Ideas without borders

MIGRANTS: "A" for Anthropology.

The word Migrants, is too generic right? It creates a defined division: We are the Migrants, you are the Natives. I want to show this in the exhibition, how we individually, without entering in this division, interpret the word Migrants and what it means to us, asking the question: What does migration mean to you?

Next Monday, is the opening of MIGRANTS, this exhibition will close a circle of ten collaborative and participatory photography exhibitions. Then, I will focus on other research-based curatorial practice.

At the moment, I am printing and collecting the artworks for the exhibition, abstracts for the talks and artists’ texts, this very moment is very exciting in the creative process, as it feels like when you accomplish a puzzle. Soft copies of Photographs are migrating through the net into my inbox and hard copies are navigating the mail system, they are all bringing ideas without borders. MIGRANTS’ ideas are crossing the UK borders for this show and will share their ideas with you all.

David B. will be traveling for work during the opening event, this means, I had to collect the artwork from his office. Last week, I traveled by tube to the University, on my way there I was reading the greatest book “The Innocent Anthropologist” 1983, when the author reflects on semiotics, or symbolism writing “the problem of working in the area of symbolism lies in the difficulty of defining what is data for symbolic representation” I guess studying a member of a Dowayo tribe and his/her symbolic codes has to be very difficult since their ancient rituals have a profound meaning.

On another different chapter the author reflects on photography and how Westerners are used to reading photographs but adults in the Dowayos’ tribe do not have a clue “Nowadays, of course, Dowayo children experience images through schoolbooks or identity cards; by law, all Dowayos must carry an identity card with their photograph on it. This was always a mystery to me since many who have identity cards have never been to the city, and there is no photographer in Poli. Inspection of the cards shows that often pictures of one Dowayo served for several different people” during my journey, I wonder if Dowayos have access to mobile technology today. Technology has changed the way people experience the world, for example, if you travel to a remote place, you could meet a shepherd in Afghanistan that owns a mobile phone and has access to all these images.

I went to his office with Graham E. to collect the images that will be exhibited in a week’s time. David showed us his series of artwork and we discussed the way they should be exhibited. It is very easy to work with David, we seem to understand each other perfectly, and this fluid communication is reflected by only needing five minutes to talk about his work’s requirement, that’s all.

While we were packing the images back into the original box, we noticed that the floor in his office was filled with books, and a bananas box was just seating in the middle, filled with what it looked like photography magazines. If you didn’t know bananas boxes are the strongest built, for migrating heavy objects like books. They are used by most of London’s reading population. Even the Austrians have adopted this great import. David said that people were always sending him stuff to read, that the bananas box was sent to him by an Austrian photography magazine that wanted him to review the magazine and have sent all the different editions that have been published.

Curious about his books, I started to browse the book selves; Graham smiled and said; looking for serendipity? Meaning that I was looking for some kind of cue to a great idea. I laughed as I knew he had read my previous blog’s entry entitled “S for Serendipity” and was making fun of me. We all laughed!

I opened a couple of books that did not seem interesting, but Graham mentioned one book that David picked. The book was “Three perspectives on photography” published by the Arts Council, 1979. While holding the book in his hands, he started to tell us a very poignant story. This book was a key trigger for him to study photography. Back in 1979 David was living in Portsmouth where he saw this book, the Hayward exhibition’s catalogue. At the time he couldn’t come to London to the exhibit but enjoyed reading the catalogue. He had applied to study in two universities; University of Nottingham and P.C.L, while attending the interview at P.C.L he was asked about an exhibition or artwork that he had seen or liked. David explained that he really like the image by Victor Burgin entitled “Nuclear Power” and it seems that part of the committee of the interviewers was Victor, this was awkward as he did not recognize him, he did not know how he looked like! These were the days of anonymity. Today it sounds strange, when we all have our portraits and profiles showed on social media.

Graham explained to me that P.C.L Polytechnic Central London and Harrow College of Education emerged and became the University of Westminster, right there, where we were. That at some point he worked for each institution, teaching.

On the same week, three days after, it was my birthday and we have gathered at the South Bank Centre, one of my birthday presents was this book. Now at home, looking at the book I can see the anatomy of this volumen, I can see the plastic library jacket. And inside the markings with the dates of the borrowings. The last time that was taken out in 1997. There is a red stamp that reads in capital letters WITHDRAWN. I wonder who decided that.

Looking at the image that David liked, now I can see it properly. You can see a middle age woman smiling and walking towards the camera, holding a photo camera on one hand. Behind her there is a person dressed in an Astronauts costume followed by two kids, in line, that are imitating his rather funny walking gesture. Looking at this innocent image, you can read the superimposed text “Nuclear Power, The father gives his kind command, the mother joins, approves; the children all attentive stand, then each obedient moves“what is meant to be a cute holidays snapshot, is giving you a deep reading onto today’s society and the use of nuclear energy. NASA, the internet and the world are powered by Nuclear Power. The use of “Nuclear” represented by the representation of an Astronaut and the reality that is the family and the word “Power” which is very dark in this context as it has a dual meaning; energy and wrong ethics.

There are other words that Burgin emphasized with his work like for example "Possession", there is another work by him, an image showing a woman holding a man in a loving embrace and a text superimposed asks the question; what does possession mean to you? 7% of our population owns 84% of our wealth. Today this gap is even worst, when 1% of the population owns most of the global wealth. This image is not shown in the catalogue.

On the next page you can see a photograph of a man driving a car, holding a cigarette outside the car’s window, with a superimposed piece text that reads; “Omnipotence, Economically speaking, the father’s authority in the home is an anachronism which recalls pre-industrial times when he directed family-based production. In most cases today the father is himself merely a commodity in the labor market. His ‘authority’ now serves to reproduce in his children his on subservience to corporate and state power, providing them with the image of an ultimately benevolent controlling wisdom through which they will later tend to view all others who wield power over them. The objective authority of the father has collapsed into the gap which the factory opened between work and family life. Simultaneously master-of-the-house and a servant in his place of employment, the identity of the patriarch as a wage-slave is in perpetual transit between work and home.”

In art photography like in anthropology, we can study the signs and understand what is the metaphor and the data.

While I am writing this text, the artist Aitor A. has texted confirming that he is finishing mounting his piece for the exhibition and that he will be able to submit it this evening, we are meeting at 6.00 pm. I am trying to finish this piece of text before 5.30 pm. pretty much everything is happening today, on a Monday bank holiday weekend. 

Thank you for reading.

Copyrights @ Z.F.I Curatorial Projects.

London, Monday, 6th May 2019.

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