Where Do We Migrate To?

MigrateCADVC, UMBC: March 17-April 30, 2011
Sheila C. Johnson Center for Design at Parsons, The New School: February 2 – April 15, 2012  (Art in America REVIEW)
Contemporary Art Center, New Orleans: October 6, 2012 – January 20, 2013

The Exhibition

Curated by Niels Van Tomme and organized with the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture, Where Do We Migrate To? explores contemporary issues of migration as well as experiences of displacement and exile. Situating the contemporary individual in a world of advanced globalization, the artworks address how a multiplicity of migratory encounters demand an increasingly complex understanding of the human condition. As such, the exhibition allows multiple perspectives about its subject matter to unfold simultaneously, opening up a range of political, psychological, poetic, and pragmatic manifestations of the contemporary migrant experience.

Where Do We Migrate To? features the work of nineteen internationally recognized artists and collectives, including: Acconci Studio, Svetlana Boym, Blane De St. Croix, Lara Dhondt, Brendan Fernandes, Claire Fontaine, Nicole Franchy, Andrea Geyer, Isola and Norzi, Kimsooja, Pedro Lasch, Adrian Piper, Raqs Media Collective, Société Réaliste, Julika Rudelius, Xaviera Simmons, Fereshteh Toosi, Philippe Vandenberg, and Eric Van Hove.

A national tour is currently being organized through November 2013.

The Film Series

This film program, curated by Sonja Simonyi and presented in partnership with the Film and Media Studies Program at Johns Hopkins University, presents a series of audiovisual materials, feature length fiction films, documentaries, as well as experimental videos. The selected films demonstrate the diverging ways in which networks of migration, experiences of displacement, and questions of belonging and rootlessness have been addressed by artist and filmmakers in recent years. While a selection of films engage with migratory practices as central to our understanding of the present-day self in increasingly globalized and multicultural settings, other works investigate the complex historical processes that frame these contemporary conditions. The program thus provides a rich sampling of ways in which the ongoing circulation of people across regions, nations and continents, is addressed and questioned from multiple political, social, cultural and historical perspectives in film and video art.

Friday, March 18th
Opening Program: Fortress Europe
Screened at Johns Hopkins University, Shriver Hall
Time: 6:30 p.m.

Grossraum (Borders of Europe)

Lonnie Van Brummelen and Siebren de Haan

2004-2005, 35mm, 35 minutes, The Netherlands

A poetic triptych shot on 35mm, Grossraum examines three distinct border zones of Europe. Van Brummelen and de Haan’s piece presents visually stunning, fluid images of these landscapes, as well as the daily activities that unfold at these sites of transit. The checkpoints presented are Hrebenne (situated between Poland and Ukraine), Ceuta, a small Spanish enclave surrounded by mainland Morocco, and Nicosia in Cyprus, divided between the Turkish occupied northern and Greek southern part, each place pregnant with cultural, political and historical significance.

Import / Export

Ulrich Seidl

2007, 35mm, 135 minutes, Austria

Austrian filmmaker Ulrich Seidl’s feature film narrates two distinct trajectories of import and export across New Europe. While a young Ukranian nurse abandons her infant child in search of a more hopeful life in Austria, a debt-ridden Viennese youngster embarks on a reverse trajectory to the Ukraine, helping his stepfather install outmoded gambling machines. Through these stories, which simultaneously address the economic and existential crises that shape life across Europe, the film ruthlessly delineates various relationships of exchange between East and West.

Please join us for an after-screening reception in the back of the theatre.

Thursday, March 31st
Program 2: Sahara Chronicle
Screened at UMBC, Lecture Hall 3
Time: 7 p.m.

Sahara Chronicle

Ursula Biemann

2007, DVD, 78 minutes, Switzerland

Ursula Biemann’s work consists of a number of short videos, which carefully detail the sub-Saharan exodus towards Europe. The visual material collected during various visits to central sites of the migration network in Morocco, Niger, and Mauritania, this piece documents and reflects the complexity and diversity of systems of migration. Bypassing the authoritarian voiceover as a manipulative device often used in documentary filmmaking, Biemann’s work opens up the ways in which the viewer might engage with the rich visual material and the textual information mapped onto the images.


Wednesday, April 6th
Program 3: From the Other Side
Screened at UMBC, Lecture Hall 7
Time: 4:30 p.m.

From the Other Side
Chantal Akerman

2001, DVD, 99 minutes, Belgium/France

In From the Other Side, Chantal Akerman looks at the harsh environment of the US Mexican border, where cutting edge technologies of surveillance have been systematically employed to limit illegal northbound passage to America. Shifting her lens between the border towns of Agua Prieta in Sonora, where people from across Mexico pass their time before attempting to cross into America, and the neighboring Douglas, Arizona, surrounded by mountains and desert flatlands, Akerman depicts the personal as well as the political implications of illegal immigration.

Tuesday, April 19th
Program 4: Migrant and Diasporic Histories II
Screened at the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture, UMBC
Time: 6 p.m.



