Category Archives: project info


at Z-ARTS 6th-29th June 2013, including Launch Event at 6pm on 6th June



Exhibition opening times are 5pm – 9pm weekdays, 10am – 4pm Saturdays, closed Sundays.

Committed to Represent
An exhibition of photography and texts as a series of portable panels by the Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit, in partnership with Virtual Migrants
How does the legal work of the GMIAU help refugees to rebuild their lives?  What motivates the caseworkers? How do refugees respond to the challenges that the asylum system throws at them?
This exhibition is a celebration of the work that caseworkers do and a testament to the courage of refugees and people seeking asylum.
Design and direction by Kooj Chuhan. Research and text by Ursula Sharma.  Photography by Mazaher.

Refusing The Refused
A short film created for ASHA (Asylum Support Housing Advice) from footage of a training workshop on Asylum Destitution on 22nd February 2013, a Virtual Migrants production by Kooj Chuhan
Destitution effectively means poverty and mental suffering at a chronic level, and this workshop involved a range of strong and emotive presentations and dialogues on the experience of destitution among people seeking asylum, the legal and wider political framework for this, and what kinds of support and action can be possible.
ASHA helps asylum seekers whose applications have been refused and fully determined, and whose status renders them homeless and destitute.

Both of these pieces of work are still ‘in development’.  They involve intersecting elements of documentary, community portraiture, campaigning and education.  This is an integral part of Virtual Migrants’ critical practice in artistic, media and cultural work.

Accompanying these works is an exhibition of paintings by Elizabeth Kwant, titled Tracing Presence.  This comprises a series of large-scale portraits developed during her Artist’s in Residence with The Boaz Trust, a charity working to help destitute asylum seekers in Manchester.

6th-29th June at Z-arts, 335 Stretford Road, Manchester M15 5ZA
An exhibition to coincide with Refugee Week 17-23 June 2013

CRUDE KILLINGS: climate, race, poverty – event on 28th November 2012


a free event by Virtual Migrants, Weds 28th November 6 – 8pm

BEHIND OIL: Multi-billion dollar corporate oil activities are almost entirely hidden, sanitised, absent from history and consciousness.
We think we know about oil, but we don’t. Its not just what we use it for, more than that its about extreme power and control by companies and states over our lives, minds, environment, culture, economies and austerities…

at International Anthony Burgess Foundation, 3 Cambridge Street, Engine House, Chorlton Mill, Manchester M1 5BY
Book your place at (registration is strongly advised to be sure of entry)

Virtual Migrants present the latest of their ‘Passenger’ events using live music and spoken word, plus a panel discussion in response to Platform’s new book The Oil Road.The Oil Road, quotes BP – the fourth largest company in the world – describing their operations as “Safe, Silent & Unseen”, but we need both to “see” and to “hear” at whose expense are their billions of dollars of annual profits.This event by Virtual Migrants with support from Platform will explore the themes of the book and ask, “How does the sanitisation of difficult, violent processes and imperialist histories inform the fight for climate justice today?”The panel includes:JAMES MARRIOTT – Platform & co-author of the book
JAYA GRAVES – Southern Voices
DEYIKA NZERIBE – Hulme Green Party
MARC HUDSON – Steady State Manchester
ARWA ABURAWA – Manchester Climate Monthly
KOOJ CHUHAN (chair) – Virtual MigrantsThe ‘Passenger’ performance will involve Virtual Migrants’ artists:SAI MURRAY (poetry/spoken word)
TANHA MEHRZAD (multimedia projection/poetry)www.virtualmigrants.comPlatform (London) are a social justice organisation combining Arts, Activism, Education and Research. For more info on The Oil Road and their work including the campaign for justice in the Niger delta, Remember Saro-Wiwa see*****************************************************a preceding event at the same venue as a part of “The Oil Road” launch in Manchester is:MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES

– film screening by MANCHESTER FILM CO-OPERATIVEJennifer Baichwal’s compelling documentary of photographer Ed Burtynsky’s voyage of discovery in today’s industrial China.Tuesday 27th November, doors open 7.30pmAdmission £3 waged/£2

