Cornered is a video installation that represents the motivation and struggles of migrants leaving their home country and making an attempt, most often failed, to cross the border from Morocco to the Spanish cities of Melilla and Ceuta, the only European cities on Africa’s mainland.
The visual imagery focuses on the ambitions and struggles of the migrants, from the journey from their home country to the many attempts to enter Spain, and the frustration of the perpetual effort to reach their dream — the dream of a better life for their families.
Part sculpture, part light installation and video animation, Cornered is an immersive visual experience that represents the motivation and struggles of migrants leaving their home country and making an attempt, most often failed, to cross the border from Morocco to the Spanish cities of Melilla and Ceuta, the only European cities on Africa’s mainland.
The installation projects an original dance performance interlaced with stylized visuals on an intricately patterned and light-filled structure, which reminisces a carved Moroccan table, covered on top by a screened dome. The interior of the structure contains a short-throw projector, with the dome as a rear-projection screen. The visuals and the original scores are experienced by walking around the structure, immersing the viewer in the light patterns that emanate from it to cover floors and surrounding walls.
The visual imagery focuses on the ambitions and struggles of the migrants, from the journey from their home country to the many attempts to enter Spain, and the frustration of the perpetual effort to reach their destination. The visual style of the video projection is based on art from countries where the migration via Morocco often originates (Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal, Mali to name a few). The color palette focuses on black silhouettes that are faceless placeholders for the many human beings in a similar situation. These silhouettes represent the darkness and frustration of the journey and at the same time reflect the physical beauty and skilled craftsmanship of the African people, some of whom use black to symbolize wisdom. The black figures are contrasted by incorporating vibrant colors that are familiar from African fabrics, patterns, and paintings.
The video combines real footage and animation, and the projection scale varies by using different numbers of screens (the dome is framed with triangles). Sometimes, only one animation covers the entire projection surface. Other times, the multi-video utilizes each individual facet or just a few at a time. While the projection is playing, the light from numerous LEDs shines through the structure to paint the walls around the viewer with geometric light patterns. In this way, the installation inhabits the entire space it occupies.
Jonathan Henderson and his music group Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba composed the musical score for the installation. Jonathan is a North Carolina-based multi-instrumentalist, composer, and producer currently pursuing a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology at Duke University. Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba’s music is steeped in ancient West African griot traditions but propelled into the 21st century by the modernizing impulses of a rock band format.
Cornered creates an ambivalent atmosphere of frustration and hope. Through the video with dancers that are separated from identity and the audio with the emotion of Diali’s voice that is not translated from his native Wolof, Cornered provides an emotional perspective on the migratory issue, leaving the viewer with an impression of determination, deliberateness, and desperation. The intensity and mood of the audio track and the video rise and fall, reflecting the back and forth between emotional highs and lows, and the 8-minute animation then repeats itself, further mirroring the repeated failed attempts to cross the border.
Cornered was initially shown in the Fall of 2018 as part of “Art and Migration around Europe”, an exhibition at the Nasher Museum of Art, the Rubenstein Arts Center and the John Hope Franklin Center at Duke University, which was curated by the InTransit working group at Duke. The completion of Cornered comes at an opportune moment when it complements a broader awareness of the humanitarian crisis at Spain’s southern border.
Read more about:
- MIGRATION ACROSS SPAIN’S SOUTHERN BORDER
- The PROCESS of making Cornered
- PHOTO GALLERY with visual documentation.
Valuable assistance provided by Lexi Bateman, Katy Clune, Estlin Haiss, Steve Milligan, Philip Moss, Gabriel Pelli, Victor Ribet, Mark Olson, Austin Powers, Robert Zimmerman, and Yuchen Zhao.
The Chronicle | by Alizeh Sheikh | 10/17/2018
Arts center exhibition ‘Cornered’ documents the experiences of African migrants
Rubenstein Arts Center | by Robert Zimmerman | 10/02/2018
Inspiration through installation: Making Cornered in the Ruby
– Durham Art Guild Gallery, Durham, NC, USA. September-October 2020
– Redwood Film Festival, Best Experimental Film. September 21
– Meraki Film Festival, Madrid, Spain. Berlin, Germany. April 16-17, 2021- Semi-Finalist
– Virtual View International Film Challenge (January 2021)
– A Show for A Change Film Festival, Santa Monica, CA, USA. October 15, 2020
– Raleigh Film Festival, Raleigh, NC, USA. October 2, 2020
– Durham Art Guild Gallery, Durham, NC, USA. Aug 29-Sept 27, 2020 – postponed to 2021 due to COVID
– Docs without Borders, Nassau, DE, USA. August 23, 2020
– The African Film Festival, Dallas, Texas, USA. June 2-6, 2020
– Ethnografilm Festival, Paris, France. April 21-25, 2020 – postponed to 2021 due to COVID-19
– Courage Film Festival, Berlin, Germany. April 21, 2020.- Semi-Finalist
– Oxford Film Festival, Oxford, TN, USA. March 18-22, 2020
– Ann Arbor Film Festival: Off The Screen!, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. March 24-29, 2020
– North Dakota Human Rights Art Festival, Fargo, Bismarck, Grand Forks, Minot, ND. January-July 2020
– iGong, Alternative Video Art Fair, Sinchon boxquare, Seoul, South Korea. December 4-6, 2019
– International Film & video Festival “Cathartsis”, Moscow. December 7-16, 2019
– The IndieFEST Film Awards, La Jolla, CA – November 2019. Award of Recognition Liberation/Social Justice/Protest
– Video Art Forum 2019, Damman, Saudi Arabia. August 2019
– FilmArte Festival, Berlin, Germany. October 2019
– African World Film Festival, Charles H. Wright Museum, Detroit, MI, USA. August 2019
– NeMaf: Seoul International New Media Festival, Seoul, Korea – August 2019
– Encuentro 2019: The World Inside Out, Mexico City, Mexico – June 2019
– Universidad de Valparaiso, Chile – May 2019
– Migration Panel Discussion: “What is Duke at Home in the World?”. November 8, 2018
– Murthy Agora Gallery, Rubenstein Arts Center, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA. October 2018
– Ruby Fridays, Rubenstein Arts Center, Duke University, NC, USA. September 28, 2018
Art & Migration around Europe Speaker Series, Nasher Museum of Art, Durham, NC, USA. February 1-2, 2018
This project was supported by Duke Africa Initiative, Duke Arts, the Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation, the Arts & Sciences Council, Art, Art History & Visual Studies at Duke University,
and the Puffin Foundation.