Under the title migrants (in)visible, the second Parisian ISOE pre-event focused on questions of visual representation in photography, art and film in the context of African migration in Paris, was held on February, the 8th and 9th.
The event was organized by the ISOE-curator Daniela Swarowsky as well as by the ISOE-researcher Aissatou Mbodj in cooperation with the Parisian art space Espace Khiasma and the curatorial-collective Le Silo.
Taking established images of migration as its starting point, the event envisaged to clarify the position migrants acquire beyond existing visual representations and how approaches for a new pictorial language are to be found. In doing so, the ISOE-curator Daniela Swarowsky hoped to find an answer to the question why and how certain kinds of images have been reproduced in public media as well as in the arts for years.
“As I learned in my investigations, the motive of a sorrowful wandering through the desert or the by now strained motive of an overcrowded boat are popular images ̶ especially in pictures dealing with West African migration in and to Europe. While the headscarf-wearing-woman has become a predominant symbol for migration in Germany, stigmatized places such as the Foyers, the so-called guest-worker’s dormitories, are still associated with West African migration in France. Therefore, the ISOE-pre-event aimed to critically discuss the coming-into-being of visual representations of migration.”
In the well-attended event, a vivid discussion between audience and podium arose. It circled around the following questions: When and how do migrants become visible and to which extend do they stay invisible? Is the choice to employ a certain kind of image under the control of those in power and if so, which positions are acquired by the producers of the images and the media in this process? Which role well-established motives for the reproduction of stereotypes play? In which way does the pictorial language of European photographers differ from that of photographers with a migratory background?
In the frame of the ISOE-exhibition project, the researcher Aissatou Mhodj and the artist Anissa Michalon are currently collaborating the Parisian Foyers. Under the title Focale sur les Foyers, two independent photographic series by Anissa Michalon and Vincent Leroux about West African migration in relation to the Parisian Foyers have been presented and discussed during the migrants (in)visible event. Both works follow different approaches and reflect critically the process of image production around West African residents of the Foyers. These photographic series will be found againt to be presented in the final exhibition Still in Search of Europe? at Kunstraum Bethanien in November.