In an age of ‘ethnic cleansing’ and forced migration, of contested borders and nations in turmoil, how have issues of place and identity, and of belonging and exclusion, been represented in visual culture? In Terra Infirma, Irit Rogoff examines geography’s truth claims and signifying practices, arguing that geography is a language in crisis, unable to represent the immense changes that have taken place in a post-colonial, post-communist, post-migratory world. She uses the work of international contemporary artists to explore how art in the twentieth century has confronted and challenged issues of identity and belonging.
Rogoff’s dazzling and richly-illustrated study takes in painting, installation art, film and video by a wide range of artists including Charlotte Salomon, Ana Mendieta, Joshua Neustein, Yehoshua Glotman, Mona Hatoum, Hans Haacke, Ashley Bickerton, Alfredo Jaar and Guillermo Gomez-Pena. Structuring her argument through themes of luggage, mapping, borders and bodies, Rogoff explores how artists have confronted twentieth century phenomena such as the horror of the Holocaust, the experience of diaspora at New York’s Ellis Island, and, in the present day, disputed and fraught boundaries in the Middle East, the two Germanies, the Balkan states and the US-Mexican border.