Michael Usling

sculpture, wood, photograph printed on spandex, 2019

This kinetic sculpture features two wooden spindles that rotate a single piece of fabric, scrolling steadily similar to an upright conveyor belt. The fabric contains a digitally produced composition of immigration documents belonging to the artist’s paternal grandparents. The documents reference Hermann Usling and Gisela Milkowski’s immigration to Canada from post-war Germany during the 1950s. The photo montage also includes documentation of the artist’s own migration from Canada to Germany, 63 years later, for the purposes of higher education.

The work confronts viewers with the complex contexts of migration and the changing nature of such human movement throughout history. What is a border? What is a bloodline? For the artist these two questions are central to the work. As countries develop and attitudes towards immigration shift, this artwork questions citizenship and belonging in geographical spaces throughout history. Using a simple repetitive motion, the moving artwork acknowledges that economic, social and technological powers are constantly in flux, determining how and with whom privilege manifests - and that these systems operate in cycles.