Representing Immigration Detainees: The Juxtaposition of Image and Sound in "Border Country"

Melanie Friend


This paper discusses the four-year (2003-2007) research process towards my exhibition and publication "Border Country", which focuses on the experience of immigration detainees (appellant or "failed" asylum seekers) in the UK's "immigration removal centres". I discuss my earlier exhibition "Homes and Gardens: Documenting the Invisible" which focused on the repression in Kosovo under the Milošević regime, and the difficulties of representing the "hidden violence" which led to the adoption of a particular sound/image structure for the exhibition. I discuss how I then chose to work with a similar sound/image framework for "Border Country" and the aesthetic and conceptual considerations involved. I discuss the decision to expand the focus of the exhibition from one individual detainee to eleven, and to omit the photographic portraits of detainees from the exhibition for ethical and conceptual reasons. I finally produced a juxtaposition of photographs of immigration removal centre landscapes and interiors (devoid of people) with a soundtrack of oral testimonies. The voices of individual detainees could be heard at listening stations within the gallery spaces or on the publication's audio CD. Within this research process I also discuss my interview methodology and questions of power imbalance between photographer/artist and incarcerated asylum seekers.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1002334


immigration detention; asylum seekers; removal centres; oral testimony; photography; documentary practice; sound and image; representation

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Copyright (c) 2010 Melanie Friend

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