In a pointed political statement, artistic duo Icy and Sot's latest installation in one of Lisbon's busiest and most picturesque areas asks many questions, allowing locals and tourists alike to ruminate on what it means to 'belong' and the significance of identity in an increasingly homogenous, yet fractured, social landscape.
Created through the Underdogs platform, the Iranian duo have created their recent challenging piece as part of the Underdogs Public Art Platform's collaboration with the Municipal Council’s Urban Art Gallery and the Port of Lisbon Administration.
Titled simply 'EU Flag', and created as part of the passge of their show in Lisbon that ran from May to July last year, it's an open-ended statement, allowing itself to receieve the subjective interpretation of its audience.
The metal flagpole holds an emulation of the iconic flag, whose 12 stars form a circle of gold on a blue background. This one, though, is also made from metal like the flagpole, with the stars - already sharp and powerfully symbolic images - manufactured from barbed wire.
Alluding to the idea of the EU being a 'fortress', something stopping other things from getting in - rather than the democratic project of open arms it was once presented as - it is a work that aligns itself with the repetoire of the duo whose highly politicial and socially conscious works are known to be thought-provoking and eye-catching - a talent both for what a piece says and also how it's said.
With immigration and the movement of people being one of the most hotly debated topics of the European Union, Icy and Sot have continued their exploration of the theme. Having Portugal, with its own disturbing and relatively recent colonial past, as a choice for its placement - coupled with the proximity to a large body of water - a timeless symbol of entry and exit, the duo's installation has not simply added noise to a conversation, but galvanised people to contribute to it.
The duo themselves, born in the Islamic Republic of Iran hold the status of politival refugees in the United States. Having worked there, spreading their art through the streets of their home covertly for years, the state ended banned the pair and their return to Iran. A blessing in disguise, moving onto the United States has opened up opportunities for more widespread proliferation of their artwork that is always deeply indebted to political activism. This installation is just a part of their global patchwork of creations that aim to provoke change through thoughtful discourse.
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