Mélissa Mérinos, artiste in residence

Residence Bubahof /MeetFactory
01.07 — 30.09.2019

Solo show, Institut Français, Prague
50°32’07.1’’N 14°48’01.9’’E
5. 11. — 11. 12. 2019

September 10, 2019
Facilities for foreigners, Bělá-Jezová
Bělá pod Bezdězem , Czech Republic
Field notes

A long road through the forest.
The tall trees create a sense of vertigo, cowering over.

Arrival at ZZC Bělá – Jezová. Heightened awareness.
I recognize the road and fragments of buildings through the trees that I had already seen virtually. The reception building has been repainted in yellow, attempting to give a warm welcome.
A man smokes looking at me – I think he lives here.
The first checkpoint of a private company.
Smile. «Dobry den!» Yellow vests. Badge distribution.
The entrance is via a turnstile activated by the badge.
Signage: weapons are forbidden, drugs prohibited, photography is forbidden, video recording is forbidden, alcohol is prohibited and I cannot remember the rest.

A couple go back and forth in the driveway with their stroller. The dirt road lined with infinite tall and sparse trees. The foliage towers above and filters through the light. Glimpses of the sky peeking through. The family become engulfed by their surroundings. They seem to have freedom in the area, I think they may live in the residence part for asylum seekers.

We are escorted.
Second checkpoint to proceed into the detention area. Inspection by the police. The atmosphere is relaxed, the staff are smiling – maybe not the policewoman.
Bag check, deposit phones. Badge. Entrance.

The prison gates juxtapose the children’s drawings on the walls. We go out again to enter another building.
Each plot has its own fence.
A children’s playground. A basketball court. Residential buildings.
Since the camp was divided into two parts for accommodating a reception centre for asylum seekers, the administration has repainted fences in green to blend in with the forest and give the illusion of freedom. The fences and barbed wire remain on the prison side.

A woven landscape, the gaze cannot escape the grid labyrinth. Feeling disoriented again between the great altitude of the forest and the harsh grids bringing us firmly back to earth, fixing us there.
Are we being elevated or squashed?

We are escorted wherever we go. Always by a cheerful and enthusiastic woman, smiling.
We cross the last security gate and arrive in a very well maintained garden with some creations made from recycled materials. Another young man smokes while watching us.

Interior of the building. A corridor with pink doors. Here, unlike the other two detention centres, it welcomes women and families and here men are actually considered to be part of the families. They all circulate freely in the building.

People look tired, in casual dress, between pajamas and sportswear. I do not know if they can really take care of themselves here. Or if they even feel like it. Language problems, lack of translation, Google will do the trick.

We see the trees from the window, there are no bars.

An entire family is locked up. The image of the lone girl in the office looking for the right document regarding her detention in her file catches my eye. At 19 I had other concerns. She comes from Ukraine and came to work in the Czech Republic.

Permanence of social workers. Everyday.
Permanent charity (clothes / donations). One day per week.
Permanence of lawyers. Every Tuesday morning.

Another girl had come to work. She speaks a little English and explains me that she does not find this place particularly stressful. She lost her mother at the age of 9 – that was stressful. Here it’s fine. She has been locked up for two weeks and has applied for voluntary departure. She will leave tomorrow for Ukraine. The Czech government banned her from returning to the country for a year, and the police banned her from returning to the Schengen area for four years. But with her voluntary departure, this last decision will be revoked

Mélissa Mérinos

Education
2013 – Bachelor in Cultural Mediation at Paris 3-Sorbonne Nouvelle University, Paris (FR)
2018 – Master in Art at the Fine Art School ésam Caen/Cherbourg, Caen (FR)

Exhibitions
2019 – 50°32’07.1’’N 14°48’01.9’’E, French Institut, Prague, CZ
2019 – Lande: the Calais ‘Jungle’ and Beyond, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, UK
2019 – Impossible n’est rien, Normandy Regional Council, Rouen, France
2016 – 26th International Istanbul Art Fair, Tüyap, Istanbul, Turkey

In partnership with MeetFactoryEsam Caen/Cherbourg and French Institut, Prague