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In this presentation, Professor Robert Burgoyne considers the contrasting portrayals of refugees and mass migration in the films of Richard Mosse and Ai Weiwei as an attempt to move beyond the conventional visual rhetoric for representing the stateless population. The extraordinary black, white and grey images that comprise Mosse’s multi- part work, Incoming—recorded with a thermal camera that reads the heat emanating from the body—creates a visual record that is at once the trace of intimate biological processes and an alarming, disorienting representation of a tragedy that is both consequential to and distant from our daily lives. In contrast, Ai Weiwei’s film Human Flow depicts the practice of hospitality as a symbolic antidote to the idea of the stateless person as threat. Emphasizing the right to be “at home” anywhere in the world, Ai’s interviews with refugees attempt to facilitate what Hannah Arendt calls the “public performance of voice,” opening a space of belonging through the sharing of stories. However, the representation of stateless persons through the lens of empathy and hospitality also conveys its own forms of disempowerment and complicity. Arendt’s 1951 essay, “The Decline of the Nation-State and the End of the Rights of Man,” provides a critical touchstone for this analysis.
Details on Human Flow: https://www.humanflow.com
Details on Incoming: http://www.richardmosse.com/projects/incoming
Generously sponsored by: the Film Studies Program and the Department of English, the Department of Art, Art History, & Design, and Global Studies in the Arts & Humanities.