press release

For the first time in Denmark, Nikolaj, Copenhagen Contemporary Art Center, presented a solo exhibition of video works by Swiss visual artist and cultural critic Ursula Biemann (b. 1955) who in recent years has made a strong mark on the international art scene.

Ursula Biemann's video essays connect the theroretical macro level of transnational political conflits and postcolonial interests with the micro perspective of the people whose consciousness and mobility are being affected by these geopolitical structures.

Biemann's videos can be seen as an artistic form of geographic practice. In her visual reports on man-made borders and territories Biemann investigates the social, ethnic, and sexual power structures underlying patterns of human migration and mobility in some of the world's hot spots - often mapped out by hightech surveillance systems and statistics, incorporated as visual material on a par with interviews and documentary cuts.

The exhibition at Nikolaj presented four recent videoessays as installations: Contained Mobility (2004), Sahara Chronicle (2006-2007) and Black Sea Files (2005) and X-Mission (2008) as well as an archive with four earlier one-channel videos: Performing the Border (1999), Writing Desire (2000), Remote Sensing (2001) Europlex (2003). The video projects Sahara Chronicle and Black Sea Files constituted the main works of the exhibition and both addressed confrontations with and challenges to the basic democratic notions that all people have the right to freedom, freedom of speech and free mobility. The first work had as its theme the highly developed and governmentally tolerated subcultures which have emerged as a consequence of the lively trans-Saharan migration activities in the Maghreb. The video essay Black Sea Files in ten parts portrays the geographical and political correlations and the changed everyday life of local communities along the newly established Caspian oil pipeline, connecting the resources on the Caucasian periphery with the European high-tech oil refineries. The video suggests a link between the flows of oil resources and migration towards the West. At the example of the Palestinian refugees camps, the newest video X-Mission from 2008 presents an analysis of the various discourses that give meaning to this extraterritorial zone.

Without a trace of sentimentality or propaganda, Biemann has specialized in a research oriented art practice documenting and showing the complexity of the conflicts of which we usually only see a distorted surface in the media. Her video works afford us the opportunity to gain an insight into the often highly complicated life condition of refugees and migrant laborers through a number of powerful human documents, set within the context of globalization.

Apart from being a visual artist, Ursula Biemann is also a theoretician and a curator whose works have been exhibited in most parts of the world, including Tapies Foundation, Barcelona, the Istanbul Biennial, Kunstverein Hamburg and Artists Space, New York. Her works have been featured at several film festivals, among these FID, Marseille, and TEK, Rome. Biemann is also a researcher at the Institute for critical Theory, ZHGK Zurich. In 2008, she received an honorary doctorate in humanities at Umeå University. The monographic book Ursula Biemann: MISSION REPORTS has been published in cooperation with Bild Museet, Umeå University for this exhibition.

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Ursula Biemann: Mission Reports

07.03.09 - 17.05.09 Kunsthallen Nikolaj, Kopenhagen
25.11.07 - 20.01.08 BildMuseet, Umea