Maria Thereza Alves, Yto Barrada, Ursula Biemann, Kayle Brandon & Heath Bunting, Maria Magdalena Campos Pons, Ofri Cnaani & Jenny Vogel, Mary Evans, Meschac Gaba, Raimi Gbadamosi, Melanie Jackson, Grzegorz Klaman, Erik van Lieshout, William Pope.L, Kate Rich, Zineb Sedira, Zafos Xagoraris
Port City is a large-scale international exhibition addressing issues of migration, trade and contemporary slavery. Set in Arnolfini, it will also be accompanied by a related programme of live art, music, film, literature, events and workshops as well as off-site projects.
Several works in the exhibition draw attention to the experience of migration, in particular between North Africa and Europe. Ursula Biemanns video installation Sahara Chronicle follows the routes of migrants across the desert focusing on Morocco, Niger and Mauritania. Moroccan artist Yto Barradas work refers to the Straits of Gibraltar; the narrow divide between two continents. Her photographic series Sleepers presents images from the public park of her hometown of Tangiers, where would-be émigrés await their moment of passage.
Melanie Jacksons new project The Undesirables incorporates a panorama of etchings and drawings made from media reports of the wreck of the MSC Napoli that foundered off Branscombe in Devon last year. These are combined with the animated stories of dockworkers she has interviewed in Avonmouth, Bristol and other container ports.
Coinciding with Abolition 200, Bristols commemoration of the parliamentary abolition of the slave trade, several new works have been made in response to Bristol’s specific context. These works explore the city’s histories of trade as well as the contemporary port. For Seeds of Change, Brazilian artist Maria Thereza Alves has researched sites around the Floating Harbour where ballast would have been off-loaded, taking samples from the riverbanks within which seeds can lie dormant for hundreds of years. These ballast seeds have been germinated and tended by local groups so as to make a garden of living history, reflecting the different routes travelled by Bristol merchants.
Other highlights of the exhibition include a vast model of a global village made from sugar by Meschac Gaba, kaleidoscopes showing contemporary scenes from the triangle of the trans-Atlantic slave trade by Mary Evans and the Uphone by Kate Rich, a phone-in web interface that audiences can use to leave their comments and responses to Port City.