"My Pen Won't Break, But Borders Will"

Curated by Julia Hartmann

The exhibition is a response to Parwana Amiri—a teenage girl from Afghanistan—who arrived on the Greek island of Lesvos in 2019, in hopes of a safer and happier life. What she encountered in the seemingly safe haven of Europe was an overcrowded and underfunded refugee camp that had been, and continues to be, neglected by the European Union—despite the institutions' fundamental ideal of solidarity. Disillusioned but empowered nonetheless, Parwana took a pen and started writing about her experiences in the camp. In a series of letters and photographs, she documented the horrible conditions of a place designed to deter people from coming. The letters are written from her own and other refugees' perspectives, as she is just one of many people seeking peace, equality, happiness, safety, education, and freedom. What they encounter instead is "Fortress Europe."

Inspired by Parwana's journey from Afghanistan to Greece and her text "My Pen Won't Break, But Borders Will," the exhibition will tell stories of refuge, pursuit of happiness, misplacement, violence, and solidarity in various parts of the world. Some artists present refugees' hopes and aspirations as well as their own experiences with crossing borders, while others challenge the dichotomies between solidarity and nationalism or explore borders and migration from a race and gender perspective. The exhibition ultimately proves that a simple pen, brush, or click can break borders.
  • artists:
    Parwana Amiri
    Rajkamal Kahlon
    Regina José Galindo
    Jodie Lyn-Kee-Chow
    Michikazu Matsune
    Tanja Ostojić
    Oliver Ressler
    Peng! Collective
    Lisl Ponger
    Borjana Ventzislavova
    UNITED for Intercultural Action
Julia Hartmann (Vienna, Austria) is an art historian, writer, and independent curator who specializes in the intersection of social movements, digitization, and feminism.

apexart’s program supporters past and present include the National Endowment for the Arts, Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, the Kettering Family Foundation, the Buhl Foundation, The Martin and Rebecca Eisenberg Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Spencer Brownstone, the Kenneth A. Cowin Foundation, Epstein Teicher Philanthropies, The Greenwich Collection Ltd., William Talbott Hillman Foundation/Affirmation Arts Fund, the Fifth Floor Foundation, the Consulate General of Israel in New York, The Puffin Foundation, the Trust for Mutual Understanding, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, public funds from Creative Engagement, supported by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Governor and administered by LMCC, funds from NYSCA Electronic Media/Film in Partnership with Wave Farm: Media Arts Assistance Fund, with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature, as well as the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.