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grafisches Element

State of Transit

20th April - 21st May 2012

OPENING: 19th April, 7 PM - 9.30 PM

PROJECT CURATORS: Frida Carazzato & Maria Garzia »

Participating artists:

Taysir Batniji
Esra Ersen
Mario Rizzi
Zineb Sedira

In the past the Mediterranean was a place of flourishing cultures that developed owing to the economic, cultural and social relations between the peoples living on its shores. As recently stressed by various curators’ and artists’ projects, the concept of the Mediteranean is much more than simply a geographical term. The movements of capital as well as of people, the ideas that these entail, the stories of every individual person and the inevitable effort and possibilities that these movements cause and trigger, constitute elements that transform the Mediterranean to a space in which politics, business, literature and desires mix.

Marked by colonial history and later processes of decolonialisation, the Mediterranean area is still having to struggle with political and territorial conflicts and with the ongoing fall of dictatorial regimes, which now brings to light the opposites that were previously hidden under a precarious balance. A region that presents itself as a bridge between the peoples, while on the other hand also being a region of cross-overs between all the populations that are driven to escape unequal economic developments.

In his essay Routes, the anthropologist James Clifford introduces the term of the “travelling cultures”. By this he wants to say that modern cultures should no longer be interpreted as static and bound to a certain place, but rather from a new perspective, linked to the notion of travelling. Thus as movement, mobility that is to be seen as a departure from the home country and return to it, on the way to somewhere else so far unspecified because of states of emergency or needs. The aspect of the journey in the sense attributed to it by Calvino, as a journey of knowledge on the basis of the notion of ‘elsewhere’ – see a comparison of the dialogue between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan in the Invisible Cities – becomes a metaphor for the search for an individual identity and at the same time a collective identity concerning the subjects in movement, but also for the search for identification as process of the reappropriation of the self. Transnationalism, decentralisation, migration and hybridisation are phenomena that irretrievably change the culture of these countries and their relationships to one another. Mobility seems to stress two further dynamics: the process of destruction and the subsequent reconstruction of being and a permanent state of instability, a state of transit that is expressed in the precarious living conditions.

State of Transit presents five artists who – based on the state of transit that has always characterised the region in question – have dedicated part of their research to the Mediterranean area and its dynamics of mobility. The works presented in the exhibition narrate personal stories reflecting also collective living conditions that are linked with emigration because of various events or emergency situations. State of Transit focuses on the artists’ effort to capture the “presence” of these stories of transit and constant new beginning. These are extinguished or often forgotten stories like that of Ali Akilah in the film by Mario Rizzi or those that remain anonymous precisely because they take place under the spotlight of the mass media, like the animation by the /barbaragurrieri/group. These are stories from everyday life that appear almost banal because of simple clichés, such as in the video by Esra Ersen or those reporting about places that are normally left behind or where you decide to stay, such as in the shots by Zineb Sedira or places of transit such as in the “stolen” pictures by Taysir Batniji. The movement of the individual within more complex dynamics, often going beyond him or her into the area of geopolitics, the economy and major social upheavals, is represented through the media of photography and of video, which have meanwhile become protagonists of the live global transmission of the events. Although the works presented were produced some years ago, they remain topical – less the isolated facts than those of the state of transit and the presence of a time captured in the picture.


/barbaragurrieri/group Link

11AL9T20, 2009

Video animation, 3’40’’

11AL9T20 uses animation to examine the experienced reality on the shores of southern Italy, where people looking for a life in another country land in makeshift boats almost daily. The animated video tells of the difficulties during the journey, it contrasts the helpfulness of the initial supportive measures with the subsequent “suspension” of the necessary legal and moral solutions and reveals the important role of information, whose sensationalist reporting methods highlight the perception of the message at the expense of a critical evaluation. The behaviour of the boat and at the same time its situation, in limbo or floating on the surface of a sea that resembles a kind of a staircase, refers to the universalation of the condition of transit. The drawing enables /barbaragurrieri/group to initiate a process of abstraction and universalation, which precisely because of the subtraction making the drawing seem almost “emptied” becomes the characteristic element of their research.

