“It is obvious from the map”

Thomas Keenan (USA) and Sohrab Mohebbi (Iran), with Charles Heller (USA) and Lorenzo Pezzani (Italy)

Galata Greek Primary School


“‘Are we animals? Or are we human beings?’… The claim to be human is often posed as a question, in part because our status as humans is so often in question. Nothing guarantees it… These days, it is linked powerfully to movement. People en route ask it most urgently, to themselves and to others. It is posed in terms of spaces and trajectories: the passage of the al-Baltjay family from Aleppo to Turkey to Lesbos to Idomeni and beyond is just one such pathway. And it doesn’t just happen at the border or in the camp or at the train station or the asylum hearing: the journey itself is a way of making the claim or asking the question.” –TK, SM


Thomas Keenan and Sohrab Mohebbi’s “It is obvious from the map” examines the role of maps and map-making in the current migration crisis between zones of conflict around the Mediterranean. The exhibit examines “the design of this crisis” through two secretive types of maps: those created, exchanged, distributed and annotated by migrants on paper and through their cell phones; and those produced by governmental and interstate agencies for the control, tracking and management of migrants.

As part of “It is obvious from the map,Charles Heller and Lorenzo Pezzani (Forensic Oceanography, Watch the Med) do another type of map-making by precisely reconstructing the routes of migrant vessels in the Mediterranean through data collected by multiple tracking systems in a sea that is completely full of sensors. These maps reveal how the suffering of migrants is obsessively watched yet murderously neglected by the various forces tasked with their surveillance and control.