Sea Dreams: Isaac Julien’s Western Union: Small Boats by Jennifer A. González

González J.A. (2010) ‘Sea Dreams: Isaac Julien’s Western Union: Small Boats’ in Mathur S. (ed) (2000) The Migrant’s Time, Rethinking Art History and Diaspora. Massachusetts: The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. pp115-129

  • work about the passage from North Africa to Italy that many people make each year
  • “Being economic (rather than political) refugees, these migrants and their rights to protection were immediately in jeopardy, revealing the double standards used to articulate the logic of ‘asylum’.” pg 116
  • “If the refugees occupy a crucial space in the biopolitics of Europe today, their collective treatment does not rest on the separation of the ‘humanitarian’ from the ‘political’, but on the increasing confusion between the two.”pg 116 Didier Fassin – Compassion and Repression: The Moral Economy of Immigration Politics in France.
  • “false refugees” has been used to describe “economic refugees” – how can a person be ‘false’? Ties in to Edward Said’s writing on an historical view of Islam as a ‘false’ religion/mimic of Christianity. Long history of racist language and prejudices against people seen as ‘alien’ or ‘other’. What does it mean to be considered a ‘false’ person? a non-citizen?
  • “Like stanzas of a poem or the verses of a song, his three-screen projections introduce slow conversations among images, inviting viewers to linger on one scene while anticipating the next. Our eyes travel across the space as if scannign a landscape” pg 116
  • life-size projections stop the audience from just being in position of viewer/omniscience
  • environmental scale
  • “There is no authoritative voice (or voice-over) in the work, just carefully chosen juxtapositions of images that speak to each other.” page 117
  • “…Michel Foucault’s distinction between a genealogical approach to the past – which develops a provisional account from fragments of always-partial evidence…” pg 120
  • “Genealogical methods reveal an effort to chart the relations of bodies to systems of power through which they have been marked and dominated.”… “The body is the inscribed surface of events…”(Foucault)  pg 121 very interesting
  • “…the corporeality of rescue, the flesh-on-flesh materiality of bodies alive and dead.” pg 122
  • on the dancers in Julien’s film: “Their bodies are not starving, their bodies are not injured, they are not burned by the sun. When they enter the domain of what appears to be documentary footage, the audience may feel uneasily caught between theater and reality, experiencing a cognitive tension that brings into question familiar strategies and politics of spectatorship.” pg 124
  • “The fragmentation of time and repetition of spaces in the work reveal the relentless, ongoing, hopeful – yet always inherently and involuntarily blind experience of migration and culture contact.” pg 125
  • “…history of the sea as itself as a critical agent of social change and becoming, of death and disappearance.” pg 125
  • “National boundaries, economic policies, and international law are shown to be effective forms of capital punishment…” pg 126
  •  “Is it unethical to build a body of expansive, lush, and sensually gripping work around the real life tragedies of immigrants?” pg 127 – this is an important issue that I struggle with, but I think beautiful imagery can be a way to lure in an audience. Sometimes we can become desensitised by the imagery we see on the news/ documentary footage.
  • “…why have so few visual artists addressed the politics of migration from the psychological, internal state of the migrant? How can contemporary concerns of international migration be given a broader historical frame that includes a long history of colonialism and domination?” pg 127
  • “temporary fictions of nationality” pg 127 – this is what nationality and borders and countries really are – fictions
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