Can You Die If You Don’t Exist?
January 2018 - December 2020
Can You Die If You Don’t Exist? is a 10.5 hour durational performance and large scale video work, conceived by Deep Lab as part of a residency for York Mediale.
In the performance, Deep Lab member Tamara Al-Mashouk reads every name and no name of the women, children, and men who died attempting to claim asylum in Europe since the early 1990s. This data, published by the Guardian in May 2018 and known as The List, was collated by the Dutch NGO United for Intercultural Action and contains information on 34,361 refugees.
The work draws connections between news headlines and the human consequence of immigration policy. The presence of Al- Mashouk’s body implicates passers-by, creating a provocation that questions the duration of their engagement; how long they spend receiving the names, when they walk away and what role their indifference plays in the humanitarian crisis.
“Powerful work by the amazing Deep Lab which you can’t, and shouldn’t, look away from.”
Curator of Digital Design at the V&A Museum
Since its premiere at York Mediale 2018, Tamara Al-Mashouk has developed a series of works that build on Can You Die If You Don’t Exist?:
We Exist/Existimos is an 18 minute performance created by Tamara Al-Mashouk in collaboration with Dalida Maria Benfield (co-founder of the Center for Arts Design and Social Research). Recorded in Merida, Mexico in January 2019, a chorus of international voices simultaneously read sections of The List along with data gathered by Maria Benfild on migrant deaths between Mexico and the US in both Spanish and English.
Performed live, the voices build and fall in waves, weaving the two languages until the voice of Tamara A-Mashouk brings the work full circle with the opening name from The List. The documentation of this performance lives in an 18 minute audio recording intended for consumption via headphones.
Exploring the space between domesticity and trauma, a performative action of face washing becomes violent as it draws on audio recordings of an ignored emergency call between a Syrian doctor and the Italian Navy in which a boat of 268 Syrians was left to drown.
Tamara Al-Mashouk is also available as a speaker, to present and discuss the work, the process behind the work, and the current crisis facing migrants across the world.
Can You Die If You Don’t Exist was led by two of Deep Lab’s founding members, Addie Wagenknecht (Artist and Director, Austria) and Maral Pourkazemi (Data and Information Designer, Iran/Germany) with support from York Mediale; performance by Tamara Al-Mashouk.
We Exist/Existimos was created by Tamara Al-Mashouk in collaboration with Dalida Maria Benfeild with support from the Center for Arts Design and Social Research
I Exist was created by Tamara Al-Mashouk