art, culture and ideas
issue nine: Migration
Humming Birds, Irit Rogoff, Islands, Yinka Shonibare, Road Trips, Gypsies, Hew Locke, Nomadic Architecture, Harmony Korine, District 9, Andy Holden, East End Galleries, Joey Ryken, Starlings, Otolith Group, Monarch Butterflies, Communist Cinema, Data Migration Systems, Family Histories and much more...
It has never been easier to travel. But alongside our modern, super speedy connections there is an alternate universe of less glamorous migration where desperate methods of transport prevail accompanied by the unwanted but omnipresent travelling companions of prejudice and resentment.
Given the right (or should that be wrong) circumstances we would probably all choose to migrate – it’s about survival after all. Some groups of people such as Romanies, Bedouins and Tuaregs are nomadic, moving from place to place, a lifestyle which although idealistically perceived as romantic, is becoming harder to sustain when there are so many governmental demands on us to have a permanent address.
The experience of the migrant in a strange land, and the strength of feelings that leaving home can cause, has led to some of the most poignant art of the last century. We have some new stories to add to the canon; David Webb (who instigated the theme of the issue) recounts the migration of his grandmother from Africa to the UK and his own emotional connection with that journey, while in Vilayet, Majed Aslam describes a drift through suburbia chalking the sides of the buildings each time he turns a corner so he can find his way back through the monotony of the bland architecture.
The flipside to all this Sebaldian darkness is that migration can also be recreational, educational and fun. Rachel Potts looks at the American road trip in Real Gone, which has entered cultural mythology as a contemporary successor to the Grand Tour. And then there are the amazing pre programmed migrations that animals, and birds in particular, make year after year, which are mysterious and awe inspiring. We have a list of astonishing Bird Migration Facts and this issue’s cover artists, Andrew Curtis and Michael Hall, present an image of an exotic, migrated parrot sitting on a back yard washing line. Incidentally the launch of the issue on Sun 29 November 2009 was accompanied by a lecture performance on bird migration by issue contributor Andy Holden.
But maybe the confusion of feelings that the whole migration issue evokes can be summed up simply as a natural dissatisfaction with our lot. Film director Harmony Korine puts it beautifully; ‘Most of the time, when I’m living in a new place I hate living there. I never really like it until I’ve gone, and then I find out that the next place is so much worse than the place I just left.’
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Cover by Andrew Curtis
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