Where Do We Migrate To?

Superunknown (Alive In The) by Xaviera Simmons, one of the works on view, features found photographs depicting boatloads of migrants on the open ocean.

Who is a migrant?

Niels Van Tomme, director of Arts and Media at Provisions Learning Project, a Washington, DC’based nonprofit that explores the intersection of art and social change, gives a simple answer to this complicated question: They are the bravest among us., Indeed, migrants face not only economic disadvantage and ethnic discrimination but struggles with cultural assimilation and personal identity as well.

The complexities of migration and its role in driving social and cultural change are the focus of Where Do We Migrate To?, an exhibition curated by Van Tomme and now on view at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center (SJDC) at Parsons.

Through work by 19 renowned artists and collectives, Where Do We Migrate To? addresses the displacement and struggles over belonging that migrants experience. In the midst of a heated national debate about the role of migrants in U.S. society, the exhibition seeks to reframe the discourse on transnational movement and identity.

Migrants have remained figures marked entirely by their transgression of national boundaries,, says Van Tomme. Where Do We Migrate To? challenges that notion and offers an alternative view of the migrant as a role model and, ultimately, an agent of change.,

For the country’s most international university, 27 percent of the New School’s undergraduate population is from outside the United States, the highest proportion in the nation, the exhibition seems particularly relevant. In foregrounding these political and psychological journeys, these artists map a globalized world continually riven and remade by migrant experiences,, says Radhika Subramaniam, director and chief curator at the SJDC. The experiences and issues raised by the show resonate deeply within the highly international communities of both The New School and New York.,

The works on view capture the experiences of isolation, acceptance and bureaucracy that are common to migrants around the world. Andrea Geyer, a New York artist who combines visuals and text to explore her research interests, contributed Interim, an 80-page tabloid newspaper telling the story of a young female immigrant from an unnamed country moving to an unnamed American city. In Gu√≠as de Ruta, Pedro Lasch presents travel maps used by Latin American immigrants crossing the U.S. border alongside interviews about the journey. Soci√©t√© Realiste’s EU Card Lottery station mimics the game playing of state bureaucracies.

By celebrating migration as a transformative force in the world, Where Do We Migrate To? offers viewers an opportunity to learn about the lived experiences of many in our community.

Where Do We Migrate To? will be on view from February 3 through April 15, 2012, in the SJDC’s Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Gallery. An opening reception will be held on Thursday, February 2, from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. in the galleries. The exhibition was organized by the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), where it was on view last spring. For more information, visit the SJDC website.