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29 November, 2008, 1:30-6:00

Ursula Biemann, still from Sahara Chronicle, 2006-07

AS THE GLOBAL phenomenon of transmigration has grown to unprecedented proportions in recent years, the representation of the displaced has become an urgent subject of interdisciplinary examination. According to philosopher Giorgio Agamben, the refugee exemplifies the condition of “bare life”—i.e. life denied political representation—one which defines the horizon of a coming political transformation in the nature of sovereignty, nationality, and subjectivity. The question of bare life has recently provided a central theoretical organizing feature of Documenta 12 (2007)—particularly its magazine project; yet the exhibition’s results, which seemed detached from the curators’ initial conceptual framework, remain far from certain. In what innovative ways has contemporary art addressed statelessness and migration, and what purchase does the category of bare life have for the consideration of contemporary forms of dislocation?

Admission: Tickets are available at: Tate Bookings.

Pre-workshop Screening: Ursula Biemann, X-Mission, 2008, 4:15pm, Tuesday, 25 November, Seminar Room 3, UCL, Department of History of Art, 43 Gordon Square, WC1H 0PD (Free and open to all, seats on a first-come basis)



Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, freelance photojournalist, is a feature writer for the Guardian. The recipient of the 2008 British Press Awards for Foreign Reporter of the Year, his images from war-ravaged Iraq were compiled into the book, Unembedded: Four Independent Journalists on the War in Iraq (Chelsea Green, 2005). A deserter from Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi army, he lived underground in Baghdad for six years, changing his residence every few months to avoid detection and arrest. He began working as a journalist after the U.S.-led invasion. Abdul-Ahad’s photographs have also been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and The Times (London). He is currently based in Lebanon and works from all over the Middle East.


Ursula Biemann is an artist, theorist and curator working on geopolitical displacement, migrant labor, and extraterritorial zones. Border and mobility are recurring themes in her video essays from, including Performing the Border (1999) to Contained Mobility (2004). She initiated the collaborative project B-Zone (Kunstwerke Berlin, 2005), which includes her video research Black Sea Files (2005) on the Caspian oil geography. Her multi-channel video, Sahara Chronicle (2006-2007), tracks the trans-Saharan migration system from Niger to Morocco. She is also curator of the exhibitions Geography and the Politics of Mobility (Generali Foundation, Vienna, 2003), and The Maghreb Connection (Townhouse Gallery, Cairo, 2006). Her most recent video essay, X-Mission, examines the discourses on the Palestinian refugee camps in the Middle East. She has published numerous books and essays including a monograph of her video works, Mission Reports—Artistic Practice in the Field (2008) with Cornerhouse Publishers. Biemann is a researcher at the Universities of Art and Design Zurich. (see:

MP3 recording of Biemann's presentation

ANTHONY DOWNEY, Sotheby's Institute of Art (London)

Anthony Downey is the Programme Director of the M.A. course in Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London. An editorial board member of Third Text, he has published essays, criticism and interviews in numerous international journals, including studies of Agamben and contemporary art, photography  and human rights, the ethics of the real in contemporary art, and images of torture in popular culture. Recent and forthcoming publications include “Zones of Indistinction: Giorgio Agamben’s Bare Life and the Ethics of Aesthetics,” Third Text (Summer 2008); “At the Limits of the Image: Representations of Torture in Popular Culture,” Brumaria, 10 (Spring 2009); and "Thresholds of a Coming Community: Photography and Human Rights, Aperture (February 2009). Downey is currently researching a book on Ethics, Politics and Aesthetics (forthcoming, 2010).

Anthony Downey, "At the Limits of the Image: Torture and its Re-Presentation in Popular Culture," Brumaria no 10 (Spring 2009) 29-45; 122-132.

Anthony Downey, “Thresholds of a Coming Community: Photography and Human Rights” Aperture (Spring 2009)

MP3 recording of Downey's presentation

OKWUI ENWEZOR, San Francisco Art Institute (San Francisco)

Okwui Enwezor is Dean of Academic Affairs and Senior Vice President at San Francisco Art Institute. He is Adjunct Curator at International Center of Photography, New York and previously Adjunct Curator of Contemporary Art, at the Art Institute of Chicago. Enwezor is founder and editor of the critical art journal Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art and was Artistic Director of Documenta 11, Kassel, Germany (1998-2002). He has also served as the Artistic Director of 2nd International Biennial of Contemporary Art, Seville, Spain (2005-2007), and 2nd Johannesburg Biennale (1996-1998), and most recently the 7th Gwangju Biennale (2008).

MP3 recoding of Enwezor's presentation

EVA GEULEN, University of Bonn (Bonn)

Since 2003 Eva Geulen has been Professor for German Literature at the Institut für Germanistik, Vergleichende Literatur- und Kulturwissenschaft at the University of Bonn, Germany. Recent publications include Hannah Arendt and Giorgio Agamben: Parallelen, Perspektiven, Kontroversen, ed. with Georg Mein and Kai Kauffmann (Fink Verlag, 2007); Tiere, Texte, Spuren, ed. with Norbert Eke (Erich Schmidt Verlag 2007); The End of Art: Readings of a Rumor after Hegel (Stanford University Press, 2006); Giorgio Agamben zur Einführung (Junius Verlag, 2005, 2nd edition 2008); essays on Nietzsche, Benjamin, Raabe, Th. Mann and others. She has been co-editor of the journal Zeitschrift für deutsche Philologie since 2004.

TOM KEENAN, Human Rights Project, Bard College (New York)

Thomas Keenan teaches human rights, media, and literature at Bard College (New York). He has written Fables of Responsibility (Stanford University Press, 1997), edited New Media, Old Media (with Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Routledge, 2005), and will soon be finishing a book on media and conflict.

MP3 recording of Keenan's presentation

Discussion will be moderated by organizer, TJ DEMOS.

MP3 recording of roundtable discussion



*Image: Ursula Biemann, still from Sahara Chronicle, 2006-07 (courtesy: the artist)