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Art and epistemic injustice: Ursula Biemann’s Remote Sensing and The Black Sea Files

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Having regard to two video works produced by Ursula Biemann, Remote Sensing (2001) and The Black Sea Files (2005), this article examines the portrayal of female displacement and migration in the context of Miranda Fricker’s recent discussion of ‘epistemic injustice’. Focusing on ways in which the videos demonstrate instances of testimonial injustice, it is argued that Biemann’s work requires audiences to broaden their conception of the circumstances in which such injustice might arise. The discussion shows that Remote Sensing and The Black Sea Files do not just illuminate the distinctive harm of testimonial injustice, but also deepen current debates in analytical philosophy about the ways in which social pressures, customs, and power structures impact on the provision and receipt of testimony. Instead of viewing the exercise of prejudice as the trigger for testimonial injustice, Biemann’s works show that such injustice can arise when listeners fail to have regard to the background socio-economic conditions that shape the context in which testimony is given and received. By self-consciously locating her works in a network of image circulation, Biemann also raises questions about the reliability of moving images that seek to illuminate testimonial injustice at the intersection of art and documentary.

Keywords: Miranda Fricker; Ursula Biemann; epistemic injustice; migration; sex work; testimony

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Tilburg University

Publication date: December 1, 2014

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  • Art & the Public Sphere provides a new platform for academics, artists, curators, art historians and theorists whose working practices are broadly concerned with contemporary art's relation to the public sphere. The journal presents a crucial examination of contemporary art's link to the public realm, offering an engaged and responsive forum in which to debate the newly emerging series of developments within contemporary thinking, society and international art practice.
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