Globalisation and recent trans-border conflicts have profoundly changed our modes of production, communication, displacement, and organization. To cope with the new reality that many in the global population now, forcedly or voluntarily, live in constant displacement—in trans-territories—new understandings of geography and geopolitical strategies have become necessary. This is the core topic of the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI)’s spring exhibition, Geography of Trans-Territories, supported by swissnex San Francisco.
Curated by Hou Hanru, SFAI’s Director of Public Programs and Exhibitions and a curator of global influence, the show features works created in the process of displacement, with contributions by French artists Claire Fontaine and Société Réaliste, Michael Arcega (Philippines), Carlos Motta (Colombia), and Switzerland’s Ursula Biemann.
Prior to the opening of the exhibition on February 24 at SFAI, swissnex San Francisco invites Ursula Biemann to give an in-depth presentation of her work, including Sahara Chronicle, a video collection documenting the present Saharan exodus to Europe. Curator Hou Hanru gives an introduction to Biemann’s presentation and leads a discussion with the artist to conclude the evening.
6:30 pm doors open
7:00 pm introduction by Hou Hanru
7:15 pm presentation by Ursula Biemann
7:45 pm discussion between Ursula Biemann and Hou Hanru, followed by Q&A
8:15 pm reception
9:30 pm doors close
Ursula Biemann is an artist, theorist, and curator working on topics including geopolitical displacement and migrant labor. Border, mobility, and extraterritorial spaces are the central recurring themes in her video essays Performing the Border (1999), Remote Sensing (2001), Europlex (2003), and Contained Mobility (2004). Her research projects in recent years include Black Sea Files (2005), on the Caspian oil geography; Sahara Chronicle (2006-2009), on migration systems in North Africa; and X-Mission (2008), a video essay on Palestinian refugee camps.
Biemann curated a 2003 exhibition and publication titled Geography and the Politics of Mobility (Generali Foundation, 2003), and oversaw the book The Maghreb Connection (Actar, Barcelona, 2006). She has published numerous books, most recently the monograph Mission Reports – artistic practice in the field, video works 1998-2008 (Cornerhouse Publishers, 2008). Biemann’s research is based at the Universities of Art and Design in Zurich and Geneva. She also teaches seminars and workshops internationally.
Hou Hanru is Director of Exhibitions and Public Programs and Chair of the Exhibitions and Museum Studies program at the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI). A prolific writer and curator, he received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the Central Institute of Fine Arts in Beijing, where he was trained in art history, with additional work in painting, performance, installation, and architectural research. He is also a consultant for several cultural institutions including the Global Advisory Committee of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Contemporary Art Museum in Kumamoto, Japan.
Described as a significant international voice on cultural differences, Hanru is the French correspondent for Flash Art International and a regular contributor to several other journals on contemporary art including Frieze, Art Monthly, Third Text, Art and Asia Pacific, Domus, Atlantica, Texte Zur Kunst, and Tema Celeste.
His recent curatorial projects include the sixth Lyon Biennial (2009), the10th International Istanbul Biennial (2007), and many more. He is one of the first curators and thinkers to examine postmodern issues of nomadic identity, hybridity, globalized mobility, what he calls “in-betweeness,” and artists living in the diaspora.
Photo: Myleen Hollero