Addressing identity, migration, and racism

Addressing identity, migration, and racism

Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art

Seth Pimlott and Ladan Hussein, Season of Doubt (film still), 2014. 16mm B&W, sound, 4 minutes. © the artists. 

June 15, 2018
Addressing identity, migration, and racism
June 16–October 7, 2018
Opening: June 16, 11am–4pm
Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art
Centre Square
Middlesbrough TS1 2AZ
United Kingdom
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday 10am–4:30pm,
Thursday 10am–7pm,
Sunday 12–4pm

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Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, part of Teesside University, is moving forward with a vision of itself as a “useful museum.” It is an institution with a social function that contributes to change through the repurposing of art as a tool. It focuses on civic engagement, treating the gallery as a public resource based on use value. Its users and constituent groups shape its meaning, and with them it fosters citizenship through education and community development.

Núria Güell and Levi Orta, The Aesthetics of a Property Map, Syria (Part I)
This commission addresses issues surrounding housing and land in Syria and Middlesbrough, two geographies of the so-called “refugee crisis.” Middlesbrough is a key hub for refugee-background groups in the United Kingdom, among them Syrians who have been displaced by the civil war, forced to sell their possessions to pay for the journey out of the country. Their land and houses are being purchased by both the Syrian government and investors from foreign countries that have been involved in the conflict. In Middlesbrough, housing for the resettled people is big business for local and multinational companies contracted by the British government.

The work consists of documents; a film elucidating the social context of Middlesbrough; and recordings of interviews with Syrian refugees, a local charity professional, and members of the museum’s senior management team exploring the current reality of Syria and the ethical questions surrounding engagement with refugee-background communities on the part of artists and art institutions. It highlights how European politicians focus on the impact of the arrival of people seeking asylum in Europe, while eliding the structural conditions forcing them to leave their home countries. It also reveals how artists and art institutions risk aestheticizing the plight of people seeking asylum while bolstering their own symbolic capital, instead of challenging the root causes of the so-called “refugee crisis.”

This Is Water
The migratory condition is a fundamental characteristic of contemporaneity. Experiences of displacement and exile have long been themes of life in Europe. Yet as populism spreads worldwide, anti-immigration sentiment has been rising, manifesting in a revival of racism. In the United Kingdom, as the government implements its departure from the European Union, it is pursuing anti-immigration agendas, and thus discussions around xenophobia and the state of multiculturalism are increasingly relevant. This topic is especially pertinent in Middlesbrough, a town founded on a rapid influx of workers during the 19th century, and that today it is a key hub for people seeking asylum in the United Kingdom.

This exhibition addresses the rich, complex identities formed by multiple ethnicities and nationalities coming together; it articulates commonalities between historic and present practices of racial marginalization in Middlesbrough and elsewhere. It presents art, personal memorabilia, texts, archival materials, and films to explore themes as varied as the imagination of otherness, the representation of blackness, the rights of immigrants in the European Union, and the continuing impact of the British Empire. Participants and contributors include Nika Autor, Lucy Bridger, Ladan Hussein and Seth Pimlott, Jasleen Kaur, Andreja Kulunčić, Alenka Pirman, Erika Tan, and Katarina Zdjelar as well as Teesside Archives and the North East Film Archive. This exhibition is realized in the context of “New Mappings of Europe,” a project funded by the European Commission.


Community Day
The free weekly Community Day consists of activities and events complemented by a communal lunch. It brings together people of all classes, ages, ethnicities, genders, abilities, and nationalities to share food and collectively make, learn, and discuss current urgencies.

Middlesbrough Collection
The Middlesbrough Collection, housed by Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, encompasses art and craft made by British and international artists from the mid-1800s to today. This exhibition features an eclectic mix of works, intertwining British and international artists, and combining various media, styles, periods, and subjects. The display combines references to “cabinets of curiosity,” archives, 19th century French salon-style hanging, and English country house interior design, thus proposing an understanding of art in relation to society.

Office of Useful Art
The Office of Useful Art is a free workplace for meetings, workshops, and displays that promote Arte Útil—“useful art,” or art as a tool—as well as the repository of the Arte Útil archive, a growing registry of historical and contemporary Arte Útil case studies.

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Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art
June 15, 2018

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