The Visitor, the Wanderer and the Migrant

  • Alison ButlerEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Close Readings in Film and Television book series (CRFT)


The cinema viewer is described as a spectator, whereas the viewer in a gallery or museum is a visitor. Stationary and wandering figures onscreen provide a reference point in the landscape and a mirror image of the visitor in the gallery, suggesting a mode of address based on location and movement in space. Film theorists and art historians have drawn on phenomenology and neuropsychology in their accounts of embodied viewing, but few have done so from a perspective that takes account of cultural identity. This chapter explores viewing relationships in a group of works that are structured by cultural perspectives that are neither white nor putatively unmarked. Thematically, the figures in these works often appear as strangers, travellers and migrants. Through a range of examples, including John Akomfrah’s The Airport (2016), Yang Fudong’s The Fifth Night (2010), and Isaac Julien’s Ten Thousand Waves (2010), I explore the use of motionless and wandering figures in multi-screen works to provide structure, coherence and a point of view for the visitor, and to thematise mobility and migration.


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Film, Theatre & TelevisionUniversity of ReadingReadingUK

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