Ursula Biemann

Ursula Biemann, Contained Mobility (video still), 2004

Ursula Biemann, Contained Mobility (video still), 2004

Ursula Biemann (b. 1955, Zurich, Switzerland) studied art and cultural theory in Mexico and at the School of Visual Arts and the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York. Her art and curatorial work focuses on gender relations in economy, media and geography, including a two-year project, Kultiir, on gender and urban politics in Istanbul and videos on the US/Mexico border, the global sex industry and the Spanish Moroccan borderlands.

Her video-essays Performing the Border (1999), Writing Desire (2000), Remote Sensing (2001) and Europlex (2003) have been shown at biennials in Geneva, Istanbul and Havana and at festivals in Kassel, Duisburg, Chicago and Werkleitz, as well as at international art exhibitions Manifesto 3 in Ljubljana, InSite Los Angeles, and at the Modern Art Museum in New York, MACBA Barcelona, the Centre Pompidou in Paris and Tate Modern in London.

In 2003 she curated the exhibition and catalogue Geography and the Politics of Mobility at the Cenerali Foundation in Vienna. She has also published been there and back to nowhere: gender in transnational spaces (b_books, Berlin) and Stuff It: The Video Essay in the Digital Age (Springer, Vienna/New York, 2003). Biemann researches at the Institute for Theory of Art and Design at HGKZ, Zurich, and teaches seminars and workshops internationally.

Contained Mobility (2004), Biemann’s video for International 04, was her first double-screen video work. It juxtaposed the two spatial realities of the global container transport system and human migration contained as bare life. Popular understanding of cultural identity continued to be fundamentally static, predicated on the nation state. Biemann offered a transformation of this concept from the perspective of mobility. 

The story of Anatol, the asylum seeker in Contained Mobility (2004), presented a scripted reality in a state of exception beyond the binary of renationalisation and repatriation. Trans local existence appeared here as an extra-judicial movement from place to place between the rhetoric of the inalienable rights of human beings and the growing crisis of human rights as understood by the 1951 Geneva Convention. At the same time a global regulatory network was emerging that aimed to control the flow of commerce and people on a global scale. Contained Mobility (2004) gave us an insight into some of the technological operations that constituted this network and the concomitant possibility of self-determined migration.

Ursula Biemann at Liverpool Biennial 2004

Contained Melody,
Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial 2004
Exhibited at Biennial Centre

Supported by

Pro Helvetia