This Is Water: New Mappings of Europe

Elinor Morgan (Curator)

Research output: Non-textual formExhibition


This Is Water was an exhibition with associated public programme, engagement activities and five publications that shared Morgan’s research into how public institutions across Europe might foreground histories of migration to inform contemporary political debate in the face of anti-migration sentiment and the EU referendum vote. The research project was part of an international programme titled New Mappings of Europe, with academic and museum partners in Vienna, Austria; Belgrade, Serbia; Ljubljana, Slovenia and Middlesbrough, UK, awarded funding by the European Commission.
This Is Water was an exhibition designed to foreground the voices of migrant communities to raise the profile of nuanced stories of migration. Part of Morgan’s research on redressing unrepresentative histories, it addressed how public institutions might represent migration histories in order to inform contemporary discourse on race, ethnicity and internationalism. It was part of a significant international programme of peer-learning and public presentations. The research took place in the context of partnerships with three respected institutions based in Austria, Serbia and Slovenia as part of an EU-funded programme titled New Mappings of Europe.
The research was developed in response to the UK government’s Hostile Environment policies and the British EU Referendum and subsequent rise in hate crime. It was informed by museological, social and historical research by thinkers including Akala, David Olusoga, Afua Hirsch, bell hooks, Keiran Yates, David Osa Amadasun, Andrew Dewdney, David Dibosa and Victoria Walsh. Rooted in the context of the Tees Valley through extensive archival research and community engagement, it connected with international discourse through knowledge exchange with partners.
The research manifested in an exhibition informed by public programmes, and complemented by, a community display, five publications, shared tools and resources and international seminars and conferences. In the key output, the exhibition ‘This Is Water’, Morgan curated artwork by eight artists based across Europe, archival materials from Teesside Archive, North East Film Archives and research materials from activists and thinkers. This exhibited key research topics including: how a notion of foreignness is constructed through media and news, the rights and experiences of migrant workers in the EU, and the continuing legacy of the British Empire.
MIMA’s invitation to participate in the EU-funded programme and shape its approach was made in recognition of Morgan’s innovative research into constituent-led curation. Her research was underpinned by original methodologies devised to test new approaches to engaging with diverse communities and publicly platforming the results/voices of communities as they emerged through workshops and public programmes. This included a large-scale public research programme in which… people mapped their personal experiences of migration; an oral history project and a series of discussion-based workshops with people from refugee backgrounds. Furthermore, Morgan developed a curatorial advisory group comprising three specialists who provided critical feedback on the research as it developed, from their perspectives as an academic, a community worker and an activist.
The research was rooted in international dialogue and exchange and had international reach and impact through partnerships with three institutions. It has been shared through a project website and through seminars and a conference at Moderna galerija MG+MSUM, a principal national institution of modern and contemporary art in Slovenia. The impact of Morgan’s research can be noted by her inclusion in the 2020 report ‘The Arts After Brexit’, Dr Charlotte Faucher, University of Manchester, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


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