Bouchra Khalili at Campagne Première, Berlin
|April 24, 2012|
|Campagne Première||Follow us|
|Bouchra Khalili, The Mapping Journey
8 single channel videos, installation view, 10th Sharjah Biennial 2011.
Photo by Haupt&Binder.
The Mapping Journey Project, produced between 2008 and 2011, is a mixed-media installation that combines eight video works (Mapping Journey #1-#8) and 8 silkscreen prints (The Constellations Fig. 1-8).
Each of the videos is based on Bouchra Khalili's encounters with undocumented refugees, who describe their journeys by marking their own zigzagging routes on the surface of a map. Only the map and the hand of the narrator are visible in the video. In Mapping Journey #6 (2010), a young man, who is ultimately trying to reach Italy, travels from Afghanistan via Pakistan to Teheran. He then walks to Istanbul and continues his journey via Bulgaria, Hungary, and Vienna to Munich, Belgium, England, and Paris. He finally ends up in Rome, where he wants to stay and lead a normal life. The Mapping Journey Project challenges the normativity of cartography and aims to "map" an alternative cartography of the Mediterranean area that is based on eight illegal journeys, that make apparent a geography of resistance. Inspired by philosopher Michel Foucault's "The Life of Infamous Men," the artist collected an anthology of clandestine existences that live on the social, political, and territorial margins, caught in the nets of arbitrary power. It is an anthology of "singular lives…which have become, through I know not what accidents, strange poems" (Michel Foucault, "The Life of Infamous Men," 1977).
The Constellations series appears as the closing chapter of this work. The eight silkscreen prints echo the drawings produced by the migrants, translating their journeys into a constellation of stars, inspired by the sky maps that have been in use in astronomy for centuries. The artist blurred the limits between the sea and the sky, erasing terrestrial boundaries, in favor of a continuous trip, a nomadic constellation of paths.
A poetic dimension of the whole project is revealed here. These pure and singular drawings—that are also traces and gestures of writing—become stars in the delicate articulation of an imaginary figure, and at the same time a translation of the reality of contemporary migratory routes in the Mediterranean region.
"In the hands of another, less rigorous artist, Khalili’s
material could easily become patronizing, riddled with bad politics and
oblivious privilege. But her attention to form is crucial. The works are
spare, precise and capacious, and yet so much remains unseen, relegated to
a space of storytelling that touches harsh politics and demands both
empathy and imagination in response. As such, the works are a challenge,
like a sea of meaning to navigate, or a coast of understanding to reach."
(Kaelen Wilson-Goldie, Frieze Focus, published on 1/11/2011)