Academic journal article Borderlands

Travelling Narratives and Images in Times of Migration

Academic journal article Borderlands

Travelling Narratives and Images in Times of Migration

Article excerpt

Migrant narratives and aesthetic practices influenced by experiences of exile and migration constitute a growing field in contemporary art and literature. Current trends in migration and globalisation have led to an increase in travelling narratives, images and objects, and the production of aesthetic practices describing and problematising exile and migration, working in and through tradition. Migratory patterns and issues related to the protection of refugees and asylum seekers contribute to the strong societal impact of migrant aesthetics and narratives, but they also serve to explain the need for them as such, and the need to reexamine them. More than ever, we need to understand the experiences of exiles, migrants and refugees. The objective of this special issue is therefore to examine textual, material and visual expressions that represent, discuss and problematise migration.

Recent decades have also seen a scholarly reconsideration of questions related to mobilities and exile (e.g. Agier 2016; Glick Schiller & Salazar 2013; Hannam et al. 2006) due to globalisation and changes in migration patterns. Experiences of exile and migration are also increasingly documented through literary and aesthetic expressions, as texts, films and visual art projects such as installations and photographs, and the scholarly interest in the output of literary and artistic expressions related to these topics is growing, (e.g. Bal & Hernandez-Navarro 2011; Cherel & Dumont 2016; Schimanski & Wolfe 2017).

While shedding light on contemporary phenomena of exile and migration, travelling narratives and images also invite us to reconsider the way factors such as materiality and gender are accentuated in the crossing of borders. Travelling narratives and images may also represent and destabilise categories such as gender, class, ethnicity, family and sexuality and challenge existing understandings of multilingualism, multilingual literature and aesthetic practices, thus inviting a reexamination of the possible contribution of literary studies, art history and linguistics to their analysis. To this end, the present issue of borderlands proposes an inter-disciplinary investigation of migrant narratives and images, i.e. text and art objects that interrogate, problematise and represent the experience of exile and migration.

A travelling stone--and the issues of migratory aesthetics

In 1999, Norwegian artist Marianne Heske moved a 17 ton olivine stone from Tafjord, a small village in the western part of Norway, to the Island of Lido for the Venice Film Festival, as part of a project called Stone Story. The stone was a lovely olivine stone, greyish green in colour and weighing 17 ton. As part of the project, Heske published a small book, documenting the story of travelling stone, from the moment it was chosen for the journey, how it was lifted carefully and placed on a large truck and driven to Italy, including maps showing the destination of the journey. The photographs document the stone in its original space beside the mountains, amongst many other rocks that were remnants of an avalanche long ago. As an art project, the story of this travelling stone has many layers, and Heske herself describes the project in a short poetic text at the beginning of the book:

This is the story about a rolling stone. Awakened by the Artist's 
magic kiss. 17 ton of Olivine Stone rolling down Europe from the fjord 
of Tafjord to the island of Lido. Crossing borders without packing, 
customs or insurance. Now resting on Piazzale del Casino. Playing 
its speechless role next to the red carpet leading up to Golden Lions 
Prize. Still a Living Stone. And the Story goes on. (Heske 2010)

Throughout her career, Heske has moved stone, huts, houses and dolls' heads from one place to another, sometimes returning them to their original location, sometimes not. In one of her latest projects, she moved an old dilapidated house typical of poorer Norwegian families' housing in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and left it in front of the parliament in Oslo for months. …

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