Washing the Passport

Washing the Passport, Washing the Passport, Washing the Map of Europe

Washing the Passport

Washing the Passport
Chromogenic digital print, 86 x 34 cm, 2009

Washing the Map of Europe
Chromogenic digital print, 60 x 24 cm, 2009

The starting point of the works was Centrifugal, a long-term curatorial collaboration project launched in 2007 between Belfast, Helsinki and Zagreb. The project focuses on the peripheries and centres of Europe and gathers together artists from smaller centres, “off centres”, close to the borders of the European Union. The participating artists are currently preparing a book with the working title Book of Europe in which they are collecting ideas and works produced during the project. Washing a Passport and Washing a Map were originally made for the book as a photo essay, but Hamm decided to produce photographic prints of the photos for this exhibition. Step by step, the informative prints tell a sad real-life story: how to remove stamps from your passport. It is something many immigrants and refugees in Finland have experience of. Getting rid of the stamps indicates the need to erase one’s traces. Such traces can be the price of a journey to see relatives that have stayed in the person’s former homeland. Many people have to erase such traces in order to retain their social security coverage or asylum in the new country.

The purpose of Hamm’s works is to comment on the unequal status of individuals, more specifically on the monitoring of social groups, which is an inherent aspect of passports as documents. Passports are not equal. In the days when Finland still had its own passport with blue covers, before the adoption of the current red-covered EU passport, there were stories about how customs officials, upon seeing the blue-covered passport, did not even bother to ask its bearer to open the document. This was a sign of the trust enjoyed by the Finnish passport.

Suvi Saloniemi