People migrate for many different reasons. Some migrate because of job opportunities, some because of war and some because of love. Love is what made the artist Meriç Algün Ringborg move from Istanbul, Turkey where she was born in 1983, to Stockholm, Sweden where she now lives and works. With inspiration from her experiences with getting a citizenship in Sweden, she made several pieces of art, which have been showcased at different museums in Europe. In her pieces, Meriç Algün Ringborg describes the feeling of being trapped between two different identities and how language barriers can enhance this feeling.
One of the pieces she has made is The Concise Book of Visa Application Forms where she has put visa application forms to all countries in the world. The viewer is supposed to flip through the book to read some of the questions that different countries ask you before you can enter their country. This can be questions like: “Do you speak English?” but also more absurd questions such as “are you engaged in activities which can indicate that you are a person of bad character?” Some of the questions that she has come across while applying for visa and citizenship in Sweden has been blown up and put on billboards.
Meriç Algün Ringborg is trying to active her audience through her pieces. With the billboards and the book with visa application forms she is trying to get the audience to form their own opinion about migration and integration without making her own thoughts on the subject too clear. She is also trying to explain how it feels to come to a new country and trying to become a citizen. This was also what I experienced when I went to ARoS, a museum in Aarhus, Denmark to see these pieces in an exhibition called Transboundary. When standing in a big room with only a desk with a big book with application forms I almost felt like this was the only thing of importance in my life. What I imagine it must feel like when you migrate to a foreign country and an application form will decide if you have a future in this country or not.
Another piece she made is called Ö (The Mutual Letter). It is a dictionary with words that has the exact same spelling and meaning in both Swedish and Turkish. The dictionary contains 1270 words and the piece is supposed to show that even countries that are different in many ways have similarities. As seen in the picture below the dictionaries were presented to the audience on a pallet and the audience can take a copy of the dictionary with them home. As the pallet is the only thing in the big room, the dictionary becomes more important, like it is the only thing that we – if we were immigrants – have to hold on to in a foreign place.
Meriç Algün Ringborg uses simple objects and text to make the audience think about what it is like being a migrant. She makes the application forms and the questions speak for themselves to let people know what it feels like to have people you do not know decide your future based on a piece of paper.