Welcome to the PARSE Dialogues on Art and Migration.
Art and Migration
The dialogues inquire into the embodied, affective, performative, material, visual, and spatial politics of cross-border human mobilities, through arts/design as well as other disciplines and practices. It concerns all the actors involved in these mobilities: the remarkable proliferation over recent years of heterogeneous human migration formations, including labour migrants and people seeking asylum, the border enforcement infrastructures that arise in response to these mobilities, as well as how these infrastructures incorporate market-based/migration industry actors.
The dialogues will interrogate these complex alliances, antagonisms, and complicities, analysing or interpreting conditions where (nation-)states’ official infrastructures for border control coexist with migration industry infrastructures for border-crossing and market-based enterprises for border enforcement. These include border control through proliferating physical barricades, militarised policing, multilateral border cooperation, detention camps, deportation dragnets, and new strategies of surveillance; both formal and informal migration industry infrastructures (e.g. the outsourcing of migration visa processing, labour migrant recruitment agencies, remittance services, the rise of transit spaces along migration corridors, forged passport markets, migrant smuggling, amongst others); and private security contractors for offshore detention centres.
Among many other conceivable topics, the dialogues will engage with such questions as: – How are lived experiences of these complex entanglements understood by differently positioned people as expressed in arts/design, activism, migration studies and other disciplines?
– How do people counteract, subvert, circumvent, resist, take charge of the everyday practices of these entangled bordering infrastructures?
– How can artists, academics, activist networks, and other civil society groups work together to challenge new forms of bordering in ways that are socially and intellectually relevant?
The dialogues are in collaboration with the Centre for Global Migration, and are led by:
Erling Björgvinsson, Professor of Design, HDK/Academy of Design and Crafts, University of Gothenburg.
Nicholas De Genova, Scholar of migration, borders, citizenship, race and labour, Professor and Chair of the Department of Comparative Cultural Studies, University of Houston.
Mahmoud Keshavarz, Design scholar and post-doctoral fellow at the Engaging Vulnerability Research Program, Uppsala University.
Tintin Wulia, Artist and post-doctoral fellow at HDK/Academy of Design and Crafts and School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg.
This Dialogue is part of the arc Art and Migration.
Art and Migration Part 1:
19 October 2018, Glashuset, Valand Academy
Speaker biographies and abstracts:
Elyas Alavi is a multi-disciplinary visual artist based in Adelaide, South Australia. He is primarily working in the form of painting, installation, performance art and recently video art. Alavi was born in Daikundi province, Afghanistan, and moved to Iran as a child, following the intensification of war in his homeland and in late 2007 he moved to Australia as refugee at risk.
Elyas Alavi graduated from a Masters by Research (Visual Arts) in 2015 and a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Honours) in 2012 at the University of South Australia and has exhibited nationally and internationally including Mohsen Gallery (Tehran), UTS Art (Sydney), Jugglers Art Space (Brisbane), IFA Gallery (Kabul), St Heliers Gallery (Melbourne), Nexus Arts, CACSA Project Space and Fontanelle Gallery (Adelaide).
Alavi also is best known as an internationally renowned poet. He published 3 poetry books in Iran and Afghanistan. First poetry book “I’m a daydreamer wolf” published in 2008 in Tehran (5th edition in 2016), followed by “Some wounds” in 2012 in Kabul and “Hodood” in 2015 in Tehran.
Alavi visits many issues in his works, but mainly memory, migration, displacement, exile, gender issues, separation and the human nature. The main part of his work as an artist reflects upon his Hazara background (a marginalised ethnic group originally from Afghanistan) as he uses his particular experiences and contemplations as an epistemological model for the dislocation of peoples. This auto ethnographic approach offers a representative perspective for other displaced people and contributes to a deepening knowledge of the refugee and migration experience.
Alavi regularly runs art and poetry workshops in community centres and schools in Adelaide.For additional information: www.elyasalavi.com
“The Uprooted Tree” : Whether in Afghanistan or elsewhere, the life of an Hazara person is often clouded by a sense of danger and vulnerability. Many have fled Afghanistan or countries such as Iran and Pakistan because of direct punitive discrimination based on their ethnicity and most often, if not from their journey to safety, are themselves suffering from trauma, loss and alienation as a result of such experiences. Which begs the question: beyond the headlines, how is it possible to understand the trials and realities of the refugee experience? As a cross-disciplinary visual artist and poet Elyas Alavi talks about his experiences through personal, playful and mythological lenses. Evoking issues of identity, in-betweenness, memory, migration and displacement, he offers a deeper understanding of his trials as a Hazara refugee, artist and migrant to Australia.
