Non-EU. Non-EEA. Non-European. Entertainer. This is how we artists are seen in the eyes of European governments. Despite the “exceptionally talented” visas in Belgium and the UK and the artist visa in Germany, we are outsiders with restraints; we are outsiders who buy time in the form of application fees; we are outsiders who believe the act of returning home admits defeat.
Due to ongoing globalization, international artists are more prevalent. We are moving quicker, defying borders as much as we can. As I write from a western viewpoint and focus on the western world, I meet more artists who have in one way or another circumvented red tape and passed under the Do Not Cross line to continue pursuing their art.
“Sorry, that is not in my jurisdiction.
Sorry, without a Model A Registration Card, we cannot take your application.
I’m sorry, I’m afraid you are going to have to go back to the US and apply from there.”
Being turned down time and time again – being told ‘go back home’ – can be extremely disheartening. Sometimes you cannot even walk. You work so hard. You take all the right steps. And still, the government requires something of you that you may not necessarily be able to fulfill – i.e. to pay for a roundtrip flight back home may be double or triple the amount of money you have in your bank account.
Being (il)legal is a multi-part series where I look at the different lengths artists are willing to go in order to pursue their art. The main focus is on non-Europeans in Europe and why Europe is such a “mecca” for the Western (and sometimes Eastern) art world. The goal? Take it as advice or leave it. What is to be written is what we non-European artists are living with every day – few legally attainable opportunities, little energy, bursts of relief followed by letdowns that slunk us. With borders getting tighter, protectionism on the rise, and Brexit looming over UK citizens, now is better than ever to expose the lives we live legally or illegally, to provide hope at times and, unfortunately, deter at other times. The complexities are exciting if you like to problem solve and overwhelming if you just want to dance.
From stories about bouncing around from country to country or staying put and hiding from the authorities, this is Being (il)legal.
Collectively we may be able to break borders and build more bridges.
Have a story to tell? Send it to email@example.com and we may feature it in the coming weeks.