The Maghreb Connection – Movements of Life Across North Africa
The Maghreb Connection is an “art and research project initiated and directed by Ursula Biemann on the politics of mobility and containment in the Maghreb.”
In 2006 I was a student at the Zurich University of the Arts ZHdK and after completing a semester project both lead by Biemann and related to her research for what would become The Maghreb Connection, she then graciously invited me to contribute an insert to the publication accompanying the extensive research and exhibition project. The book is 320-paged, bilingual English/Arabic and published with actar, Barcelona. It was edited by Biemann and Brian Holms and features contributions by:
Ursula Biemann/Brian Holmes Introduction, Ali Bensaâd The Militarization of Migration Frontiers in the Mediterranean, Ursula Biemann Agadez Chronicles, Mehdi Alioua Silence! People Are Dying on the Southern Borders of Europe, Charles Heller Crossroad at the Edge of Worlds, Armin Linke photographs from Western Sahara and Niger, Keller Easterling Non-Statecraft, Yto Barrada A Life Full of Holes, Observatorio Technologico del Estrecho Madiaq Territory, Doa Aly Chinese Sweet, Chinese Pretty, Hala Elkoussy Rome to Rome, Raphaël Cuomo and Maria Iorio Sudeuropa Welcome – Live, Florian Schneider interviewed by Camille Poncet/Mouhamed Caloubay Massassi esba Geneva: Borderlands: migration management and tactical maneuvers, Michel Agier The Chaos and the Camps – Fragments of a Humanitarian Government, and inserts by Brigit Koch, Anuschka Esper, Martinka Kremeckova and Alexandra Stock.
“Since the fortification of the European outer rim and the worldwide measures taken against terrorism, the relations between Muslim North Africa and Europe have undergone major transformations. Sub-Saharan transit migration is now the dominant and undoubtedly the most mediated form of movement in the region; it has turned the Maghreb into a transit zone. The Maghreb Connection tracks the current gates, routes and modes of trans-Saharan migration and looks at the elaborate systems of information and social organization that have grown up around it. In this research the art projects examine the movement of people not as an isolated phenomenon but in relation to the flow of resources, information, images and capital in the Mediterranean region. They look at the architectures and networks that give expression to transnational flows. Rather than just deconstructing repressive European border regimes, the primary aim of the project is to develop a rich discursive and visual representation for the many forms of migratory self-determination in the course of the vulnerable and precarious movements of life.” (text ©Ursula Biemann via Geobodies)
My insert was called Meeting Before Infinity: Parallel Writings and it came at a time when I was particularly into street art. I wrote that contemporary graffiti and Arabic calligraphy shared a perhaps unexpected common ground in that they both “explore the outer limits of what writing is and what is can be,” and that there is an “element of performance” imbedded in both that allows them to “capture a unique tension of personal expression and become vehicles for an understanding beyond words.” The insert featured photographs of graffiti I found in Zurich, photoshopped images thereof, and reproductions of works by calligrapher, designer and writer Mounir Al- Shaarani.