ProjectsMigrant Documents

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Migrant Documents


The project MIGRANT DOCUMENTS consists of the following series:
The Idea of Travelling, 2012
Disorder, 2012
A Tree Cannot Block the Water, 2011
And Our Beds are Cedar Green, 2012
Positions, video, 2012
The Unknown is Not a Memory, 2012
The Complexity of Migration:
In Danish Tina Enghoff’s project Migrant Documents (2011-2012, published in book form in 2013) she followed various groups of illegal African immigrants in Copenhagen for a longer period, using various “mixtures” of photography. The book consists of the following series of photographs: Portraits of illegal immigrants seen from behind in large color formats (taken in front of tourist attraction number one in Copenhagen, the small statue of “The Little Mermaid”, which we do not see in the portraits); black and white close-up photographs of the few belongings of a specific group of illegal immigrants from Ghana placed in neatly ordered piles or in plastic bags mounted in trees in a specific Copenhagen public park during the daytime, when the immigrants are out collecting empty bottles etc. (these belongings are often collected and thrown out by the authorities, who see a threat in them); grainy black and white frame grabs from a surveillance video of three snowy, January nights in the same park, set up by Tina Enghoff herself; close-ups of blood tests in test tubes from The Health Clinic for Undocumented Immigrants manned by volunteer doctors, nurses and midwifes, where illegal immigrants can receive health treatment outside the official system and without being registered (photographed in extreme close-up and in a cool, conceptual style on a white background); and in a likewise cool, archival concept style a series of color photographs of a closet with blankets and ground pads, registered in a period of 22 days at the private, Danchurch social night café in Copenhagen, one of the few places where illegal immigrants can spend the night. Each day the ‘pattern’ of mostly red and green blankets and grey ground pads varies as they are ‘recomposed’ in different forms in the open closet. As such, each blanket almost becomes an index pointing to the person, who used it the night before and placed it in the closet in the morning.
Finally, Enghoff carried out participatory workshops, where she provided the immigrants with instant cameras and asked them to photograph the Copenhagen they wanted to depict in a postcard. During the workshop postcards were produced, showing photographs of particularly green parks, bicycles, street life, houses or various forms of typical motifs, that any tourist would probably have taken, proving a – against all prejudice – very open, curious and positive gaze on the foreign country.
Together all these depictions in all sorts of photographic formats make a nuanced collection of Migrant Documents as the title goes. Various aspects of what it means to live an illegal everyday life in an otherwise closely controlled, registered and regulated Scandinavian country, are being depicted in this work. We only meet the people either seen from behind or as hardly identifiable, grainy contours in the night surveillance stills; the rest are either belongings, objects or even blood samples pointing towards the individual or the surroundings seen through their eyes. These are experiences that ordinary Danish citizens are rarely, if ever, confronted with. More over some of the registration forms used by ‘the system’, such as surveillance technology and registration of blood samples, are used in a form miming a crime scene or forensic aesthetics, but here rather to point to the vulnerability and precariousness of the objects of the technological registration, the illegal immigrants.
Excerpt from: New Mixtures: Migration, war and cultural differences in contemporary art-documentary photography
By Mette Sandbye, art critic and Professor in Photography, at the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies at Copenhagen University.
Published in Photographies, 2018