Globalization 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, who presents her video collection work Sahara Chronicle.
Join SFAI and swissnex San Francisco for the opening of Geography of Trans-Territories at the Walter and MacBean Galleries, followed by a panel discussion with the artists in SFAI’s Lecture Hall.
5:30 pm – 7:30 pm exhibition opening, Walter and MacBean Galleries 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm panel discussion, Lecture Hall
For a preview of Ursula Biemann’s work, come to swissnex San Francisco on February 23rd, 2010.
Ursula Biemann and Sahara Chronicle
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.
For the Geography of Trans-Territories exhibition, Ursula Biemann presents Sahara Chronicle (2006-2007), a collection of videos on mobility and the politics of containment in the Sahara. The piece is one part of Biemann’s larger ensemble, The Maghreb Connection, and an expansion of a previous piece called Agadez Chronicle. The full version of Sahara Chronicle was first exhibited at the Arnolfini in Bristol (UK) in the context of the Port City exhibition in September, 2007.
Containing short videos documenting the present sub-Saharan exodus to Europe, Sahara Chronicle examines the politics of mobility and containment which lie at the heart of current global geopolitics and takes a close look at the modalities and logistics of migration in the Sahara. The material for Sahara Chronicle was gathered during three field trips to the major gates and nodes of the trans-Saharan migration network in Morocco, Niger, and Mauritania. In its loose interconnectedness and widespread geography, Sahara Chronicle mirrors this migration network itself. It includes documents on Agadez in Niger, capital of the Tuareg and gate to the Saharan basin for the main migration routes coming from West Africa; Nouadhibou, the northern port of Mauritania, located on the border of Western Sahara from where migrants leave on boats to the Canary Islands; Oujda, on the Algerian border, where desert crossers enter Morocco; and Laayoune in the Western Sahara, departure point for boats leaving to Spain.
Sahara Chronicle has no intention of constructing a homogenous, overarching, contemporary narrative. The meaning is produced by the viewer, who has to extract it from the interstices between the videos.
Organized by the San Francisco Art Institute. With support from swissnex San Francisco and the Swiss Arts Council, Pro Helvetia.
Photo: Myleen Hollero