Crossing Lines, Constructing Home: Displacement and Belonging in Contemporary Art

, Special Exhibitions Gallery, Harvard Art Museums
  • Jama Masjid, Delhi/Boulevard René Lévesque Ouest, Montréal
  • Wall, East of Nogales, Arizona
  • Karma Tsetan, Majnu Ka Tilla Diaries (31)
  • Loose Electric Wires in the Temple Square, Majnu Ka Tilla Diaries (4)
  • Choekyi’s House #2, Majnu Ka Tilla Diaries (13)
  • Muslim Teacher (Imam)
  • Untitled (approaching the border, Roxham Road)
  • Stash House in Orange Grove
  • moebar mahony
  • Untitled (Desert)
  • Bus depot. Qom
  • 2nd History of the Human Face (Socket of the Eyes), Airmail Painting No. 66
  • Spent
  • Home is a Foreign Place
  • Tenosique, Mexico
  • Hub, Ground Floor, Union Wharf, 23 Wenlock Road, London N1 7SB
  • Watching Oprah, Athens Greece
  • mike
  • doorway
  • chris and kuka
  • Border Patrol Target Range, Near Gulf of Mexico, Texas
  • Muslim Girl #14
  • La mia Roma (omaggio ai sampietrini)
  • friday night
  • Gerald One Feather, Oglala, SD
  • Ron McNeil, Fort Yates, ND
  • Muro
  • Kalsang Dorjee, Majnu Ka Tilla Diaries (20)
  • Tenosique, Mexico
  • dog walk
  • Turks in Germany 1979
  • The Passport, from the Series “The Spirit Republic of Puerto Rico”
  • Janine Pease Pretty-on-Top with Granddaughter, Lodge Grass, MO
  • Untitled (Underground Railroad Tunnel)
  • Untitled (men's suit, Roxham Rd)
  • La frontera, Tijuana, México (The Border, Tijuana, Mexico)
  • Home, Hyderabad India
Special Exhibitions Gallery, Harvard Art Museums

What does it mean to be displaced from culture and home? What are the historical contexts for understanding our contemporary moment? How does an artist’s work and process embody and engage the narratives of displacement and belonging?

Crossing Lines, Constructing Home investigates two parallel ideas: national, political, and cultural conceptions of boundaries and borders; and the evolving hybrid spaces, identities, languages, and beliefs created by the movement of peoples.

While offering historical context and a consideration of the forces that commonly drive migration, such as political instability, natural disasters, and oppression linked to race, religion, culture, and class, the exhibition presents a more complicated narrative about immigration and displacement than the usual rhetoric that dominates the public sphere and polarizes debate. Crossing Lines unsettles accepted notions of what constitutes a boundary and of what characterizes the migrant or refugee experience—in part by exploring how culture can persist and be embraced despite displacement. Acknowledging passage as a space of both trauma and transformation, the exhibition opens up new ways of understanding the immigrant experience.

Rather than aiming for an encyclopedic approach to the topic, the curators have sought to frame this metaphoric intervention through a range of experiences and geographies, all while staying focused on historical specificity and individual experience.

The more than 40 works in the exhibition, all but one drawn from the museums’ permanent collections, reflect a global community of contemporary artists, including sculpture by Do Ho Suh, Bosco Sodi, and Emily Jacir; photographs by Richard Misrach, Jim Goldberg, Graciela Iturbide, and Serena Chopra; prints by Zarina; a large work mixing photosilkscreen and drawing by Eugenio Dittborn; a slide projection by Candida Höfer; and a video installation by Willie Doherty.

Curated by Mary Schneider Enriquez, Houghton Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, and Makeda Best, Richard L. Menschel Curator of Photography, Harvard Art Museums.

This exhibition is made possible by the Rosenblatt Fund for Postwar American Art, the Agnes Gund Fund for Modern and Contemporary Art, and the John R. and Barbara Robinson Family Fund for Photography. Exhibition-related programming is supported by the M. Victor Leventritt Lecture Series Endowment Fund, the Nancy S. Nichols Memorial Lecture Fund, and the Richard L. Menschel Endowment Fund. Modern and contemporary art programs at the Harvard Art Museums are made possible in part by generous support from the Emily Rauh Pulitzer and Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., Fund for Modern and Contemporary Art.

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Learn more about the exhibition in our series of videos, including a recording of the opening night lecture with exhibition curators Makeda Best and Mary Schneider Enriquez, in discussion with Ugochukwu-Smooth Nzewi (Museum of Modern Art, New York) and Jessica Hong (Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College):