WOP - Ursula Biemann. Geographies of the Migrant Bodies
It all started in Ciudad Juarez, the Mexican cityat the U.S. border grown around the industrial parks managed by multinational companies withthe approval of the Mexican government. Here Ursula Biemann has filmed Performing the Border (1999) and started her journey exploring the darkest sides of globalization. To describe the border, the Chicano writer Gloria Anzaldua has used the metaphor of ‘nepantla’, a liminal and unstable space that discloses new ideas, encounters, and a feeling of uneasiness. Living in this ‘tierra desconocida’ means to experience a state of unbelonging andchange. The women in Performing the Border perceive the frontier as a space of control and exploitationand, at the same time, as a space of transgression from an overbearing patriarchal structure. If gender identity is constituted through a series of negotiations and disciplinary rituals, by the same token the border isthe result of the repetition of relations of belonging and exclusion that produce materialand emotional effects.
Drawing on the idea that «…gender and border are performed simultaneously under very specific economic and spatial conditions...» UrsulaBiemann has realized a video-essay trilogy that, besides Performing the Border, comprises Writing Desire (2000) and Remote Sensing (2001)– a film presented at Tekfestival 2006. The latter two films focus on the affective and sexualservices offered in the global sex market afterthe end of the Cold War. Writing Desire’s aesthetics incorporates the graphic style of the Internet through a highly fragmented editing which simulates Internet browsing. Analyzing the bride traffic phenomenon and penpal relationships, the artist shows that the Internet isthe ideal space for the marketing of desire.
The contradictions of the European space – caught between the increasing circulation of goods and the closing down of the borders –emerge in the last works of the Swiss artist, including Europlex (2003) and Agadez Chronicle that visualize the “movements of life” across the Mediterranean coasts.
Biemann’s counter-geographies show the pluralityof migrants’ passages. The relationship between migrants and borders is always precarious, resulting from the constant conflict between state efforts to control mobility andthe people’s desire to inhabit the possibilities opened up by globalization.
Biemann is not interested in dealing with theromantic metaphor of nomadism. She prefers, instead, to highlight the ambivalence of migratory experiences. In her video-essay, often realizedin collaboration with other artists, activists and scholars, the migrants are recognized as “political subjects” who acquire a voice in theirown right.
WOP/Ursula Biemann. Geographies of the migrant bodies is presented by Tekfestival and qwatz, a new artist-in-residency program inRome.
The project is realized in collaboration with 1:1 projects and Love and Dissent. Besides the screening of Performing the Border, Writing Desire and Europlex, it includes the video installation Agadez Chronicle (on view at the Love andDissent Gallery, Via Leonina 85, May 5th-12th) and a workshop taught by Ursula Biemann at 1:1 projects (P.zza Scipione Ammirato 1/C,S.Giovanni on May 7th-8th).
The section is realized with the support of the Province of Rome and the Swiss Institute in Rome.