Chamber for Immigrant Visual Studies

The Chamber for Immigrant Visual Studies and the historic visual aspects of immigration in Denmark.
By Høxbroe & Ramadan | May 2007

Chamber for Immigrant Visual Studies was established in Copenhagen 2007 as an independent, non-profit project focusing on the historic visual aspects of immigration. The archive collects, preserves and provides photographs, video and documentary about immigrants in Denmark and the wider Nordic region. The aim is to build a visual documentation centre for the immigrants who arrived to the region in the period from 1950 and till today.

The archive solely contains images with relation to immigration taken by the immigrants themselves. Hence, visitors to the archive are confronted with the social realities and experiences of the contributors who are conveying their own stories. The selected images are in themselves information, history, content, and memory.

The archive functions as an information and research centre and is open to the public. It consists of an electronic image database, which form basis for exhibitions, talks, publications and electronic presentations. The archive arranges exhibitions in museums, educational, cultural and art institutions and is open for cooperation with individuals and institutions that share the vision of enhancing understanding between societies.

The archive was launched due to the absence of serious initiatives towards immigrant visual culture in the Nordic region. The objective is to expose what lies hidden of historic images in private albums dating back to the 50s and give especially non-western immigrants the possibility of self-representation and the freedom of deciding how they would like to be seen and remembered in the public sphere.

The project has a socio-critical dimension, since in most western countries the perception of immigrants is overshadowed by negative images. The coverage of immigrant communities in mainstream media is often negative and stereotypical. In addition to this, immigrant images distributed in literature, publications and the print media are often misrepresented and artificially posed.

As cultural activists aware of the power of images, we detected a problem, which we wanted to challenge. We did not want to initiate yet another representational project. Instead, through opening their private albums and putting forward images of their own choice, in our estimation, immigrants have achieved self representation. It is our intention to catalyze and facilitate this process. Therefore we involve the owners of the images in different projects such as talks, documentary making, and writing, and see our role as promoters rather than curators.

"Imagined Communities" was the title that came to mind when we met the man who stimulated the idea behind the project. During a portrait shooting we met Farouk Haffar, the first Lebanese to come to Denmark by car from Beirut in 1960. Farouk, a former president of the Lebanese Society, is a man who loves photography and has over 3000 of them. Watching his album was like travelling back in time, but what would happen to these photos? Suddenly, the nostalgia raised by the images was accompanied by a decision. Thanks to Farouk, his photos and stories, which made us aware of this visual fortune, an archive was born. An archive with images and stories we never thought we would live to experience, show and tell.

Preservation and documentation of the history of immigrants are the backbone of the project, which attracts growing public and political interest. Therefore we wish to make the archive more visible among immigrant communities and encourage them to open up their albums.

The challenge is how to maintain its integrity, participatory structure and independency, so that it will remain as it is in five years time. To achieve this, it should be kept on the level of visual cultural activism.

Høxbroe & Ramadan

Khaled D. Ramadan Artist, curator, author. Film and documentary instructor and lecturer in new media aesthetics. PH.D Candidate at the department of Art History, University of Copenhagen, were he presently holds a position as lecturer. Stine Høxbroe New media lecturer, graphic designer and computer animator, who organized several projects in relation to video art, documentary and TV-production, among them, the Made in Video Festival in Copenhagen.

Chamber for Immigrant Visual Studies
Forhåbningsholms Alle 53
1904 Frederiksberg C
Denmark
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Established by Khaled D. Ramadan and Stine Høxbroe.

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