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World premiere of Art Installation + String Quartet at the Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg.

Ungrievable Lives, premiering April 7th, 2022, is a new collaboration between artist Caroline Burraway and composer Charlotte Bray. Bray’s composition is her very first for string quartet, inspired by the powerful new installation by Burraway comprising 13 children’s dresses, handmade from refugee lifejackets she gathered at the Lifejacket Graveyard in Lesvos, Greece. The project is supported by UNHCR. 

Each dress, hanging from antique iron and brass weighing hooks (Salter scales) above piles of sand, represents 1 of the 13 million child refugees worldwide, signifying the absent body.  The dresses, evoking memory, absence and loss, are an invitation to the viewer to meditate on the story of the refugee’s journey as they strive to reach the shores of Europe. “Dirty, torn, patched together, a mixture of faded oranges, pinks and reds, at first glance they look like any small 3/4 year old dress a young child may wear, your child, my child, any child”, explains Burraway. “But a closer look slowly confronts the viewer with the realisation of what they’re made from and what they embody.”  Some dresses bear the name of the country they sailed from stamped across their chest like a fashion slogan, some have motifs of little animals playing happily,  their whistles hanging down as if in play.

Burraway describes her first experience of the Lifejacket Graveyard as a “physical blow”, when she confronted mountains of discarded lifejackets, many meters deep. “They lay quietly abandoned, decaying, buried in the stillness of the surrounding valley”, remembers Burraway. “My feet sank into the depths below as I made my way through thousands of loudly shouting colours, each shape evoking the suffocating presence of an abandoned body. Straight away, I knew I needed somehow to bring a sense of this to those who neither would, nor could ever see it, never have the chance to feel it themselves”. 

Ungrievable Lives will be performed by the Castalian String Quartet on 7 April, 2022, in the Kleinersaalat the Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg, with the installation exhibited in the foyer before and after the concert. Ungrievable Lives tours to other venues across Europe over the course of 2022/23, including London’s Wigmore Hall, Konzerthaus Wien, Kuhmo Festival, Finland and Sante Fe Music Festival.