Magazine article Artforum International

Bouchra Khalili: Lisson Gallery

Magazine article Artforum International

Bouchra Khalili: Lisson Gallery

Article excerpt

Bouchra Khalili

LISSON GALLERY

Against the background of the refugee crisis in Europe, Bouchra Khalili's works tracing illegal border crossings around the Mediterranean take on renewed urgency. By empowering those who undertook the perilous passages to tell their own stories, the eight videos of The Mapping Journey Project, 2008-11--each a fixed frame showing only a paper map on which a hand can be seen drawing with permanent marker a zigzag route, narrated by the migrant who took it, so that the viewer must imagine for herself the arduous experience--present a critical alternative to the media's coverage of the crisis.

But to reduce The Mapping Journey Project to this sadly timely subject matter would be to miss its broader scope. This range was already suggested by the inclusion of a map of the West Bank and a young man's account of circumventing checkpoints on his way from Ramallah to East Jerusalem to meet his fiancee. The video redirects the suite's overall focus from the refugee crisis to acts of individual resistance to state power. Rather than objective representations of geography that provide simply a sense of orientation and scale, the maps in The Mapping Journey Project appear as political constructs and means of control, which Khalili's protagonists subvert with traces of individual movement across borders. National borders disappear entirely in "The Constellations Series," 2011, a related group of eight silk-screen prints, where the zigzag routes are each reproduced in white on a dark-blue ground, like a pattern of stars in the sky, evoking celestial navigation and translating the illegal crossings into poetic visions of a limitless world.

Khalili's wider concerns with resistance to state power became even more evident when the cartographic works were seen alongside a more recent multipart installation, Foreign Office, 2015, which includes a video showing two young Algerians reconstructing the forgotten history of post-independence Algiers as a center for international liberation groups, such as the Black Panther Party, by marking a map of the city and assembling photographs of political activists while recounting pieces of knowledge about the past. …

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