Belhassen Handous, Joanna Pianka, Tomash Schoiswohl

17/11/2023 – 13/01/2024

curated by Christine Bruckbauer and Aline Lenzhofer

Exhibition Opening: Thursday, November 16, 2023, 6 pm

Venue: philomena+ project room, Heinestraße 40, 1020 Vienna

Panel Discussion Memorandum of Understanding!? The Externalisation of EU Migration Politics and Artistic Activism: Sunday, November 19, 2023, 4 pm

with Azizou Chehou (Alarm Phone Sahara/Agadez), Wael Garnaoui (Border Study Research Group/Sousse), Leonie Jantzer (Afrique-Europe-Interact/Agadez), Thameur Mekki (independent journalist/Tunis), Mariama Nzinga Diallo (artist/activist), Petar Rosandić aka Kid Pex (SOS Balkanroute/Vienna) and the artists Belhassen Handous, Joanna Pianka and Tomash Schoiswohl
moderated by Katarzyna Winiecka (artist/activist)


OFF YOUR SHOES, photo of a collage in public space by Tomash Schoiswohl, 2023

A discussion about the EU migration pact with Tunisia was the starting point of the exchange between the artists Belhassen Handous, Joanna Pianka, and Tomash Schoiswohl. In July 2023 Tunisia has signed a Memorandum of Understanding in which the EU has agreed, among other arrangements, to give Tunisia financial and technical support to deter Europe-bound migration. A measure that fits in with the EU’s current asylum and migration policy, where borders are being pushed forward. This creates catastrophic conditions for refugees, but also for people on the ground.


Nevertheless, people are making their way to Europe. However, the routes are becoming increasingly dangerous. The number of deaths in the Mediterranean Sea is horrendously high.


„I could cross the shitty Western Sea as a sport shoe“ (Lyrics by the band Die Goldenen Zitronen)


The exhibition project OFF YOUR SHOES links the topics of migration and loss to the history of labour and protest in Tunisia and Austria – with shoes being a common theme.

OFF YOUR SHOES applies when refugees board a boat, but also in the exhibition space – which serves Belhassen Handous as an extended living space during his residency. Only then visitors can immerse themselves in the collectively created exhibition, listen to audio stories, wander through border landscapes, listen to the seawater and stumble over shoes, again and again.


For the exhibition, Belhassen Handous works with analogue photos, carves paths of migrants from Sub-Saharan countries into film material, and intervenes and experiments with images he found on the internet to create a poetic landscape. In a video work, he combines testimonies of refugees and images of the Mediterranean Sea with the rhythm of its waves. 


Joanna Pianka shows a new series of photographs that are integrated into the exhibition architecture as light installations. The continuous motif: shoes found in public space. The spectators are confronted with following questions: In what kind of situation do the wearers leave their own shoes behind? And what stories do the shoes tell us?


Tomash Schoiswohl compiles audio stories that, on the one hand, address aspects of current EU migration policy, and on the other hand, retrace historical events such as the uprising of the journeymen cobblers in the early 18th century, the construction of the „Linienwall“ in the suburbs of Vienna or the execution of “Jacob Bock” from Angola in the form of fictional dialogues. In doing so, he shows the inevitable connection between politics and protest. In addition, Tomash Schoiswohl creates collages from cut-out newspaper articles, newspaper pictures and quotations which move into the public space, marked with the words OFF YOUR SHOES..


(*1980, lives and works in Tunis) is a visual artist and documentary filmmaker with prehistory and archaeology background. He has been practising analogue photography since the early 2000s. “Hecho en casa”, his first film, was completed in five years and is a unique independent project filmed with a mobile phone. His photo series, “Auto-Excavation”, was presented at the Global Film Festival (Berlin 2013). In 2021, the Central Art Space in Tunis hosted his audiovisual and research installation works “La syncope du mérou”. This latest exhibition on the transformation of La Goulette chronicles the mutilation of the memory of this small neighbourhood which hosts Tunis’ port. For the past years, he has been working on his second documentary “On the Hill”.


(*1983, lives and works in Vienna) works as a photographer and artist. She studied architecture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. She works interdisciplinarily in the fields of urban space, society and visual art. Her artistic work is dedicated, among other things, to researching the collective memory and transformation processes of urban spaces and the questioning of social and political norms. In addition to work as an artist, she is active as a professional photographer in cultural events.


(*1979 in Wels, lives and works in Vienna) studied history at the University of Vienna and conceptual art and critical studies at the Academy of Fine Arts. His work combines art and political engagement and is dedicated to themes of urban development, art in public space and historiography. In a long-term project he explores the infamous traffic junction Matzleinsdorfer Platz in Vienna and has developed a profound practice of public art – politically involved and close to historical matters. He teaches at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna.

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