Vis-a-vis is a french expression used in common language to express a frontal relation, literally, it translates as face to face. For migrant/exiled gazes we stress these meanings and put them in relation to a word play that highlights the word visa as contained in this expression. How to confront the discrepancies between immigration policies, diplomatic gestures and different stories of migration?

Visa-vis is an installation meant to show – and to confront – two faces of the same coin: Mexico as an immigration haven and peril. The welcoming of (around) 1,500 Jews by Mexico during the annexation of Austria by national socialist Germany is a remarkable fact of its contribution to the opposition of fascism and to the lives of those that received a new home in that country. Still, history is never one sided and the openness showed by Mexico has been questioned and contrasted with other less humanitarian – and flattering – events. The return to Europe of the Orinoco ship, with at least 21 migrant Jews and the formation of anti-semitic movements in Mexico are some examples of the complexities of these contrasts.

Through this installation, we confront different moments that are woven around Mexico’s protest against the annexation, in order to celebrate its openness and nevertheless to recognize that Jewish immigration to Mexico repeatedly met with difficulties and irregularities that are not often talked about. Fostered by a swollen post-revolutionary nationalism and eager for a national identity, Mexican immigration policies at the time were very selective. Immigrants were classified as assimilable or unassimilable according to discretionary policies that did not render its motives open. The aim of this project is to foster this openness and to bring these contrasts into discussion.

An installation about Mexico's Square in Vienna
developed for:
Exiled Gaze | Der exilierte Blick
Filmisch-künstlerische Positionen zu aktuellen Exilgeschichten rund um den Mexikoplatz | Cinematic & artistic positions on current histories of exile around Mexikoplatz
Curated by Doris Posch
Production director Rodrigo Martínez
Production assistant Mushtaq Khani

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Art in public space, part of Visa-vis. Engerthstraße 194/Ennsgasse, Vienna
Visa-vis, entrance to exhibition venue KAESHMAESH, Vienna.
Visa-vis, exhibition view, Vienna.
Visa-vis, exhibition view KAESHMAESH, Vienna.