Watch the video of the installation we did on migration at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam, February-March 2012 and at the Dak’art Biennale in Dakar, May-June 2012:

journal dak'art biennaleOn the tree by the entrance of the Institute, the passer-by sees a continuous, steady stream of names of African men, moving up the trunk and branches. Around the same imposing tree, the passer-by hears the sound of the surf of the West African ocean, which gradually blends into a recording of immigrants singing, mourning the passing of one who was lost. Cause and effect follow each other in a fitting and poetic way. Both image and sound emphasise the continuity of the phenomenon that is immigration.

Around the tree there are photos Judith Quax took in West Africa of the windows in the rooms of men who had focused their gaze on Europe, form images that represent a poetic glimpse, full of expectation.

At the Dakar Biennale of 2008, Judith Quax presented work on the same theme with posters in the public space. Her work was published in the NKA Journal of Contemporary African Art, accompanied by a text of Salah M. Hassan.

The projection is in collaboration with visual artist Ellert Haitjema.


‘immigration clandestine’ will be presented at the Dak’art Biennale! Africa’s leading contemporary art biennale in Dakar, Senegal, opening at May 11, 2012. A multimedia installation, large photo prints and a tabloid newspaper on immigration will be exhibited at the French institute, rue Gomis, Dakar, Senegal.

Tuesday February 14th 2012 the intervention ‘immigration clandestine’ opened at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam.

On the tree by the entrance to the Hilton hotel, the passer-by sees a continuous, steady stream of names of African men, moving up the trunk and branches. Around the same imposing tree, the passer-by hears the sound of the surf of the West African ocean, which gradually blends into a recording of immigrants singing, mourning the passing of one who was lost. Cause and effect follow each other in a fitting and poetic way. Both image and sound emphasise the continuity of the phenomenon that is immigration.

Watch the video of the intervention.

Hotels symbolise hospitality, places where strangers are warmly received. By linking the art project to a hotel, visual artists Ellert Haitjema and Judith Quax are inviting passers-by to see things in a different way, and the subject of immigration is being presented in a new light.

A publication is part of this project and will be available from February 14th at the Hilton Hotel, Hotel Arena, W139, SMART project space, De Appel, SMBA (Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam), Rietveld Academie, Rijksakademie, Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst.

This project has been made possible by Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst.

Developing a critical understanding of the wave of new migrations of African people across borders of environments and cultures, as well as modes of resistance, presents an urgent necessity. We must establish platforms for knowledge production to fill in the glaring gaps in understanding the cultural and political dynamics of a world in motion, and to focus on unearthing the root causes and consequences of new migrations in Africa and the West. Situating this phenomenon within historical, sociocultural, and artistic points of view will advance important frameworks for understanding the complexity of migratory flows of a disadvantaged population whose dreams and aspirations for a better life often get curtailed by powerful state practices.

Delineating the hopes and frustrations of aspiring migrants provides an important opportunity to see and apprehend discursive practices related to bodies, mobilities, and manifestations of power. In this regard, artists have been at the forefront of highlighting the risky terrain of the crossing to Europe and the West, as well as the conditions of temporary or permanent residency for sub-Saharan immigrants in North Africa, to which less attention has been given by the global media. For a decade or more, artists of diverse backgrounds have been working on this topic from different points of view and in various media, ranging from painting to film to new-media-based works, and from the documentary to the conceptual. Some of their work has been transmitted broadly via exhibitions and other public platforms such as the Internet.

(…)

The precarious conditions of the new wave of African migrations provide a backdrop to Judith Quax’s Immigration Clandestine. After earning a doctoral degree in communications and sociology, she studied at the Photo Academy (Fotoacademie) in Amsterdam. Quax’s recent oeuvre focuses on this new wave of African migrations. It also tackles issues of negative representation of Islam and Muslims in the West and the global phenomenon of so-called illegal immigration.

Salah M. Hassan is an art critic, curator and Goldwin Smith Professor of African and African Diaspora Art History and Visual Culture at Cornell and Princeton University, USA

photos and texts

The disembodied portraits of “Clothing” seem to continue Judith Quax’ first Senegal series: For her 2007 “Immigrants” she captured the abandoned rooms of young migrants. Lumpy mattresses, fluttering curtains, an everted shirt in the surf: Quax shows West Africa as an abandoned place.

This aesthetic of absence also illustrates the fundamental nature of African migration to Europe: From the moment they leave, the migrants become invisible, clandestine, illegal. Even those of them who have reached the “Fortress Europe” without adversities and without being noticed, live here in secret, without doctors, social support or legal representation – the European public being fully aware of that. Quax’ series plays with this double awareness: We are shocked by the contrast between the colorful clothing reposing in the surf and their deadly message – and yet our inhumane immigration policies will continue. The residents of Yoff will even have been able to assign the garment to friends and neighbors – and yet they will board overcrowded boats again.

Christina Felschen

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