New Museum_Here and Elsewhere_2014_07_NYC_Benoit Pailley
Bouchra Khalili The Mapping Journey Project, 2008-2011, exhibition view, Here and Elsewhere, New Museum, New York, 2014.
Photo : Benoit Pailley, courtesy of the artist & Galerie Polaris, Paris

The Mapping Journey Project (2008– 2011) is an installation composed of eight videos that present a new cartography of the Mediterranean space situated between Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East by following eight migrants making clandestine journeys. In each video, an anonymous subject’s hand traces his or her migratory movement starting in the Mediterranean Sea and radiating in a different direction beyond national borders. Subverting the visual model of the traditional world map, the individual line becomes the narrative device with which the protagonists describe their voyages. The stories, punctuated with tragic episodes (bureaucratic oppression, waiting periods, detention, deportation, disease) are related in several languages, factually and precisely. This restraint echoes the artist’s philosophical position that these movements are not simply the consequence of political and economic issues, but a mode of resistance through which the subjects reject power as it is expressed in the normative definition of borders, state control, and ideological restrictions.1 1 - See the enlightening analysis on which this commentary is based: Diana Nawi, “Other Maps: On Bouchra Khalili’s Cartographies,” Ibraaz, Platform 008 (January 2015). The transgressive nature of clandestine travel is also addressed in the eight silkscreen prints in the project titled The Constellations (2011), which portrays the movements of the people in the videos but deletes all references to borders. By inverting the logic inherent to the constellation — which, in navigation, is used for positioning — this project turns the itineraries of the protagonists into the reality by which the star chart takes shape. Finally, the political dimension of the very concept of movement is revealed in Khalili’s work; in her view, the journeys consist of an act of failure that allows one to ask “how human beings find the strength to resist even when they are caught in the net of arbitrary power.”

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This article also appears in the issue 86 – Geopolitics - Geopolitics

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