Book Launch

The Migrant Image: The Art and Politics of Documentary During Global Crisis (Duke University Press, 2013)

Return to the Postcolony: Specters of Colonialism in Contemporary Art (Sternberg Press, 2013).

In the wake of failed states, growing economic and political inequality, and the ongoing US- and NATO-led wars for resources, security, and economic dominance worldwide, contemporary artists are critically exploring the image regime of neoliberal capitalism and crisis-globalization. They are also revisiting former European colonies, considering past injustices that haunt the living yet remain repressed in European consciousness.

In The Migrant Image, Demos examines the ways contemporary artists have reinvented documentary practices in their exploration of mobile lives: refugees, migrants, the stateless, and the politically dispossessed. He presents a sophisticated analysis of how artists from the United States, Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East depict the often ignored effects of globalization and the ways their works connect viewers to the lived experiences of political and economic crisis. The book features case studies of works by Steve McQueen, The Otolith Group, Hito Steyerl, Emily Jacir, Ahlam Shibli, Ursula Biemann, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Lamia Joreige, Akram Zaatari, Walid Raad, Rabih Mroué, Yto Barrada, Goldin + Senneby, Ayreen Anastas and Rene Gabri, and others, showing the ways these artists creatively propose new possibilities for a politics of equality, social justice, and historical consciousness from within an increasingly post-representational, deterritorialized aesthetic domain.

Return to the Postcolony: Specters of Colonialism in Contemporary Art
continues this investigation, looking at works by artists Sven Augustijnen, Vincent Meessen, Zarina Bhimji, Renzo Martens, and Pieter Hugo that have emerged around the time of the fiftieth anniversary of independence for many African countries. Confronting the hauntings of past and ongoing colonial traumas, Demos describes these artistic journeys as forming a “reverse migration” — a return to the European and African postcolony, which drives an ethico-political as well as an aesthetic set of imperatives: to learn to live with ghosts, but to do so more justly.

Demos will discuss and expand on these themes in conversation with Kodwo Eshun.

T.J. Demos is critic and Reader in the Department of Art History, University College London. He writes widely on modern and contemporary art and politics under globalization, and recently guest edited a special issue of Third Text (no. 120, 2013) on the subject of “Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology.”

©The Otolith Group