A very brief overview of the last two years…

Fore more info about what we did, are doing, including videos and other stuff, check our website . Also check our facebook page and do a ‘like’ so you get updates.  Here is a v brief summary of what we have been up to as a prelude to re-starting this blog:

This research, development and pilot project exceeded expectations, producing a completed installation for the “C-Words” exhibition at The Arnolfini, implementing new aesthetic/cultural approaches around commodification of art, humans and the environment.  Links developed with Bristol’s Pierian Centre and Black Development Agency led to two discussion / performance art events programmed in partnership with these two centres.  Strong and continuing links were made with Platform (London) and other projects.  In Manchester our performance at Band On The Wall in partnership with Global Grooves developed a link with Brazil.  International links were explored including with visiting environmentalists from Tanzania, but to properly develop these required more than the available capacity.  The work led to a follow-on project with Manchester Beacon and Manchester Science Festival 2010, and international links and profile were developed via participation in two academic forums in Manchester and Germany.  Full description at .

A cultural-political-arts project on climate imperialism

There are some incredible and devastating predictions for the future levels of displaced people due to climate change.  A recent issue of Forced Migration Review (#31) began to map out these issues in a useful way yet when you look at the range of articles you are left with a sense that this field is struggling to gain a proper framework; a question for a group like ours is on the role for UK artists with an initial UK audience in response to this, and its relationship to other political positions regarding refugee and migrant issues.  Issues of resource depletion are directly affecting many originating lands of diaspora communities but the immediate pre-occupations of anti-racist and migrant groups seem to have left them forever on a back-burner.  The potential urgency such communities could bring to the debate could be enormous.  This project challenges us as politically engaged artists to disentangle, reposition and debate these pressing realities in a public forum.

This blog has just been set up by Kooj from Virtual Migrants (, for The Centre Cannot Hold, a non-limited project about Climate Change and Imperialism.

There is a keynote paper by Kooj Chuhan, titled “Tolerating Mass Murder”, outlining our starting points for this investigation.  You can read it HERE – comments/discussions are welcome.

An outline of the first stage of this project, currently focused at The Arnolfini in Bristol (UK), is as follows.

The Centre Cannot Hold (part 1)

by Virtual Migrants


Installation with performances and direct dialogues exploring climate imperialism


The project will explore two critical, under-developed, poorly represented and inter-related areas:

(a)   the ways in which Climate Change is a continuation of imperialist processes that have been active for a few hundred years.  Destruction of human beings along with their environment on a large scale is nothing new, and climate change is perhaps the most sanitised way in which ‘third’ economies will be decimated by the omnipresent culture of greed led by the first economies.

(b)   The perceptions of migrant, ‘third sector’ and diaspora people and groups in the UK, particularly of activists, and their counterparts in ‘third’ economies of the world.  Active engagement of such groups with climate change particularly in the context of imperialism and racism appears to be embryonic at best, because of other continually pressing issues which are always of higher priority such as more direct racism, immediate survival and resistance.  The potential of such groups beginning to discuss such narratives and forming linkages around such issues could be significant.  Integrating with perspectives on class inequality and poverty is also critically relevant.

These areas are difficult, and this project will not pretend to be able to create work that is conclusive within this timescale.  Rather, Virtual Migrants intends to continue this exploration and discussion over the next few years, with work being produced at various intervals of which the exhibition and events at the Arnolfini will be the first landmark stop on this journey.

FORM – aesthetics

The work will focus on the aesthetics of words, spoken and written, with an emphasis on immediacy and direct connection with the source of those words.  Activists will be speaking directly about current situations, ideas, thoughts and activities as a part of the presentations.  We want to minimise the amount of interpretation which artists would normally introduce to such work, and allow such non-performers and non-artists to become a part of work with integrated cultural, aesthetic and political meaning.

There are many examples across the world throughout history where popular consumption of words, both of their depth of meaning as well as of their beauty, has been an essential part of cultures which can more easily be critical and engage in discussion.  Our approach is to encourage directness, anti-packaging, and active engagement with rather than passive consumerism of such narratives.

We intend to use musical and digital visuals to create audio-visual environments that reflect both historical and contemporary sensibilities, rhythms, and contexts in which these direct narratives can be enriched.  These will inevitably be simple and complex at the same time, and will continually change and evolve during the period of installation.