The Rotterdam neighborhood of Spangen holds a small treasure in its midst, located in the remarkable Justus van Effen-complex you will find A Tale of a Tub*. In a modest exhibition space this organization ‘explores alternative modes for the development and presentation of contemporary art’, as is explained on their website. Accordingly their space functions as a platform for research and discussion.

The location presents an interesting challenge because of its size and the architectural elements of the building. The capacity of the exhibition space is not very large; it could only accommodate a few artworks. Let it be clear this is not necessarily a negative quality; in fact the current exhibition proves the opposite. It houses at least six video installations and since video is a time based medium, less is more when considering quantity. Curator Nathanja van Dijk has arranged everything in such a way that every video installation has its own area, without causing the viewer to get distracted by the others.

The exhibition, The Migrant (Moving) Image, engages the recent refugee crisis and displacement in general. The show has been divided into chapters representing different aspects of migration. The advantage of this partitioning is the ability to show more art and more perspectives on the subject throughout the exhibition. Presently the program is onto its third chapter called Arrival: Heimweh, Fernweh.

Walking into the exhibition space a big screen featuring People from far away (2014) by the Zimbabwean artist Gerald Machona attracts attention. The video informs its audience on the viewpoint of the ‘other’, someone who ends up in a society far from his own, being excluded because of being different and the relief of finding someone like himself. Spectators with various backgrounds might identify with feeling different and therefore understand this facet of migration.

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Gerald Machona, People from far away, 2014.
Measures of distance (1998) by Mona Hatoum features the exchange of letters between two women, one of whom has fled the country of origin and the other is still experiencing the war there. On the one hand these letters are warm, sharing memories, but fragments of the impact of the war seep through increasingly affecting the women and their passage of letters.

The only still work is one by Isaac Julien. It is a photograph of a stack of old boats under the sun. While it does not show any tragic imagery of drowned refugees, known from newspapers and social media, it becomes poignant by the suggestion these boats carried large numbers of refugees once. These washed up boats make one wonder if the exiles suffered the same faith or landed safely. Who were they? And where are they now?

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Isaac Julien, Western Union nr 8 (sculpture for the New Millenium), 2007.

Other videos include an examination of the alias author Salman Rushdie chose when he was in hiding, the learning of new languages and urban life determined by change and migration among others. Overall this exhibition offers different perspectives on a present-day issue, not widely represented in mainstream media.

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Knut Åsdam, Abyss, 2010.
* The name refers to the former bathhouse which houses the organization and to the novel by Jonathan Swift, translated by Justus van Effen, which ties A Tale of a Tub firmly to its location.

The Migrant (Moving) Image
14 november t/m 24 januari 2016

A Tale of a Tub
Justus van Effenstraat 44
3027 TK Rotterdam
www.a-tub.org

Photographs by author.

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