Taysir Batniji

Taysir Batniji Link

Transit, 2004

Video, 6’18”

In 2003 Taysir Batniji decided to secretly document the journeys from Cairo to the border of Rafah in the Gaza-Strip, which the Isrealis had closed in 2006 and reopened in 2011. Transit developed in 2004 on the basis of these shots: a series of photos mounted as slide show whose only sound is provided by the regular change of images in a slow sequence.

Transit deals with the difficult mobility of the Palestinians in the city of Rafah, which became even more severe after the beginning of the second Intifada. Many men, women and children are waiting to leave or return, because the Israeli miliary only allows a limited number of transits. The artist takes a perspective in the midst of them. As a traveller among travellers he abolishes the distance betwen the recorded subject and the invisible camera, and thus presents this hardly known reality differently to the way it would appear in a documentary. The shots are not precisely adjusted and their sequence is slowed down in order to emphasise the state of waiting. The film and photo work here thus tries to provide a counter-information and should be seen as action in a situation in which waiting seems to be the only activity.

Esra Ersen

Esra Ersen Link

Hello! Where Is It?, 2000

Video, 7’50”

The video Hello! Where is it? deals with the fundamental stereotype how the Occident sees the Orient. The video presents three banal conversations taking place in Istanbul in three cars crossing the bridge over the Bosporus. A couple discuss how they will spend their umpteenth weekend together, a man talks to his fellow passenger about his professional worries, and two friends joke about the 1999 earthquake. During the crossing, towards the end of the film the camera focuses on the two “Welcome to Europe” and “Welcome to Asia” signs, as if these panning shots were just accidentally moving away from the conversation. The two signs thus perpetuate the rhetorical formula of the cultural idiosyncrasies and the cliché according to which Istanbul and Turkey are regarded as bridges between the cultural spaces, between Orient and Occident. The daily commute across the bridge thus constitutes a clear opposite to the cultural division between the two territories that the artist has chosen as the background of this urban crossing.

Mario Rizzi

Mario Rizzi Link

impermanent, 2007

Digi beta pal, 15’08’’

Ali Akilah is a 96-year-old Palestinian physician. He lives in Amman, but was born in Lifta, a Palestinian village that is now part of Jerusalem. The short film impermanent was made in 2006 within the scope of a larger art project shot in Palestine, Israel and in Jordan. The video installation neighbours from 2006 and Ali‘s nostalgic narration came about as a reflection on Giorgio Agamben’s term of the “state of exception”, which considers the suspension of the judicial order as normal paradigm of government increasingly determining the politics of the modern state. The film focuses on Ali’s personal story and memories of his youth, on his student years and his lovers. His view seems to be focused on an ideal screen, showing the pictures from a film of his own life. The difficult memory becomes painful when he conjures the days in Lifta and his parents’ home, which he fled from in 1948. Here, the state of instability of his life and the insecure feeling of belonging become very obvious reflecting the universal dimension of a refugee, the state of somebody who is always in the in-between.

Zineb Sedira

Zineb Sedira Link

Transitional Landscape, 2006

Diptych, C-print

Transitional Landscape is a diptych that Zineb Sedira produced in 2006 during her work on her video Saphir. The photogpraphy almost always precedes or is in parallel with her videos. As the artist herself confesses, it is a still, subjective lingering in front of something that attracts us, a detail that stays still while things glide past. Shot on an Algerian beach, from which young people usually watch the sea and everything it has to give, everything seems to be floating in space on these photos, and the endless sea becomes a screen on which hopes, expectations and sometimes a feeling of homesickness become evident. For the artist, the pictures are a kind of a documentary of this place and how it is experienced by the people who inhabit it and decide to leave it, the relation that develops between people and landscape. There is no specific biographical reference; the man with his back to us rather becomes a presence that makes the viewer reflect on the eternal dilemma of the traveller: staying or leaving, standstill or transition, belonging or the escape from it.

Courtesy of the artist and Kamel Mennour Galerie (Paris)

Supported by:

Stadt Wien – Kulturabteilung MA 7
Italienischen Kulturinstitut, Wien – Istituto Italiano di Cultura, Vienna

grafisches Element