Drawing on the personal and the collective, Alavi explores Hazara experiences of displacement through an autobiographical and visual arts practice focus, involving reflections on exile and memory, on crossing borders, on longing and the desire to return home; on the wounding nature of traumatic memory; on past and present histories of persecution and displacement; and the experience of homecoming, of ‘breaking the exile’.
In 1999, Nuraini Juliastuti co-founded KUNCI Cultural Studies Center, in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. KUNCI is a research collective which focuses on creative experimentation and speculative inquiry between theory and practice. Her education background includes MSc in Contemporary Asian Studies (University of Amsterdam) and PhD in Cultural Anthropology (Leiden University). Nuraini’s research writings have been published widely in Indonesian media and cultural organisation (Tempo, Kompas, The Jakarta Post, Indonesian Visual Art Archive), international art publications (Art Monthly Australia, Metropolis M, Afterall Journal, Discipline), and artists’ book and monograph (Stedelijk Museum and Sternberg Press), and refereed academic journal (Jurnal Perempuan, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies). In collaboration with KUNCI, she has produced a body of research works, which use publication, exhibition and gathering as modes of presentation and engagement. KUNCI developed Made in Commons project, which was presented in Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam (in 2013) and Jogja National Museum (in 2015). In 2015, in collaboration with Para/Site and Indonesian migrant workers in Hong Kong, KUNCI developed Afterwork Reading Club, a reading club dedicated to the literature on modes of gendered migration. The reading club is culminated in the publication of Afterwork Readings, an anthology of short stories and poems written by Indonesian, Filipino, and Chinese workers/migrant workers. In 2017, Kunci developed Tropical Dissonance: Decolonising Knowledge through Colonial Archives and presented it at the Tropenmuseum. KUNCI is working on a long-term project titled School of Improper Education (2016-2019)- a project to experiment with different modes of pedagogy practices, and implement them within contemporary social environment. Currently Nuraini developed her own project titled Domestic Notes. Domestic Notes is a publication-based project uses domestic and migrant spaces as sites to discuss everyday politics, organisation of makeshift support system, and alternative cultural production.
“Afterwork Readings: On Indonesian migrant workers and the act of writing”: My presentation derives from Afterwork Reading Club that Kunci initiated in collaboration with the Indonesian migrant workers in Hong Hong in 2015. The project was part of Para Site’s Hong Kong Migrant Domestic Workers Project. This presentation also derives from my involvement as one of jury members of the annual Taiwan Literature Award for Migrants in 2017. Afterwork Reading Club focuses on migrant workers literature as the important point at the politics of knowledge production within the context of Indonesian labour movement. I divide the presentation into three parts. In part one, I situate writing and reading practices in the everyday life of the migrant workers. Throughout Afterwork Reading Club project, we make a connection between ‘fiction’ as a literary style and representation of subjectivity construction process. In part two, I elaborate further on the performance of the migrant workers’ writings. I situate them within the specific context of writing condition—the kitchen, park, factory, ship, and jail. I map out the discourse on subjectivities showed in the texts. I examine the writing techniques and tools used to write the texts to develop an argument around writing stories. Writing is not only a safe space to convey thoughts and anxieties. To write a story means to reclaim ‘story’ as a site for recognition and self-empowerment. In part three, I examine the Instagram accounts of some Indonesian migrant workers. Using their photo postings as resources, I draw a narrative on experiencing the distance through the perspective of migrant workers.
Shahram Khosravi is Professor of Social Anthropology at Stockholm University and the author of the books: Young and Defiant in Tehran, University of Pennsylvania Press (2008); The Illegal Traveler: an auto-ethnography of borders, Palgrave (2010); Precarious Lives: Waiting and Hope in Iran, University of Pennsylvania Press (2017), and After Deportation: Ethnographic Perspectives, Palgrave (2017, edited volume). He has been an active writer in the Swedish press and has also written fiction.
“The time of borders”: Migration and borders are generally perceived and studied as a spatial process and the temporal aspect of migration has received much less attention. In this presentation I will develop an anthropological account of the lived experiences of the temporal aspect of border practices.
Antje Missbach is a senior research fellow and lecturer at the School of Social Sciences at Monash University in Melbourne. She is interested in the politics of migration in Indonesia and the wider Asia-Pacific region, particularly transit migration, human smuggling, maritime security, social deviance, and marginalized forms of existence. She is the author of Troubled Transit: Asylum seekers stuck in Indonesia (Singapore: ISEAS, 2015) and co-editor, with Jemma Purdey, of Linking people: Connections and encounters between Australians and Indonesians (Berlin: Regiospectra, 2015). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
“RESPITE” : Over the last 8 years, I have been interested in researching the everyday lives scenarios of refugees in Indonesia. So far, I have documented my findings mostly through writing texts for academic and non- or not-quite-so-academic audiences. In early 2018, however, the idea was conceived to make a short documentary about young refugees and their interactions with their Indonesian peers in the city of Makassar (central Indonesia). Filmmaker Andrianus Oetjoe, who had previously produced two short documentaries on refugees in Indonesia (http://amerdhi.mengoceh.de/transit/) and in Germany (https://www.goethe.de/ins/id/en/kul/pkt/ind/aog.html), was easily convinced to take up the task of directing this new film.
