickey Mouse spits blood. In combination with the biographical snippets of individual Roma and the prototypes of naïve children’s worlds, the ideal of a safe and homogeneous Europe is counteracted.
There is a growing number of people in Europe whose lifestyles are affected by social destabilization. Marginalisation, the fate of the Roma minority, threatens many, as “Fortress Europe”, which officially no longer knows any borders, establishes all the more invisible ones. Damian Le Bas showed this contradiction in his MAPS, in which he collages and paints over maps and city maps. SAFE EUROPEAN HOME? changed during the journey. The installation “learned”, thus taking in its surroundings, the city in which it was currently located and the political climate there, as well as social tendencies. It asked about the possibilities of action of minority groups in those of the majority society: Can Europe be a safe place for minorities and what must be done to realize this utopia?