In the Farhana border crossing, one can easily observe the terms in which the contemporary colonial encounter is taking place in the context of a globalized and neoliberal world order. Melilla, a Spanish enclave in Northern Africa, has a long colonial history of shifting and contested borders. The creation of the European Economic Area and the Schengen space with their violent dynamics of inclusion and exclusion has made journeys across this traditionally blurred boundary much more dangerous and even lethal. Using a heartbeat detector machine, the border police routinely check for cars used by the existing goods-smuggling groups operating on both sides of the barbed wire fence. These images have been taken in the course of these control operations and then made available to news agencies and newspapers through the online archive of the police and its media office. Having secured permission to access the archive and use the images, I have instead chosen to collect them from the local and national newspapers that have published news related to these police operations. Selecting this place of appropriation allows me to make reference to the process of production, distribution, and consumption of these photographs, and what is later placed in a symbolic regime of representation: a discursive construction of migrants as intruders, visually trapped in their rites of passage. Farhana is an attempt to reconsider this signifying practice without the mediation of the institutions that first produced, disseminated and prescribed the value of these photographs. Beyond the debris left behind by customs and forensic probes and the inventory of alterations made to vehicles, these images consistently reveal re-enactments, performances, fractured representations of the body, erased faces, empty spaces, traces of presences, encounters, and trophies. The traffickers, facing most likely a compulsory custodial sentence, are always kept outside the constructed frame of the image. The camera sifts through these wreckages only to show hidden, twisted bodies without faces or with a black bar on their eyes placed in postproduction. Preventing an encounter with their eyes, their faces and the dignity of their bodies allows a new function to emerge beyond identification and a reminder of police power: to define these migrant bodies.

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