The Immigration Office opened its doors in Bremen on 2014. Founded by Lucas Odahara, Camila Riveros, Daniela Reina Téllez, Paula Hurtado Otero and Zhe Wang, the project existed for one year between April 2014 and April 2015, as an Art space in Bremen, Germany.
During this one year, the space ran a busy program of exhibitions, consisting of four big shows that approached the topic Immigration from different perspectives. The exhibition 01 - on an azure field a circle of twelve golden mullets, their points not touching, was a show with individual works by the group itself. From looking within our own art practices and under the influence of constant conversations as a group, works were developed on the topic of immigration and belonging. For the exhibition 02 - Under a Common Ground, two artists, Santiago Diaz Escamilla (Bogotá, Colombia) and Hannes Middelberg (Bremen, Germany) were invited to inhabit the space for one month, coming up together with an exhibition stemming from the dialogue of their practices. For exhibition 03 - In Times of Conflict, a week of performances was organized in the space, where every night artist from different parts in Germany would take over the Immigration Office as a territory and conquer it, having to deal with the reminiscent of past performances and the unpredictable future of the performances that were about to happen on the following days. And for the exhibition 04 - Import / Export, an exchange with the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in China took place, where through open calls and under the theme Import/Export, works from students from the university of China were exhibited at the Immigration Office and works from students of the university of the Arts of Bremen were exhibited at the gallery of the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute.
Apart from the main four exhibitions, the place became a meeting point for the Art students of Bremen. Every Wednesday, at the events called 'One Night Stands', one student (and eventually professors) would exhibit in the small room of the Immigration Office with the freedom to experiment. We would then provide drinks and the space for the public to meet. It was important for us that by turning the Immigration Office into an inhabitable and welcoming space we would be slowly changing, for ourselves and also hopefully for our guests, the negative charged ideas that such institutions carry.
The Immigration Office was at first the possibility that five non-European art students found to experiment with art in a space in the north of Germany, reflecting on their own practice and on their own position as immigrants, that is, artists under the permission of a visa.
Along the year, bigger questions concerning the political implications of having a space in Germany named as Immigration Office started to arise. Apart from mixed reactions from the public and passersby, the Immigration Office started to be reached out by people from different countries looking for asylum in Germany, through our online presence. By emails or facebook messages, letters of help started to reach us, as we were being taken for an official German Immigration Office.
Under the emergent aspect of these letters, we as a group responded to them with what we considered to be proper official links of embassies or websites that could help the authors of the letters in a level that we couldn't. Shaped by feeling of powerless towards a situation that we were dragged into and not being able to see an immediate effect as artists, we made a performance on November 2014 as part of the Exhibition 03. The performance consisted of the letters being read out loud by three of us inside the Office, while one of us wrote repeatedly on the window facing the street 'sorry, we are just an art gallery', and another member of the group typed the European Union's description of Refugee, which was being projected on the walls inside the room.
One year after the closure of the space, influenced by this reach out for us through the letters, which we keep on receive until today, we realized that the Immigration Office is more than a one year art space ran by students, but is a project that mimicry a sociopolitical institution that is under a lot of attention and pressure on this day an age with the growing tension in Europe concerning immigration.
As a group we realize how our position in this system is not limited to 'we are just an art gallery', but we see ourselves as a reflection of a turbulent situation and a possible indicator of the sociopolitical responsibility and duties of an Immigration Office, of artists and citizens.
Lucas Odahara, August 2015