- UC Santa Cruz
- Visual Studies PhD
In The Migrant Image T. J. Demos examines the ways contemporary artists have reinvented documentary practices in their representations 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. Demos investigates the cinematic approaches Steve McQueen, the Otolith Group, and Hito Steyerl employ to blur the real and imaginary in their films confronting geopolitical conflicts between North and South. He analyzes how Emily Jacir and Ahlam Shibli use blurs, lacuna, and blind spots in their photographs, performances, and conceptual strategies to directly address the dire circumstances of dislocated Palestinian people. He discusses the disparate interventions of Walid Raad in Lebanon, Ursula Biemann in North Africa, and Ayreen Anastas and Rene Gabri in the United States, and traces how their works offer images of conflict as much as a conflict of images. Throughout Demos shows the ways these artists creatively propose new possibilities for a politics of equality, social justice, and historical consciousness from within the aesthetic domain.
“The Migrant Image provides an in-depth study of contemporary art in a global context, read through the specific lens of migration. T. J. Demos offers a seamless bridge between a critical and informed art history and an authoritative presentation of the socio-political interests that are essential to contextualizing each artist’s practice. The achievement of The Migrant Image is to provide a full and rich justification for our paying attention to these works as multi-layered and probing artistic gestures that also have the capacity to renew a political imagination.”
— Claire Bishop, author of, Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship
“T. J. Demos has established himself as a leading critic of politically engaged art, especially as it pertains to the main topic of this book, migration in the more general sense, and migration under late modern, late capitalist globalization. Nowhere else can readers access so many profiles of key works by these artists, or see their work read so deftly and thoroughly from relevant theoretical perspectives.”
— Terry Smith, author of, Contemporary Art: World Currents