UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA | THE SOCIAL JUSTICE INSTITUTE
1097 – 1873 East Mall Buchanan Tower (10th Floor)
March 6–June 5, 2020
A blue whale’s song sweeps across the Andean plateau in Malena Szlam’s ALTIPLANO, 2018, constructed with shivering superimposed layers of 35-mm film that resemble a defective stereograph. Szlam traces the ridges of the ancestral lands of the Atacameño, Aymara, and Calchaquí-Diaguita, which are now cleaved into Chile and Argentina and mined for saltpeter and nitrite. The film is transporting and, like the online exhibition it belongs to, “Open Justice” (commissioned by Denise Ferreira da Silva and curated by Ronald Rose-Antoinette), it leaves nothing settled.
Scrolling down the site, a viewer sees that catastrophe hits in waves: aboard a boat of Senegalese migrant workers headed for France, in Bouba Touré, Raphaël Grisey, and Kàddu Yaraax’s Traana—Temporary Migrant, 1977–2017, or in the hurricane-flooded streets of Puerto Rico, in Beatriz Santiago Muñoz’s Gosila, 2018. But even as water swallows the island’s roadways in the latter film, people find reasons to dance by bar light. Irreverence and tenderness linger as lifelines in the wake of disaster. The Miami-based artist Jamilah Sabur further illustrates this idea: Her film Tidal Locking, 2019, drops us into the fictional underwater world of Triton, one of Neptune’s moons, where an astronaut dancer spins, her fluid motions blurred and silhouetted. Sabur’s aquamarine vision suggests an escape from the real threat that Miami faces during hurricane season.
In the exhibition’s most intimate piece, the Otolith Group’s I See Infinite Distance Between Any Point and Another, 2012, the Lebanese American poet Etel Adnan reads, “We went to the moon once under a propitious weather and loved each other in ways we couldn’t achieve on our terrestrial habitat.” Since then, the weather has turned. Travel is banned, and even the moon is a contested space. “Open Justice” issues a call to find new ways to hold one another close.