(im)igrants with(in)


2009
Curator Nada Prlja
22nd March - 11th April 2009
OPENING: 21st March, 7 PM - 9.30 PM

Participating artists:
LIBIA CASTRO & OLAFUR OLAFSSON, MINOUK LIM, TANJA OSTOJIC & DAVID RYCH, KHALED RAMADAN

If we analyze the content of newspapers - what would we find?

Due to the current world crisis, we are living in a time of dramatic changes, wherein the conventional notion of "country" and the established state power, modifies itself and results in the re-shifting of social, governmental and economic priorities. The conventionally most powerful (or capitalist) countries are facing economic downfall, resulting from the general panic due to individual loss: loss of property, jobs, stability, etc. The first in line to be "swept away", as a result of this crisis, are people who are marginalised - whether economically, ethnically or religiously - the people who are, in a certain way, alienated from the system they inhabit. Societies non-acceptance of (im)migrants, has resulted with the social isolation, or invisibility of this marginalised group of individuals.

A strong reaction to this situation is noticeable in artistic production, especially through the socially/politically engaged practices of recent years, in the form of protectiveness toward alienated, or otherwise displaced groups of individuals in society. One could ask - what causes this artistic reaction? Is it a set of new governmental legislations? Or, are the artists reacting to the unwritten/unlegislated rules that haunt and humiliate this group of "stateless subjects", on a daily basis?

In his book, "State of Exception", Giorgio Agamben points out that the state of exception is not a specific kind of law; rather it is a suspension of the juridical order itself, it defines law's threshold or limit concept[*]. This exhibition, (im)migrants with(in), uses the notion of the "threshold of law" to describe a "ghost town" or a "black hole", wherein laws and legislations are freely interpreted in order to undermine, devalue, isolate and alienate groups of marginalised people in society.

The exhibition aims, through examples of the artistic response to this established situation in contemporary society, defined by the afore-mentioned "threshold of law", to give a voice (at times, even a singing/shouting voice) to this group of "invisible people".

The work represented at Open Space is solely video work, focusing on two different artistic approaches: firstly, the documentary, where the life stories of the 'aliens' are told from the position of a "first person" narration (Ostojić/Rych, Ramadan); and secondly, the methodology used by artists for the re-appropriation of facts and documents by creating independent scenarios (Castro/Olafsson, Lim). Those two different modes of expression within the video medium, have led this exhibition to make an investigation of the medium of the video itself. In other words, it leads the exhibition to test the importance of the representation of reality within it, by questioning the degree to which documentary practices could/should activate additional scenarios and individual interpretations of reality.

This issue and other related research questions will be debated during the discussion, which starts at 5pm in Open Space, followed by the Opening Reception.

*State of Exception, Giorgio Agamben, University of Chicago Press, Chicago&London, 2005, pp. 4.

About the artworks:

LIBIA CASTRO AND OLAFUR OLAFSSON
CAREGIVERS
CAREGIVERS

Castro and Olafsson amalgamate their interest in avant-garde videography/cinematography and documentary practice in the video Caregivers. The viewer is confronted with the unexpected juxtaposition of music, journalism and visual arts, testing the viewers' own conventional familiarity with those three creative genres. The video portrays the relations between four women: Eastern European migrant caregivers and their elderly clients from the area of Rovereto, during the course of their daily life and work. The narrative content of the video is a newspaper article found by the artists, reflecting on the recent migration phenomenon of Eastern European caregivers in Italy. This article becomes a matrix for Karolina Eiriksdottir's contemporary classical music composition, in the form of a Cantata.

n the 'zone' where creative expression and reality meet, this video work introduces and comments on the complex situation of mutual dependency in a network of the European caregiving system. Both sides of this irreconcilable labour exchange - the care-givers and the care-receivers (including their families) - are caught up in a position of 'manipulation' of/by the socio-economical/political system, in order to fulfil their essential human needs. This particular situation illustrates the implications of European national legislations and the inadequacy of the system to offer appropriate solutions for either of those two dependent groups - thereby showing the 'threshold of the law' in a direct way.

MINOUK LIM
NEW TOWN GHOST
Video, 2005

In the video New Town Ghost, Lim takes an active position towards the absurdities and problems resulting from the thoughtless development and commercially driven landscapes of our society. The video follows a young woman slammer and a drummer who travel and perform on top of an open truck as it drives through the busy and cramped streets of Yeongdeungpo. Through a megaphone, the slammer recites a text/poem written by the artist. The poem comments on the new local mall and housing complex, as well as on the new-knowledge economy. Through this bold action, the performance aims / hopes to provoke a reaction from the local population that has inhabited the 'threshold of the law' for years.

In Lim's New Town Ghost, in contrast to Castro and Olafsson's video Caregivers, we do not encounter 'stateless subjects'. Instead, we are meeting citizens who have, in a similar manner, been forced to migrate within their own city and country, due to the economical injustices fortified by the developing society. The significance of this video is that it breaks the stigmatism that victimisation happens only within transnational communities. Perhaps even more significantly, this video is a direct reaction to specific transformations in the way a society functions, in the attempt to alter and affect the viewers' perception and awareness of the codes of life around us.

TANJA OSTOJI? UND DAVID RYCH
SANS PAPIERS - ILLEGALIZED PEOPLE
Video, 2004

The video Sans Papiers portrays one of the major deportation jails in Germany (Berlin-Kopenick). This video introduces the viewers to the shocking realities, conditions and treatment that illegal citizens receive, upon being caught in-between the law and bureaucratic system. In their documentary, Ostoji! /Rych describe the shocking position of unwanted foreigners, thereby directly illustrating the concept of 'threshold of the law' as stated by Tanja Ostoji?:

"EU state governments do everything to give as little asylum as possible. Refugees are deported and removed, and pushed over EU borders to fend for themselves....

Upon release, the absolute majority are without resources and without work permits, forced into the black labour market to pay off their debts, and become targets for more stringent police tactics. Yes, they are tolerated by the German authorities for a while, but like spring cleaning of its own prisons, out of fear and anger, the occasion comes for a seasonal sweep, and being illegalised, the asylum-seekers find themselves imprisoned again…'

KHALED D. RAMADAN
A LOOK BACK
Video, 2008

Observing the unknown faces in the video A Look Back, who face the beginning of the 33-day long conflict between Lebanon and Israel in 2006, one instinctively feels compassion for the experience that these innocent witnesses have had. On second viewing, however, the question arises: Who are those people? Ramadan provides an answer - 'All persons in the video are Lebanese, who live in Diaspora... Several thousand Western passport holders of Lebanese descent were evacuated from Lebanon by their respective countries…'

In one of his writings, Ramadan points out that 'in the disembodied world of the virtual community, identity is also ambiguous…'. In relation to the destiny of the group of people that 'inhabit' the video A Look Back, one could ask the following: These individuals are of Lebanese origin, holders of Western passports, which allows them to move freely, including the possibility of escaping from a situation of war... Is the national identity of those people therefore ambiguous? Would we still be able to define the people from this video as part of a group of 'marginalized' individuals and 'place' them within the 'threshold of the law'?

In my own opinion, these individuals are victims of their own 'ambiguous identity', the identity that most of us - as transnationals, or citizens with dual, or even triple nationalities /citizenships - live with. This form of identity gives us a freedom, but also removes the possibility of belonging, which likewise represents a limitation.