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It has come to my attention today that a London-based artistic organization which “ironically” calls itself the “Embassy for the Displaced” has descended upon the Greek Island of Mytilini (Lesvos to the rest of the world who can’t spell Greek names with more than 6 letters) with the worst of artistic intentions to carry out the most ill-conceived art project over the backs of the refugees.

This fake “Embassy” organization has apparenty manufactured these fake-looking “passports”, images of which they posted to Facebook, presumably with the intent to hand them out to refugees arriving on the island. A completely wrongheaded idea carried out in the name of art and freedom of artistic expression!

I urge volunteer groups that work to help refugees to contact this “Embassy of the Displaced” on their Facebook page and please politely plead with them not to carry out their ill-conceived artistic project! Many of these refugees don’t know any English, don’t really understand who they are interacting with on the island, are desperate for an official confirmation of their refugee status and might end up mistaking these fake “passports” issued by this organization claiming to be an “Embassy” for an official travel or asylum document. Refugees might even attempt to use these fake passports as an actual travel document, thus possibly risking arrest for attempting to use false or misleading documents.

For the sake of addressing the larger artistic context in which such fake or ironic passports are issued, I will point out that artstic collectives creating fake passports has been a thing for a while now. For example here is fugitive Wikileaks hacker and DoJ Grand Jury criminal suspect Jacob Appelbaum showing off his own “fake/ artistic passport” which was given to him by an individual calling himself ExiledSurfer.

Jacob Appelbaum posing with fake/artistic “SOS passport”

Jacob Appelbaum signing his fake/artistic “SOS passport”

As you can see, the fake/artistic “SOS passport” that Jacob Appelbaum was given looks virtually indistinguishable from a real passport.

Read more about this “SOS passport” for Jacob Appelbaum here:

The difference between a white rich American with a six figure salary being handed a fake/artistic passport as an artistic prank with the full knowledge of it being fake, and these poor refugees who don’t speak English being handed one in the midst of utter despair shouldn’t have to be explained to the intelligent reader. The former is an acceptable if somewhat stupid attempt at an artistic prank, the latter is sheer recklessness. The fact is that Jacob Appelbaum already has a passport of his own to use. The refugees on the other hand have nothing. No one should be waving fake passports or fake documents of any kind before their faces under such desperate circumstances, including artistic ones. It’s not funny, it’s not art and it is very irresponsible.

Artists will defend such works of art claiming that such post-conceptual art is merely a form of post-modern irony. Well, try explaining that to police officers who are clueless about contemporary art. I support artists reporting on, covering or merely being inspired by the Greek refugee crisis for the purpose of informing the general public, but carrying out such an ill-conceived post-conceptual art project in the name of art and creativity is reckless. It’s all fun and art and irony, until one of someone gets arrested for using a fake “passport” assuming it to be a real document, and the document is then traced back to a fake “Embassy” in London, and they end up being arrested themselves and having to explain to InterPol that issuing fake “passports” and claiming to be an fake “embassy” is part of some kind of an ironic post-modern art project… like, hahaha, mr InterPol officer, can’t you see it’s all just funny and irony and post-conceptual extrainstitutional critique and stuff? What can I say, the road to hell (jail?) is paved with the dumbest and stupidest and most ill-thought and ill-conceived of artistic intentions! I sincerely hope none of these poor refugee people are penalized because of this ill-conceived idea of “art”.

If you are an artist who wants to engage in post-conceptual art anywhere in Greece, please refrain from handing out fake travel documents or misleadingly using names suggesting officialdom such as “embassy” or “agency” to refer to your artistic project. These refugees are desperate for an official recognition of their refugee status and you should be using such legally vulnerable and defenseless people  as guinea pigs in some artistic experiment. Unlike you, the Western artist, they have no direct access to a lawyer to defend their rights for them. If one of them gets arrested for attempting to use your fake artistic passport as a real document, you are ultimately to blame for that arrest.

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