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Recent Developments
 

2009 represents a new phase of activity, linking environmental change with race, globalisation and displacement - the beginning of "The Centre Cannot Hold" project.

The Centre Cannot Hold
Climate Imperialism and Displacement - a long term project beginning at the Arnolfini, Bristol
3rd October - 29th November 2009
virtual migrants will be launch this new project as a part of the "C Words" exhibition comprising events-debates-actions-art along with selected other radical and challenging artist groups.  More details HERE.

"Register", a Passenger performance + presentation/discussion
27th May 2009 at
CUBE gallery, 113-115 Portland Street, Manchester M1 6DW
The Cosmopolitan City and Manchester Migrants
- two day-long workshops
which use Manchester as a case-study to examine the impact of migration flows and migrant settlement and transnational commercial and knowledge networks on a city in the process of restructuring and transformation www.socialsciences.manchester.ac.uk/ricc/events/migrants/. 
Organised by the
Migration and Diaspora Cultural Studies Network at Manchester University, the first took place on 22nd April, and the second one on 27th May includes a panel presentation by Kooj from Virtual Migrants plus another rare Virtual Migrants 'Passenger' multimedia performance entitled "Register".  Full details HERE.

Collaborations, Migrations and Territories
a talk with screenings and discussion by virtual migrants
Thurs 19th February 2009, 6pm - 7.30pm (arrivals from 5.45pm)
at: Central Library, St Peters Square, Manchester        admission: FREE

Virtual Migrants have been at the forefront of artistic practice around issues of migration and globalisation, deportation and refuge, for over ten years and have developed a hard-earned reputation in the UK and abroad.  Their recent 'Exhale' publication illustrates a pattern of collaborations between new media arts and other artforms, between artists and non-artists, and a critically challenging polemic within their practice and output.  Led by Kooj Chuhan with contributions from Aidan Jolly and other members this talk will include screenings of selected examples of their work and is a rare opportunity to both take in and discuss their unique approach to engaging artistic processes with life-and-death inequalities. Includes a review of the 'Global Eyes' exhibition at SIGGRAPH 07.  www.virtualmigrants.com

Article on Virtual Migrants for Arts Professional magazine
February 2009,
www.artsprofessional.co.uk
The theme for this issue of Arts Professional is "Arts In The Danger Zone" and Kooj has been commissioned to write an article which will discuss artists who work in areas of critical stress, impoverishment, and life-and-death situations with a focus on work relating to asylum and refuge, and virtual migrants in particular.
Full original article available to read HERE.
 

In 2008, we had to focus of spreading word and distribution of the Exhale publication, which is quite some work on an unfunded basis, plus we have been 'taking stock' and discussing future potentials and directions, and generally focusing on feeding ourselves.  However, we were pleased to have also organised the following event to a packed house:


Migration, Social Crisis and the Role of the Artist

A Presentation and Discussion by Jose Ignacio Lopez from Tijuana, Mexico.

Thurs 4th September 2008, 6.30-8.00pm.  A free event by Virtual Migrants.
at: Community Arts North West, Green Fish Resource Centre
46-50 Oldham Street, Manchester M4 1LE

Ignacio is a member of artists' collective Discos Invisibles from Mexico, which uses experimental methods of artistic production and distribution with audio and multimedia.  They explore migrant issues close to one of the few overland borders between the 'third' world and the 'first' world, working between "high tech and digital marginality". 

He will talk about his work in two important examples of overwhelming migration, Tijuana (Mexico) and in Lima (Peru), including what he describes as the "fight for a definition of an identity that is impossible to construct under a continuous state of crisis and social disintegration".  The discussion will be chaired by artist and cultural worker Kooj Chuhan.

Refreshments provided.  Please contact 0161-234 2975 or email admin[a]can.uk.com to confirm your attendance.

a Virtual Migrants event in collaboration with Community Arts North West.
www.virtualmigrants.com                                www.can.uk.com 
www.myspace.com/virtualmigrants  

You can check out Discos Invisibles on www.myspace.com/discosinvisibles and on www.blog.discosinvisibles.org.



Later in 2007, the Passenger performance took on a low-budget 'suitcase' format this time entitled "ReRoute" at the Creolising Europe conference
http://www.llc.manchester.ac.uk/research/centres/mdcsn/conferences/programme/Fileuploadmax10Mb,118409,en.pdf where Kooj and Aidan also delivered a presentation and discussion contextualising virtual migrants' work.

In 2007, a key event was exhibiting and performing at the 'Global Eyes' art exhibition at SIGGRAPH in San Diego, a report on the performance-installation can be found at http://reports.siggraph.org/s2007/venue-articles/art-gallery-digital-performances/

Earlier in 2007 were some launches of the Exhale publication:
The official launch of Exhale with a major event at Manchester's Green Room on 23rd March, plus:
Street Level gallery in Glasgow - a launch event at  with a multimedia performance by local hip-hop band 4-D - www.streetlevelphotoworks.org/streetlevel/archive/2007/exhale/exhale.html .


