To have compassion and also, gratitude

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Bouchra Khalili: The Mapping Journey Project

MoMA, on Floor 2, Marron Atrium Through Sunday, August 28

If you are in New York City, go to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) to experience this exhibit.

The stories are heartrending. You cannot help but to feel such great compassion for these people.  And to feel deep respect for their spirit, tenacity, resiliency and strength.

I also have deep gratitude for the life I lead where I’m not forced to leave my home alone with no possessions, no family or little money – and where I am illegal, in danger, and at the mercy of other people. There are some who show up to these migrants as extremely kind and giving.  And there are some who do not.

This exhibition presents, in its entirety, Bouchra Khalili’s 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. Khalili (Moroccan-French, born 1975) encountered her subjects by chance in transit hubs across Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. Following an initial meeting, the artist invited each person to narrate his or her journey and trace it in thick permanent marker on a geopolitical map of the region. The videos feature the subjects’ voices and their hands sketching their trajectories across the map, while their faces remain unseen.

The stories are presented on individual screens positioned throughout MoMA’s Marron Atrium. In this way, a complex network of migration is narrated by those who have experienced it, refusing the forms of representation and visibility demanded by systems of surveillance, international border control, and the news media. Shown together, the videos function as an alternative geopolitical map defined by the precarious lives of stateless people. Khalili’s work takes on the challenge of developing critical and ethical approaches to questions of citizenship, community, and political agency.

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