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Romanian beggars on display in art exhibition

Published måndag 26 januari 2015 kl 14.57
"Our self-image as a good person"
(7:03 min)
Photo: Anders Carlsson
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The exhibition space at Malmö Konsthall features two beggars from Romania, Marcela (left) and Luca. Photo: Anders Carlsson
Photo: "Tiggare" by Johnny Söderberg. http://bit.ly/1EmYjT3 License: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
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File photo: "Tiggare" by Johnny Söderberg. http://bit.ly/1EmYjT3 License: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

What if you were to walk into an art gallery and see not paintings, not sculptures, or anything like that, but actual people on display?

That's precisely what visitors to a new exhibition at the contemporary art center, Malmö Konsthall, are confronted by. Two beggars from Romania are the subject of this new exhibition, part of a program called The Alien Within - A living laboratory of Western society.

Anders Carlsson, the artistic leader of the art and theater group, Institutet, which is behind the exhibition, says it has to do with the debate on how to solve complicated inequalities that have led to more and more people begging in Sweden and beyond, and that people are feeling powerless.

Carlsson describes the scene: "You see two people sitting on each side of the room in quite familiar poses that normally are associated with someone begging for money, but in this case, it's not about the transaction of money. It's about yourself." 

He describes the reactions visitors have had thus far as "discomfort of different kinds" and "strangeness."

"In a way, there's no escape," says Carlsson, adding that one person had offered the beggars, Luca and Marcela, SEK 500, but they refused to take it, because they had decided they will say no to such offers within the exhibition space. 

"People want to escape the discomfort, not knowing how to relate to someone so unequal," says Carlsson.

While Luca and Marcela are not accepting money within the exhibition space, they are getting paid an hourly wage for their time, just as everyone else who works for the art and theater company, according to Carlsson. He says they are planning to use the money they're earning to build the foundation to a house in Romania.

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