Herman Asselberghs

2006, DVD, 23 minutes, Belgium

This video, by Belgian artist Herman Asselberghs, investigates the divide between Europe and Africa, North and South, “inside” and “outside,” through the particular site of Ceuta, an autonomous Spanish enclave nestled on the North African side of the Strait of Gibraltar. Investigating the geopolitical, as well as the philosophical implications of having a fenced off enclave of the European Union situated on the African continent, the work considers ways in which this isolated space negotiates necessary African involvement in Europe’s questionable immigration policies, and the implications of outsourcing the border of Europe, both physically and symbolically, to a different continent.

Eurolines Catering or Homesick Cuisine

Pavel Braila

2006, DVD, 17 minutes, Moldovia/Germany

Playfully uncovering the connections between food and homesickness as central to the migratory experience, this engaging piece presents the trajectory of a bag of home-cooked Moldavian dishes prepared by the artist’s family across Europe, from Braila’s hometown in Moldavia to a Berlin art gallery opening. Employing the low-budget bus line Eurolines for sending the food, the package traces the itinerary of many Eastern European immigrants going west in order to find work.


My America

Egle Rakauskaite

2003, DVD, 12 minutes, Lithuania

Traveling to America to visit her relatives, the artist takes up a job often assigned to newly arrived immigrants: taking care of the elderly and the physically or mentally challenged. The video shows her carefully fulfilling different aspects of her job, while different soundscapes and a voiceover provide an impressionistic evocation of her experiences in America as an immigrant. Through different levels of representation, the piece comments in diverging ways on those left out or left behind in popular and mainstream depictions of America as a migrant’s destination.

Crossing Over

Tanja Ostojic

2001, DVD, 7 minutes, Serbia/Germany

In 2000, artist Tanja Ostojic started the “Looking for a Husband with EU Passport” project. Publishing an ad with this title, she exchanged over 500 letters with numerous applicants. Following correspondence with a German man for over six months, their first meeting was arranged and recorded as a public performance in front of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade in 2001. The video documents this meeting, with subtitles providing a subjective framing for the event. In her work, Ostojic uses her own identity and body to forcefully comment on immigration policies, bypassing the abstract notion of “the migrant” to evoke a personal, individualized and gendered experience.


Green Dolphin

Oliver Husain

2008, DVD, 15 minutes, Canada

In Green Dolphin, German-Indian artist and filmmaker Oliver Husain constructs a hybrid narrative in which reality and dream worlds converge, constructing seemingly coherent spatiotemporal unity between disparate locales, from Kuala Lumpur to Toronto. Inspired by the 1947 film Green Dolphin which starred Lana Turner, this playful short piece presents a Filipino Canadian dancer as she relates her intricate love affairs to us, her character mediating between different diasporic universes.


eight to four

Usha Seejarim

2001, DVD, 8 minutes, South Africa

Usha Seejarim, a South African artist of Indian heritage, investigates the multiplicity of histories and questions of memory at work in specific, everyday geographies of South Africa. In this work, she presents visual recordings of the roads of the country, which were formed as a result of forced migration. eight to four captures the shadows of vehicles passing along highway M1 South, a route connecting Johannesburg to Lenasia, a township which was specifically demarcated for South Africa’s Indian population during apartheid.

Thursday, April 28th
Program 5: Waiting for Happiness (Heremanoko)
Screened at UMBC, Lecture Hall 3
Time: 6 p.m.

Waiting for Happiness (Heremanoko)

Abderrahmane Sissako

2002, DVD, 90 minutes, Mauritania/Mali

Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako described his film as “a portrait of people in departure, who have to a certain extent already left, without having actually yet moved.” Engaging with the transitory state inherent to trajectories of exile, the narrative of the film centers on Abdallah, a young man who awaits his departure to Europe in Nouadhibou, on the Coast of Mauritania. Beyond the central character, the port city itself comes to embody a state of suspension, as existential and geographical in-betweenness is invoked through spare dialogue and striking cinematography.

Saturday, April 30th
Closing Program: Let Each One Go Where He May
Screened at Johns Hopkins University
Location: JHU, Hodson Hall, room 110
Time: 6 p.m.

Let Each One Go Where He May

Ben Russell

2009, 16mm, 135 minutes, United States

Let Each One Go Where He May is the debut feature of Chicago-based artist Ben Russell. A portrait of two Saramaccaner Maroon brothers, the film captures their journey from the outskirts of Paramaribo, Suriname across different rural landscapes, as they trace the route their ancestors had undertaken 300 years earlier as slaves, escaping their Dutch masters. Employing a carefully choreographed formal visual language (masterfully comprised of 13 ten-minute-long single shots), the work questions our understanding of the historical, political, and personal meanings of this trajectory, while implicitly addressing issues of ethnographic, documentary, and (self-)representation.


The project was made possible, in part, with the support of the Flemish Government through Flanders House.
Additional support for the exhibition and educational outreach programs comes from the Baltimore County Commission on Arts and Sciences.