“The refugee should be considered for what he is, that is, nothing less than a border concept.” Giorgio Agamben

In winter 2006, under the aegis of philosopher Wolfgang Scheppe, a collective of students from the IUAV University in Venice fanned out to subject their city to a process of forensic structural mapping. Out of this field work, conducted in the Situationist tradition, there developed a three-year urban project that produced an enormous archive comprising tens of thousands of photographs, case studies, movement profiles, and statistic data. In this archive, Venice, the place of longing at the junction of three migration corridors, emerges as a front-line European city and an exemplary prototype of the increasingly globalized city in which a decimated inner-city population meets armies of tourists and a parallel economy supported by illegal immigrants. In a map cleverly branching out into essays, visual arguments, data visualizations, and interviews, the globalized territory of Venice is microscopically dissected and defined as an urban metaphor: the city becomes an “atlas of a global situation.” Migropolis is a large scale project concerned with the transversality of an urban territory subjected to the conditions of globalization. The term globalization is misused in a societal consensus where it prospers as a pretentious gnosis still being a mere void abstraction. The Migropolis-project lays open the system of globalization by the means of a concrete, minute and tangible exposure of global structures on a confined urban territory. The practices to achieve this are the result of a detournement: reapplying the affirmative modes and visual techniques of a society of the spectacle in a discursive way. The subject of the theory and practice related to Migropolis is the visualization of the traces of migration in an urban context. The scope of the project involves at least three categorical forms of migrational entities found in the urban area of the survey:

  1. Migration as a conflict zone, where wealth-based and poverty-based formations of mobility meet, as seen in the flux of tourism and the presence of legal – and especially illegal – immigration. Particular emphasis will be placed upon an understanding of parallel economic systems, cases of segregation and heterotopia in Migropolis.

  2. Migration of commodities, products and services as a result of liberalization and deregulation in international trade, movement of capital and integration of financial markets. What is still accepted by mass tourism as an endemic product from a heritage of local culture and so acting as a souvenir, has been long since produced in the Far East.

  3. Migration of the image, as observed in the global distribution, dislocation and displacement of iconographic tropes of historic Venice. Baudrillard’s hyperbole of the loss of the original through its copies is demonstrated in the city’s productivity to renew itself in muliple replications, ultimately appearing itself as a mere emergence of the latter.