A videographic topography of the global sex trade in the age of geographic information systems
Ursula Biemann © 2001, 53 min. digital video, English
Remote Sensing traces the routes and reasons of women who travel across the globe for work in the sex industry. Voluntarily or not, women are displaced in great numbers from Manila to Nigeria, from Burma to Thailand, from Bulgaria to Europe: female bodies in the flow of global capitalism. Spiralling down from an orbital view captured by image satellites, the video-essay takes an earthly perspective on cross-border circuits, trafficking routes and illicit economies. The highly digital documents generated for this video connect new geographic technologies to the sexualization and displacement of women on a global scale. Using the latest images from NASA satellites, the video investigates the consequences of the U.S. military presence in South East Asia as well as the European migration politics.
Remote Sensing visualises the multi-layered meaning of geography where the sexualization of women in global capitalism is linked to the implementation of new technologies in often contradicting ways. While the Internet facilitates the migration flow, particularly for women via bride market, the border reinforcement technologies, on the other hand, hinder and push it into the illegal sector. The European visa politics are quite explicit in their practice to channel migrant women directly into the sex industry. The assemblage of documents reveal how technologies of marginalization affect women, and particularly economically disadvantaged women, in their sexuality and how powerful players like States, scientific complexes and military institutions, install a sexuality that eroticizes hierarchies.
Female bodies are the new cargo in the highly lucrative transactions across boundaries. Of course there are numerous structural and political reasons that lead women to move, or to being moved, into the gigantic Fordism of service of the global sex industry. But there is no simple moral distinction to be made between trafficked women and those who choose this venue of survival. The video explores the large grey zone of negotiation women engage in and the different concepts of prostitution they adhere to. Remote Sensing aspires to displacing and re-signifying the feminine within sexual difference and cultural representation, where sexuality is often presented within the narrow confines of a masculine symbolic.
Satellite visions of globality are producing a sexual economy in which it has become thinkable to reorganise women geographically on a global sca.e The use of imagery generated by geographic information systems (GIS) opens a fundamental critique of Western thinking. Satellite images propose an abstract and highly accurate view of the world from the top down. The evaluation and interpretation of the millions of geospacial data collected by the satellites currently in the orbit are based on binary computer languages. Through this lens, the world may seem graspable, controllable and easy to categorise. Yet capitalism creates social as well as material landscapes which are only comprehensible in their complex interrelation. Remote Sensing fills in missing geographic data which offer a gendered and relational view on the global flows of humans.
Ursula Biemann is an artist and videomaker focusing on gender and globalisation issues in economy, media and the urban space.
(soon on the web)