press release

Port City is an international touring project, addressing issues of global migration, trade and contemporary slavery. At Arnolfini it will take the form of a gallery-based exhibition accompanied by ‘off-site’ projects and a programme of live art and film. Related events include artists’ residencies, artist-led walks and an online writing project.

Over twenty artists will be participating in this large-scale project, presenting work that explores issues of trade and mobility, interrogating ideas such as the ‘fortification’ of Europe, and exploring the histories and contemporary realities that have shaped port cities. Central to the project is the idea of a port city as a symbolic site of cultural exchange. Traditionally ports have been seen as gateways to a wider world, representing a point of contact and exchange with different countries and cultures, facilitating the movement of people as well as goods and ideas. However in an era of globalisation, port cities have ceased to have such territorial allegiances, becoming simply trading points on a worldwide network.

Several works in the exhibition draw attention to the experience of migration, in particular between North Africa and the Mediterranean. Ursula Biemann presents Sahara Chronicle a video installation focusing on migration routes across the desert, including via Mauretania, through the Canary Islands and on to Europe. Moroccan artist Yto Barrada’s work refers to the Straits of Gibraltar; the heavily policed divide between Africa and Europe. Her photographic series Sleepers presents images from her home town of Tangiers, where would-be émigrés await their moment of passage.

Coinciding with Abolition 200, Bristol’s commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the parliamentary abolition of the slave trade, several new works will be made in response to the specific context of Bristol, exploring both its histories of trade and the contemporary port city. For the project Seeds of Change, Brazilian artist Maria Thereza Alves has researched sites around Bristol’s Floating Harbour where ballast would have been off-loaded, taking samples of riverside mud within which seeds can lie dormant for hundreds of years. These ballast seeds have then been germinated and tended by local individuals and groups so as to produce a garden of ‘living history’, reflecting the routes travelled by Bristol merchants. Melanie Jackson’s Cargo is a response to the narratives of dock workers that she has interviewed in Avonmouth, Bristol, Southampton and Liverpool, and to media representations of the wreck of the container ship that foundered off Branscombe, in Devon, last year.

In addition to the gallery-based exhibits a number of works will be sited on public sites on Bristol’s Harbourside. Live art works feature US cross-disciplinary artists’ collective La Pocha Nostra and performance artist William Pope L who will both produce new work specifically for this project.

Port City tours to John Hansard Gallery, Southampton (27 November 2007 – 26 Jan 2008), and to the Liverpool Biennial in September 2008.

only in german

PORT CITY: on mobility and exchange

mit Maria Thereza Alves, Yto Barrada, Ursula Biemann, Kayle Brandon & Heath Bunting, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Ofri Cnaani & Jenny Vogel, Hala Elkoussy, Mary Evans, Meschac Gaba, Raimi Gbadamosi, Charles Heller, Grzegorz Klaman, Melanie Jackson, Helena Maleno, La Pocha Nostra, Erik van Lieshout, William Pope L., Kate Rich, Zineb Sedira, Duncan Speakman, Zafos Xagoraris ...