By Jacques Doyon
More than thresholds, borders have become a kind of non-place – extra-national zones – where migrants’ identities and statuses are examined and held in suspension for periods that are increasingly long and undetermined. In this issue, we examine certain aspects of the crossing of borders with works that explore how migrants are received and integrated, and the identity-related questions raised by such territorial movements.
Michel Huneault closely followed migrants who walk to the border to seek asylum in Canada. His images show entire families making their way, pulling suitcases and pushing prams, along rural Roxham Road to be intercepted by Canadian police officers. Huneault chose to conceal the migrants’ identities by replacing their faces and bodies with multicoloured flat planes. In addition to heightening the impact of his images, this process suspends and challenges the realism of representation. He thus opens a space within which we can identify with these people’s situation and, for a moment, imagine ourselves in their position.
Richard Mosse’s long-distance views of migrants assembled in vast camps evoke, in a way, historical tableaux. The very large black-and-white images, which resemble negatives, were produced by a military-grade heat-sensitive camera. The resulting compositions give a glimpse of a roiling mass of humanity living in large groups, as they remain quarantined for an unspecified time. Mosse thus accurately conveys one aspect of the living conditions currently offered in response to massive population migrations. The castle evoked in the title of the work could well have been imagined by Kafka.
Émilie Serri is more interested in the identity-related issues engendered by migration. Her personal quest is marked by the difficulties specific to identification with the culture of a war-torn country. How can one reconstruct this part of oneself when the source has become inaccessible? With montages of images, sounds, and texts intermingling personal and family memories and media and historical documents, the three video installations that comprise this work highlight hybridization and the constructed dimension of all identities. And their assemblage could well, as the title of the work (The Space Between the Seconds) suggests, play out in the interstices of the image.
In the Focus section of this issue are found three articles that explore creative zones that overflow artists’ individual signatures, whether in collaborative projects and questioning of the image around sensitive issues, or in a process of mentorship and shared research of a more poetic nature, or in a broadening of concerns through confrontation with vernacular photography.
Translated by Käthe Roth