Streamlines: Oceans, Global Trade and Migration, curated by Koyo Kouoh, director of RAW Material Company and curator of 2016 EVA International—Ireland’s Biennial, presents 15 artistic and literary positions on seaways, world trade, flight, and migration which deal with the oceans as the “sixth continent.” The exhibition represents the first time an exhibition in this institution has connected the globalisation of art and culture with the history of Hamburg as a port city and its current and prospective significance as a “gateway to the world.”
Since the 15th century, global flows of goods have been transported across the seven seas, and waterways have developed into crucial arteries of the world economy. The oceans have transformed into an enormous transgeographic continent; they connect people and goods and offer unique experiences of the world. The control of the waterways, which have also always been routes to meeting new worlds, is today more than ever of great enormous economic and geopolitical importance. Since the beginning of the 20th century, artists have directly reacted to foreign lands and attempted to blur and even dissolve established boundaries. The exhibition Streamlines presents works of diverse artistic concerns: in drawings, collages, textiles, sculptures, photographs, installations and films, artists show the seas as they are—as passageways for flows of people and goods, for dramatic transitions, for streams of communications and information, for stories and human experiences.
Streamlines focuses on the metaphor of the oceans for the examination of the cultural effects of global trade and the flow of goods from the “South” to the “North.” The exhibition encourages viewers to think about how oceans are used: How can the seas help us visualise social, political and economic disparities? How should we understand the oceans’ connection to the notion of invisible borders and the concept of property? How should we interpret migratory flows? Who enacts laws for this globe-spanning vast territory? Not only the European longing for the exotic has transformed the face of the world, as with the influence of non-European art and cult objects on modern art, but trade and imports of raw materials, such as cacao, coffee, cotton and gold from other continents have also irreversibly shaped Western way of life.
Contemporary artists from diverse origins were invited to take part in this reflection. They come from regions that have a close historical connection to the port of Hamburg. Their artworks deal with migration, mobility, the hope for a better life, globalised trade, isolation at sea, working conditions, the loss of connection to one’s homeland, geographic boundaries and psychological alienation. The viewer’s experiences in the exhibition are influenced by artistic strategies in which concepts such as action, consumption, confrontation, reshaping, participation and narrative play a decisive role. Thus, this exhibition, which looks at the geopolitics of the oceans, can also be read as a critical proposal of metaphoric interpretations of flows. It brings together humanist and aesthetic reactions to the challenges of history, politics, and our contemporary environments.
Participating artists and novelist
Kader Attia, Mark Boulos, Peter Buggenhout, Ken Bugul, Godfried Donkor, Theo Eshetu, Joana Hadjithomas, Alfredo Jaar, Khalil Joreige, Bouchra Khalili, Abdoulaye Konaté, Otobong Nkanga, Arin Rungjang, Thomas Rentmeister, Ulrike Ottinger, Wendelien van Oldenborgh
December 2, 7pm: Alfredo Jaar, “It is difficult”
December 4, 5pm: Godfried Donkor; 6pm: Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, followed by a discussion with Koyo Kouoh
The exhibition comes with a highly illustrated bilingual catalogue published by Snoeck (Hamburg), with an original short story by internationally acclaimed Senegalese novelist Ken Bugul; essays by philosopher Seloua Luste Boulbina, assistant curator Eva Barois De Caevel, exhibition curator Koyo Kouoh, curator and critic Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, historian Sandra Schürmann, and curator and art historian David Teh; and a foreword by Deichtorhallen Director Dirk Luckow. The collected writings address notions of distance, proximity, longing, the interrelations between physical and geographical movements and the normative Western narrative of world history, among others. Size: 20.5 x 17 cm, 264 pages. German/English.
The exhibition Streamlines is a collaboration between RAW Material Company, Dakar and Deichtorhallen Hamburg, and is funded by the TURN Fund of the German Federal Cultural Foundation.