Bouchra Khalili and The Mapping Journey Project

Bouchra Khalili is a Moroccan-French visual artist. Raised between Morocco and France, she studied Film at Sorbonne Nouvelle and Fine Arts at École Nationale Supérieure d’Arts de Paris-Cergy. She lives in Berlin.

Truck found with 39 dead bodies. One tragedy arising from the other: illegal immigration.

Yes, that’s right what you read. Illegal immigration is a tragedy, a milestone in the immigrant’s life that is accompanied by the hope of a better future. This is a tragedy, because, contrary to what many people think, it is not a choice but the last attempt to escape extreme poverty or war. The deconstruction of borders is an unrealistic dream and I am not much of an optimist .

There is a lot involved in the issue: culture, economy, ethnicity, etc. How do we solve this problem? While we are not given a solution, we can, and should, approach the subject.

It is primarily important to understand the geography of immigration before making any assumptions. If people are willing to take the risk of not reaching the final destination, it is because hope is the last thing to die. And it will die eventually.

Understanding the route, the map, of the trajectory made helps us to understand where people are fleeing from, giving us an explanation of the reason why to escape, and also which course they take. A course with border failures, making room for human trafficking; in the sense that not only are immigrants crossing these roads, but also the illegal sale of minors, smuggled goods, etc. Illegal immigration is a black market in which those who enter pay in two currencies: the first, monetary, the second, life itself.

Bouchra Khalili. The Mapping Journey Project. 2008-11. Eight-channel video (color, sound). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Fund for the Twenty-First Century. © 2016 Bouchra Khalili

Bouchra Khalili, French Moroccan artist, developed the project “The Mapping Journey”, a work of relevant social and artistic importance. Eight minimalist videos narrating the trajectory of eight resistants, as the artist prefers to call them, rather than refugees, showing on the world map the perilous trajectory each of them take. Using only one pen, we see a new cartography being created, an “invisible” but existing geography surrounded by traps and people willing to confront them. 

Each video featured narrates an unexpected story with long wanderings, others short due to police intervention. We do not get to know the narrator, but their description of the journey puts us, somehow, in a place of empathy. There is no sentimentality, only facts. In one of the stories, in Mapping Journey #6, a man who wants to get to Italy describes his journey leaving Afghanistan. He crosses Pakistan to Iran before heading to Istanbul, then travels to Bulgaria, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Belgium, England and France, finally going to Rome!

"The Mapping Journey Project (2008–11), a series of videos that details the stories of eight individuals who have been forced by political and economic circumstances to travel illegally and whose covert journeys have taken them throughout the Mediterranean basin." More:  https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/1627
The Mapping Journey Project (2008–11), a series of videos that details the stories of eight individuals who have been forced by political and economic circumstances to travel illegally and whose covert journeys have taken them throughout the Mediterranean basin.” More: https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/1627

Khalili’s video art not only helps us to visualize the route the immigrants take, but also empowers them with a voice, going beyond what the newspaper presents to us; Truck found with 39 dead bodies. That’s what was informed by the media. That’s how they see it. What’s behind all this is far from our understanding. It is easy to feel sorry, or even, to belittle it to only 39 bodies. That is why Khalili’s work is so important. It gives a voice, the right to narrate the facts as they happened, to 8 different people who could have died but survived. That is why she calls them resistant, and not refugees.

Learn more about the artist:

http://www.bouchrakhalili.com/the-mapping-journey-project/

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