Golden Visa ǀ With hypercapitalism against EU borders – Friday

Europe has upgraded itself to a fortress. It lets people without a European passport ricochet off its walls, it lets thousands camp in front of its gates, it lets them drown in its moats. So everyone knows that they shouldn’t even try.

Just like the family of six who fled Afghanistan to Iran so long ago that not even the eldest son Milad, at 23 years old, can remember his homeland. It shouldn’t even occur to her to head for the fortress. Because Europe belongs to the Europeans.

Or? That is not entirely true.

Europe also belongs to those who can afford it. If you have enough money, you can simply buy a permanent residence permit or EU citizenship. These free tickets for the upper class are called Golden Visa, and they can be bought in twelve EU countries against a major investment in the country, mostly in real estate – four even sell a passport directly. The prices vary between around 250,000 euros in Greece and around 10 million euros in Austria. In particular, poorer EU countries such as Portugal, Spain, Latvia and Cyprus have been selling golden visas since the financial crisis around ten years ago in order to improve their gross domestic products. The organizations Transparency International and Global Witness criticize the fact that the countries often turn a blind eye when the visa applicants earn their living with criminal business. Al Jazeera researched a number of criminals who were wanted by arrest warrant and who fled to the EU with a golden visa. Because of the major security concerns, Sven Giegold, spokesman for the German Greens in the European Parliament, demanded in October last year: “The EU Commission must take action against the sale of passports and visas with infringement proceedings. […] EU passports and visas are not goods. Money must not be the criterion for citizenship and residence rights in the EU. “

But that is exactly the reality: money decides whether Europe opens or closes its gates. Milad’s family (we keep her last name a secret for their protection) don’t have enough money. But the artist collective Peng! has come up with a plan for her. If it does it would be brilliant, if not it would be one of the most megalomaniac attempts to hack the capitalist laws of the nation-states.

With NFTs against “Fortress Europe”

The idea: The collective wants to earn enough money selling NFTs that Milad’s family can use it to buy Golden Visa in Portugal. NFTs are “non-fungible tokens”, meaning “non-replaceable tokens”. They are an attempt to make digital works unique that can actually be copied at will. To a certain extent, NFTs are digital labels that are assigned to images or videos and provide information about their owners. This information is stored in the blockchain – the same decentralized technology that is used to secure crypto currencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum.

Why bang! has just selected NFTs is explained quite simply: There is nothing that makes money quicker and easier. Although they have been around for a few years, they are currently experiencing a hype; In March of this year, the renowned auction house Christie’s entered the NFT market and sold a digital collage by the American artist Beeple for an unbelievable 69 million dollars. The bang! Collective asked a number of artists for digital works, including Sibylle Berg, the! Mediengruppe Bitnik and the Yes Men. They donated 16 contributions for the campaign, which the collective under the name GoldenNFT will be on exclusive advance booking from October 15th and accessible to everyone on the platform from October 20th will sell for 0.05 Ethereum (about 155 euros). The collective has also combined the original works into collages, so that a total of 5555 NFT works of art will be for sale. You can only find out after purchasing one of the originals or a collage.

The media artist Nora Al-Badri contributed the work “Spherical drop”, an artistically edited 3D file of the Babylonian world map, which was found in the area of ​​what is now Iraq. So the NFT sale also becomes a kind of financial reparation

There was no content specification for the works of art, they range from drawings to videos to programmed landscapes that are reminiscent of video games. The multidisciplinary media artist Nora Al-Badri contributed one of them: Spherical drop is an artistically edited 3D file of the Babylonian world map, a clay tablet from 700 to 500 BC. BC, which was found in what is now Iraq and is now owned by the British Museum. “I would call it looted art, the museum probably not,” says Al-Badri. The British Museum itself provides the 3D file – but only with naming the museum as the source and only for non-commercial purposes. Nora Al-Badri sees the money raised through the NFT sale for the action as a form of financial reparation. “The British Museum has played a part in helping refugees to get to Europe,” she says.

“This is how capitalism works”

On October 8th, bang goes! with the campaign “Freedom of movement is a capitalist right” to the public. In the group exhibition “Beat the System!”, Which opened at the same time in the Ludwig Forum Aachen – one of the sponsors of the campaign – QR codes for the digital works of art are on display alongside works by Christoph Schlingensief, Joseph Beuys and Pussy Riot. The subtitle of the exhibition: “Provocation Art”.