While more and more refugees have started to document their lives and the events of the refugee community through video blogs, we were mostly interested in recording the daily interactions between refugees and non-refugees. The reason for this was to “normalize” the portrayal of refugees and avoid depicting them as the “dangerous other”, thereby creating more sympathy amongst young Indonesian people for refugee-related issues (e.g. by showing this film in the classrooms of our respective universities).
When we started filming, however, the situation on the ground in Makassar changed rapidly due to some newly-introduced restrictions affecting refugees’ mobilities and their every-day encounters. Whereas Makassar used to be known for its tolerance and welcoming attitude towards refugees, suddenly local authorities started to introduce curfews and other measures of control. Unsurprisingly, many of the refugees started holding peaceful protests to raise awareness to their worsening situation. Predictably, the repercussions for those who had organized the protests were rather harsh. Thus, we were confronted with the questions on whether to continue with our project the way it had be anticipated it or whether to adopt to the changes and thus include some of those not-so-harmonic realities into the documentary as well?
The outcome is the story of two Hazara youths, who allowed us to capture some of their interactions and friendships with their Indonesian soccer club members, trainers, neighbours and (girl)friends. Moreover, the documentary offers some insights of what undetermined waiting for resettlement (or anything at all to happen) and restricted mobility looks like. Relying on metaphors and silence rather than a narrating voice, the film tries to capture some of the emotional intensities we encountered during the process of filming.
RESPITE Trailer: http://amerdhi.mengoceh.de/respite-trailer2018/
Director: Andrianus Oetjoe
Over 14,000 refugees live in Indonesia. Many come here to seek passage to another country, such as Australia or the United States, through United Nations resettlement programs. In the process, they wait in limbo for years. Some grow up here, learn the language, make friends, and fall in love with the people and the country. But they cannot stay because Indonesia has not signed the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and does not accept refugees. The film depicts the lives of two refugee youth in Makassar, and the friendships they build with Indonesians.
Dagmawi was born and grew up in Addis Ababa. He left his country after the 2005 post-election unrest in which hundreds of young people were killed and put in jail. After a long journey across the Libyan desert and the Mediterranean, he came ashore on the island of Lampedusa on 30 July 2006. In Rome, after having participated in a video-making workshop in 2007, he co-authored the film Il deserto e il mare (The desert and the sea) along with 5 other migrants. Subsequently he co-directed the 2008 documentary film Come un uomo sulla terra (Like a man on earth). He shot the documentary C.A.R.A. ITALIA (Dear Italy) in 2009 and Soltanto il mare (Nothing but the sea) in 2011, along with several other short films. In 2011 he coordinated the collective film project Benvenuti in Italia (Welcome to Italy), In 2013 a documentary entitled Va’ pensiero-walking stories, 2015 directed Asmat-Names. Dagmawi is the co-founder and vice president of the Archivio delle Memorie Migranti (Migrants Memory Archive).
“The importance of migrants on the construction of future memories”: The immigration phenomenon and the role of images in creating perception in society, through documentary cinema and other artistic communication medium, are privileged voices that can be used to break through clichés by proposing new perspective. As a migrant engaged in filmmaking I especially interrogate myself about whose role I am exactly supposed to assume once I have finalized a documentary. Am I the owner of the stories, the holder of the copyrights? Am I the seller or the medium? What external power influences the stories that I am filming? The answers are not easy.
Migrants and refugees are often used as objects of narration: they are the experts of their own disgrace. Migrants are consulted only on what they live through, but not what they think. His/her personal identity weakens and is submerged into a collective stereotypical identity. It is crucial to involve the migrant on constructing future memories and archives. It is urgent to gather the migrants’ perspective. Since the immigration phenomenon became a central aspect of the political debate in Europe (in the last two decades), there have been published materials such as films, photos and academic studies that reflects limited/one-way perspective on the phenomenon without giving enough space and opportunity to migrants’ point of view. Migrants Memory Archive wants to counter this tendency, and if it is unable to incise them into our present day, it will help to preserve the migrants’ stories and memories for future generations.
PARSE Dialogue – Art & Migration, part 1, 19 October, 2018, Glashuset, Valand Academy, Gothenburg.
PARSE Dialogue – Art & Migration, part 2, 24 January, 2019, Baulan, HDK, Gothenburg.
PARSE Dialogue – Art & Migration, part 3, 29 April, 2019, Baulan, HDK, Gothenburg.