Seba Kurtis

HeartBeat (Study # 11), 2012, © Seba Kurtis, Courtesy The Format – Contemporary Culture Gallery, Milano

Thicker than water

curated by Daniele De Luigi
original production Fotografia Europea
in collaboration with The Format – Contemporary Culture Gallery, Milano 

times and locations

Galleria Parmeggiani – Interno 1
corso Cairoli 2
42121 Reggio Emilia

venerdì 11 maggio aperto dalle 18.00 alle 24.00; sabato 12 e domenica 13 maggio dalle 10.00 alle 24.00. Dal 17 maggio al 24 giugno aperto da martedì a venerdì dalle 9.00 alle 12.00; sabato, domenica e festivi dalle 10.00 alle 13.00 e dalle 16.00 alle 23.00. Chiuso il lunedì.


The work of Seba Kurtis has always focussed on the condition of migrants, particularly those without documents, and the consequences of immigration, a key issue in the dynamics of contemporary society.

The photographs of the Argentine artist – who has experienced this dramatic condition at first hand – portray people uprooted from their home countries and identify within the places where they are living the persistent signs and traces of the past and of their memories.

His work is not narrative, but seeks rather to explore the invisible aspect of the phenomenon and to evoke the deepest implications of this human condition. His handling of the negatives, whereby the faces and objects are partly erased or altered, acts like a metaphor of a psychological violence, and creates a tension between the surface of the image and the space of the real.

“Thicker than water”, realized specifically for Fotografia Europea, was produced in Manchester, the British city  where Kurtis now lives, renowned for its significant industrial past and currently known for its vibrant creative scene. Kurtis explores the complexity of the concept of community by concentrating on the one hand, on legal foreigners who are building a new life for themselves far from their home countries, and on the other, on the difficult and paradoxical situation of those who are de facto citizens in their everyday life, with strong bonds with people and places, but are still irregular in terms of their legal status, fixed-term citizens in fact. The former, who are foreigners from within the EU, are portrayed in a clear and direct manner; the latter, from outside the EU, have been photographed in such a way as to convey the condition of invisibility they are forced to endure: their facial traits, only just detectable in the negatives, have been identified by means of a scanner, in exactly the same way as is done with today’s sophisticated technological equipment which can track down illegal immigrants hiding in trucks by detecting their heartbeat.

In the video featured at the exhibit, two immigrants, one legal and the other illegal, recount their condition, comparing and contrasting their experiences.


Seba Kurtis (Argentina, 1974) grew up in Buenos Aires under the regime of the military dictatorship. He studied journalism and was a political activist. When Argentina suffered a dramatic economic and political crisis in 2001 he was forced to leave for Europe. He lived in Spain as an illegal immigrant for over 5 years. This experience became the main source of inspiration for his work, which is an exploration of the dynamics behind illegal immigration and its consequent impact on culture, society and the individual. He now lives in England.