And the bang! Collectively, it loves provocation: it already let an oil fountain gush at a Shell conference, dropped leaflets over the German NSA premises by drone calling for resignation or indirectly called for monuments of colonial history to be torn down. For the latter, the Berlin State Criminal Police Office applied to put the artists’ collective on the nationwide terrorist list of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, and the offices and living quarters of the collective members have already been searched several times. “The state security service is our favorite art critic,” says Luca vom Peng! Collective. Luca is actually called differently, his name is a pseudonym, the collective members want to be understood as a unit. The threat of state power did not prevent the artists from planning one of their more elaborate actions – with a completely uncertain outcome.

“The hype that we are now building to sell all NFTs is like a magic trick – and yet real,” says Luca. “This is how capitalism works: Needs are created out of nothing.” Her sales arguments: You can make profit with the NFTs, because they can be traded after the purchase. What is unique is that with the acquisition you become part of an art campaign yourself and you give a family access to Fortress Europe, Milad’s family.

Memory of racism and repression

Milad no longer remembers his homeland, Afghanistan. But what he remembers very well is the repression and racism that he, his three younger brothers, his sister and his parents had to endure in Iran. The small basement where they initially lived. About the fact that he had to start working at the age of 13 in order to be able to afford the school fees that only Afghan children had to pay, but not the Iranian ones. About the fact that he was not allowed to go to university and that “enough is enough” that he said to his weeping parents when he decided to leave for Europe.

It’s memories that feel like they were a hundred years ago, says Milad. Because the hell that he then experienced overwritten everything. He crossed the border mountains between Iran and Turkey for 15 hours on foot. “That was the first worst moment of my life,” he recalls. Many worst moments would follow: Milad wanted to cross over to Lesbos in a boat, but on the first attempt it almost went under. “I felt death,” he says. Only the third attempt was successful, whereby “success” is probably the wrong word, because Milad ended up in the notorious Moria refugee camp. “I had really high hopes for the EU, I wanted to finally feel like a person,” says Milad. “But when I arrived in Moria, I didn’t believe my eyes.” In the meantime, almost 20,000 are said to have lived in the camp, which is designed for almost 3,000 people. Milad lived in a tent shared by ten people, there were maggots in the food, and the hygienic conditions were unacceptable. He went through the unimaginable there. “I saw a woman kill herself and burn like a child.”

To deal with the horror, Milad reported on it. He joined the Refocus Media Lab, an organization that teaches video reporting to refugees. From then on he filmed every day. Shortly after Moria went up in flames a year ago, ProSieben entertainers Joko Winterscheidt and Klaas Heufer-Umlauf showed his recordings for a quarter of an hour at prime time at 8:15 p.m. But instead of anything changing, a new refugee camp was built on Lesbos, with the same inhumane conditions.

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This new camp visited the Peng! Collective this summer and got to know Milad and his colleagues. “Together with them we decided how we should choose a family for our campaign,” says Luca. “At first the idea came up to raffle the Golden Visa, but that quickly seemed cynical to us. In addition, many of the residents of Moria do not have passports. Without them we can’t apply for a golden visa. ”Chance ultimately decided in favor of Milad’s family. It is clear to the collective that the selection is arbitrary – and that as an NGO one should probably invest the money in hygiene or rescue measures rather than let it go to a single family. “But these are internal perspectives of the system, albeit very justified. We want to show how absurd and inhuman it is in its basic features, ”says Luca. “Minus and minus equals plus, that’s the experiment. We’re making a body into hypercapitalism to try to carry people across nation-state lines. “

Waiting for asylum

Nobody knows whether it will work, it’s an experiment. Milad’s family knows that too, but it’s still playing with their hope, which is difficult for the artist collective to endure. “But the pain is also there if we didn’t do anything and watch the system leave people alone,” says Luca.

After a year and a half on Lesbos, the eldest son Milad made it to Germany this summer. Now he is waiting in a refugee home in Hamburg for the decision on his asylum application. Most of the time he is afraid to leave his room. “The things I saw in Moria did that to me,” he says. “I don’t want my family to go the same way as me and have to experience the same thing.”



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