Port City: On Mobility and Exchange

Port City explores the relationship between global sea trade, slavery and the migration of people today.

Traditionally ports have been seen as gateways to a wider world, representing points of contact between different countries and cultures, facilitating the movement of people as well as goods and ideas. Today, however, working ports are increasingly separated off from everyday life, becoming sealed points of exchange on a worldwide network of trade, and sensitive entry points for the migrant worker.

Several works in the exhibition draw attention to the experience of migration, in particular between North Africa and so-called ‘Fortress Europe’. Ursula Biemann’s video installation Sahara Chronicle follows the route of migrants across the desert to their embarkation points, filmed over three years in Niger, Mauritania and Morocco. Yto Barrada’s work refers to the Straits of Gibraltar, the narrow divide between Europe and Africa. Her photographic series Sleepers presents images from her home town of Tangiers, where would-be émigrés await their moment of passage.

Elsewhere, Melanie Jackson’s The Undesirables re-creates the scene of the stricken cargo ship MSC Napoli, beached off of Devon’s Jurassic coastline earlier this year, using intricate paper models. Meschac Gaba’s Sweetness is a model city, comprising buildings from across the world made from sugar. Two new landmark buildings from Southampton, chosen by local people, have been added to the work. In the Gallery Reading Room, visitors can explore Mary Evans’ Blighty, Guinea, Dixie, 2007, featuring kaleidoscopes revealing contemporary scenes from historic trans-atlantic trade routes.

As part of Port City the Maghreb Connection Screening Programme will be shown in the Project Room. Curated by Ursula Biemann, this comprises a series of artist’s films and documentary works exploring migratory movements within Europe and North Africa.

Port City is curated by Tom Trevor, Director of Arnolfini and funded by Arts Council England, Grants for the Arts and the European Commission Culture 2007. The Maghreb Connection Screening Programme is curated by Ursula Biemann. The exhibition will tour to the Liverpool Biennial 2008.

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