Victoria Sweetman gives her thoughts on the Glucksman’s film exhibition Passports: Globalisation in Contemporary European Video.
Migration seems to be an unrelenting and repetitive feature of contemporary Irish culture. Passports: Globalisation in Contemporary European Video, currently running in the Sisk Gallery in the Glucksman,offers an alternative conception of migration, travel, culture and national identity. Rather than equating culture with obvious signifiers such as language, religion or tradition this exhibition posits a variety of questions surrounding the ways in which we mentally and socially comprehend people, place, movement and meaning. Although the primary topic approached by this exhibition remains (what does it mean to be Irish, French, Bosnian, Swiss, or even European in an increasingly globalised world?) it is through the variety of films that multiplicities of social, political and historical questions are also addressed.
It is through place and people that certain signifiers are raised and though it may seem frivolous to presume that location and orientation are irrelevant features to an increasingly globalised world this is not the case. The associations learned through systemised mediations of information allow for inaccurate associations to occur. In theoretical terms this issue is known as the ‘Geographical Imagination’ which posits that one can associate objects or knowledge to a place without ever being there. For example when someone says Mexico I think of Corona, sunshine, sombreros and The Looney Tunes character Speedy Gonzales, but I have never been there.
Location is also a key feature of place and lends itself excellently to the question of cultural identity. If we take a somewhat simplistic example, like a UCC student, the variation of place association can create tensions or polarisations. Are you from Cork? If so do you live on the north side or the south side? Are you from the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland? Are you an international student? Are you European? Place carries meaning whether we notice it or not and the variety of places and cultures explored in this exhibition raises this issue. Through the seven films in this exhibition, some familiar and not so familiar regions are shown.
This exploration is not just an onslaught of politics; ethnicity, transportation and comedic components also exist. With Thierry Geoffroy’s Cultural Exchange (2000), we see the main character approach complete strangers, asking them about their cultural background and if they would like to complete a ‘cultural exchange’ with another stranger. Items exchanged include air from Denmark blown in to a balloon, written postcards from France, currency, a hug and milk. Another light-hearted yet calming and slightly philosophical example is Voyage by Antti Laitinen (2008). The piece plays with illusionism as much as reality; it raises questions of repetition, loneliness and endurance with travel as well as the presence of indeterminate space within a converging globe.
In addition, space is not the only uncertainty explored in Europlex (2008) by Ursula Biemann and Angela Sanders. National identity, the replication and recreation of space and topographical borders are also approached. The doubling up of time zones and nautical transportation emphasises globalisation whereas the border raises issues such as politics, trade, national security, migration, territory, regulation, confinement, control and a lack of freedom or acceptance.
The only way in which we can understand the border is through visual representation. Maps however are as deceitful as they are honest. This is not a historic claim but a present one, as shown in 2009 with the controversy regarding the land mass of Russia being misrepresented by American satellites. The interaction between people and borders is as complex as the cartographic representation; for example one could be standing on the border separating France and Spain and not know it. Visual representation is essential to any knowledge of place and it is through the use of seven diverse films that this exhibition diligently addresses cultural identity. The exhibition is curated by Chris Clarke and runs in the Lewis Glucksman Gallery, Sisk Galleries until the 10th March.