Virtual Migrants: Racist Deportations vs Freedom of Virtual Travel, Electronic Art as Ideology

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Symposium:


Session Title:

  • Short Paper Presentations

Presentation Title:

  • Virtual Migrants: Racist Deportations vs Freedom of Virtual Travel, Electronic Art as Ideology

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Abstract:

  • Virtual Migrants focuses on globalisation, barriers to migration, state ideology and the paradox between the shrinking world with freedom for information to travel, and yet the increasing tightening of immigration laws and ever-increasing gaps between the ‘first’ and ‘third’ world. Imperialism is more than ever the dominant global system perpetuating extreme oppression and inequality. Its pre-development created modern racism, and therefore attacks on racism will only scratch the surface unless they relate to anti-imperialist struggles. Art along with media is a form of ideological production – consciously or unconsciously it reinforces, re-presents, questions, or attacks various views we hold about our world, hence it always has an educative component, positive or negative.

    Many artists (unlike media practitioners) feel unable to think of audience and the political effects of their work – a writer once said “If I worried about that, I’d never write anything at all!” Furthermore, the art establishment is over-critical of art that speaks out with a direct voice – I recall continual skepticism during production of “Nachural Struggle” (CD-ROM) as to whether it was “Art” or an educational CD. Yet in effecting change, art and ideological production is most powerful when linked to progressive struggles. As Angela Davis says, “Progressive and revolutionary art is inconceivable outside of the context of political movements for radical change.” (from “Women, Culture and Politics”, Women’s Press 1990). It is as important for campaigns to use arts/media as required to meet their immediate and foremost objectives as it is for arts/media to raise awareness and generate discussion around those campaigns and the relevant issues.

    It is also the social use of a new technology which finally determines its future, and this project develops this area through collaboration between artists, educationalists and campaigners. But let us take the relationship between art and ideology a step further – how can a work of art consciously and purpose-fully describe and express an ideology, and thereby develop the tangibility and currency of the concept itself? If an ideology is a set of related beliefs, attitudes and opinions, then the old linear narratives have surely done a disservice to their understanding. The nonlinear nature of the CD-ROM lends itself particularly well to the artistic exploration of such abstract social concepts which are not normally described easily using such narratives as in films and books.

    Virtual Migrants is currently researching this potential for enabling the active viewer to link together seemingly disparate events and pieces of information into a well-defined conceptual framework, in any order. It initially focuses on the story of Liver-pool-based Nigerian dissident Bayo Omoyiola (currently threatened with deportation) and the layers of interwoven connections that link together Euro-British racism, colonial history, global economy, and definitions of nationality. The brief “soapbox” session for isea98 will discuss the above ideas with reference to excerpts from the previous “Nachural Struggle” CD-ROM. Presenting the results of a CD-ROM /research and development project focusing on the concepts of Globalisation, Barriers to Migration, and National Identity. The paradox between on the one hand the shrinking world and freedom for information to travel, while on the other the increasing tightening of immigration laws and the ever-increasing gaps between the ‘first’ world and ‘third’ world, The non-linear nature of the CD-ROM lends itself particularly well to the artistic exploration of abstract social concepts which are not normally described easily using the linear narratives of films and books.

    This potential has been rarely developed; Virtual Migrants would examine this potential for enabling the active viewer to link together seemingly disparate events and pieces of information into a single, well defined conceptual frame-work, in any order. The CD-ROM medium enables possibilities for a piece to be discretely artistic, educative and also campaigning all in one physical format, due to the ability for a user to navigate through specific sections without the need to encounter other entire bodies of sections. The project is a collaboration between a group of artists, an educational institution (CGEM) and a community/ campaigning agency (IAU). Each will have their respective demands on the final audience, use and application of the CDROM and the project will examine this potential. The project will examine the use of CDROM (and secondarily the web) for black issue-based campaigning groups; for the development of anti-imperialist education; and towards the development of a black digital aesthetic. A parallel website is being produced in conjunction with the pilot CDROM.