The sun is sinking into the ocean in a postcard-perfect view, a watermelon is being sliced up on the beach, and a gold blanket glitters in the summer heat. Yet Michael Danner’s photographs subvert our expectations and counter our clichés of a sojourn on the Mediterranean. Almost imperceptibly, they displace our automatic associations of idyllic vacations and show the threat of a humanitarian catastrophe. Twenty-first century refugees experience the settings of our vacation fantasies on the coasts of Greece, Morocco, or Tunisia as a confrontation with danger, ruin, and death. Danner’s long-term project (2008–17) with the apparently provocative title Migration as Avant-Garde is an alternative approach to classic photojournalism. Instead of simply informing or deliberately shocking his audience, Michael Danner (b. 1967) creates a visual dialogue about one of humankind’s oldest actions: moving from one place to another.
C/O Berlin is the first institution in the world to exhibit this project, for which Danner received the Dummy Award at the Fotobookfestival in Kassel in 2018. The sophisticated book design makes use of layers and collage, and the exhibition, curated by Dr. Kathrin Schönegg, translates this approach into three dimensions, with framed photographs, projected images, and designed fragments of text.