Late in 2006 were Exhale "early" launches at:
Watermans in West London www.watermans.org.uk/live_events/archive/urban_arts_showcase/?yr=2009&mnth=08 and also at:
Plymouth Arts Centre  - organised by Becca Adshead of AviD, the Centre's diverse arts unit.

At ISEA 2006 in San Jose, Kooj also presented his theoretical approach to cultural and aesthetic processes within the "What If I'm Not Real" project, though a 'poster' presentation and discussion entitled "From A Handful Of Seeds" - http://2006.01sj.org/content/view/574/145/ .

Earlier in 2006, virtual migrants work was presented by Kooj at a prestigious European Conference entitled ICT for an Inclusive Society in Riga, Latvia 11-13 June  http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/events/ict_riga_2006/conference/presentations/index_en.htm.  This was a part of Kooj presenting and discussing cultural diversity in new media, his presentation entitled "Representation, Identity and Self determination within Artistic and Creative Uses of Digital Media.".  While there, Kooj also made a connection with local digital arts group Rix-C, meeting up with Raitis who runs the outfit - www.rixc.lv .



During the 2004-2005 period, we undertook the Terminal Frontiers tour (documented well on the Terminal Frontiers section of the website).  When we began the tour, we had a fairly sketchy idea of conducting a considerable deal more than the basic educational activities (of the two workshops and a talk variety) but we also had considerable encouragement and investment from each host venue in delivering the collaborative productions we were interested in, and each venue had good links with local people who were looking for asylum or been stamped as refugees, which were a fascinating set of meeting points for us.  Through the process we refined a number of skills in producing high quality works with little or no pre-prepared scripts, through a method involving intense engagement and discussion in a compressed time-frame along with the ability to continue post-production after the event.  This was the basis of The Next Breath project.  The resulting works are considerable and substantial, were created "guerrilla-style" with no specific funding in place, and will form the basis of the events which will take place later in 2006.

After Terminal Frontiers launched in late 2002, we spent the next year busy in organisational and capacity development and forming networks and links.  The tour of Terminal frontiers emerged from this.  Below is a summary of our activities during 2003.


 

virtual migrants activity during 2003

 

New Borders (completed March 2003)

An experimental collaboration using digital art and a range of art forms that explored poetic narratives of exile and identity. This project was awarded grants from the Gulbenkian Foundation and North West Arts Board, which funded the following activities:

§         Enabled six North West based artists to discuss, engage with and respond to the work by Keith Piper, Shirin Neshat and John Berger, within the framework of migration, asylum, refuge and exile.

§      Commissioned new collaborative production by all six artists.

§      Commissioned Keith Piper to produce new artwork.

§      Commissioned four musicians to conduct live performances including new compositions, which directly interacted with the exhibition.

 

New Audiences Research (completed April 2003)

Examined the ways in which audiences made up of asylum seekers and their allies accessed work shown in galleries and tested a particular approach to developing audiences using a portable, travelling, community-based installation shown at multiple sites outside the gallery. This project was awarded a grant from North West Arts Board, New Audiences.

 

'We Are Here Because You Were There'

(Production and initial marketing completed June 2003; marketing strategy phase ongoing)

An educational CD-ROM aimed at students was created to address issues of asylum and immigration. This was also used as a marketing tool to promote virtual migrants at conferences, presentations and events. The marketing strategy for this project, involved researching contact database of 550 educational advisors. A leaflet was produced to promote the educational CD-ROM and was widely distributed in the UK. This project was originally part-funded by Banner Theatre (Birmingham), and has since been undertaken in a voluntary and self-funded manner by Aidan and Kooj for virtual migrants, and with the distribution supported by the recent recruitment of Marilyn Cuffy.

 

Company Development 

Decibel awarded funds in March 2003, which funded the following activities:

§         Researching and expanding virtual migrants touring base.

§         Developing a marketing strategy and the development of future plans.

§         Improving networks and developing proposals with other organisations. Successful networks established include:

-          The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Archive and Refugee Action - who are now commencing with a refugee history arts project. virtual migrants supported them during the set up this project, and may continue involvement once project parameters have been planned.

-          Manchester Refugee Support Network – virtual migrants attended the ‘Arts and Refugees Seminar’ organised by the Manchester University Applied Theatre Department in July 2003, and once again participated in the Refugee Cultural Festival during Refugee Week with cd-rom display and video contributions.

-          Arte Digital Rosario International Festival - a version of Terminal Frontiers was sent to Argentina to be exhibited as part of the festival, but due to custom delays, it will now show as part of Arte Digital 2004 Muestra 01.

-          Jubilee Arts “c/PLEX Project”, West Bromwich – virtual migrants have had initial discussions to explore future joint projects and exchange.

 

Consultancy Work

§         virtual migrants have been consulted by organisations on possible project development, including: Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Archive and Refugee Action, the Manchester Refugee Support Network and Global Link.

§         virtual migrants gave presentations at the British Council Conference 'A Sense Of Place': Displacement and Integration: the role of the arts in reshaping societies and identities in Europe' (Nov 2003) and Kooj Chuhan was on the Plenary Panel.  Terminal Frontiers was also exhibited at this conference.