She subjects hegemonic narratives to critical scrutiny and establishes and pursues an “alternative historiography,” primarily in the media of video, photography, and installation art. For instance, she puts the focus on forms of resistance and its discourses rooted in the colonial past and upheld by minorities and marginalized groups.
In often technically complex installations, the artist engages with contemporary documentary practices, devising a lucid and formally precise visual idiom for a probing examination of the limitations of ethical as well as aesthetic conventions.
The Mapping Journey Project (2008–11) exemplifies this creative approach. The eight-channel video installation represents an attempt to sketch an alternative cartography of the Mediterranean world by tracing the clandestine routes of illegal migration. The artist asked illegal immigrants to show her the itineraries that had brought them to Europe on a political map of the Mediterranean region. The gesture of pointing is a defining element, underscoring the active part played by the protagonists, who comment on their journeys in their respective native languages and dialects. People who often live in the shadows in their new countries, whose voices go unheard, reclaim the authorship of their own stories.
The exhibition at the Secession is the artist’s first solo show in Austria. Khalili presents a selection of works that unfold a narrative when seen together, including the video piece The Tempest Society (2017), originally created for documenta 14. The show explores the history of North Africa and especially its anti-colonial aspirations, spotlighting revolutionary movements that sought to empower marginalized social groups and bring about their emancipation.