The Virtuality of Borders
WITH: Julian Oliver, Daniela Ortiz, Jeremy Hutchison, Studio Folder (Marco Ferrari & Elisa Pasqual), Raphaël Fabre, Jonas Staal, They Are Here (Helen Walker & Harun Morrison) | CURATOR: James Bridle
In the framework of this year’s Mine, Yours, Ours festival (click here to see the full program), Transnationalisms exhibition will open on 22nd March, 2018, at 20:00 in Mali salon gallery. The opening will be attended by the exhibition curator, James Bridle.
The exhibition will stay on view until 14th April. Admission is free.
We live in a time of stark and often violent paradoxes: the increasing liberalisation of social values in some parts of the world compared to increasing fundamentalism in others; the wealth of scientific discovery and technological advances in contrast to climate denialism, “post-factual” and conspiracy-driven politics; freedom of movement for goods and finance while individual movement is ever more constricted and subject to law; a drive towards agency, legibility and transparency of process while automation, computerisation and networks, physical and digital, logistical and communicatory, render more of the world opaque and remote. At every level, mass movement of peoples and the rise of planetary-scale computation is changing the way we think and understand questions of geography, politics, and national identity.
These ever-increasing contradictions are seen most acutely at the border. Not merely the border between physical zones and between nation states, with their differing legal jurisdictions and requirements for entry and residency, but also the border between the physical and digital, when we apparently – but perhaps misleadingly and certainly temporarily – cross over into a different zone of possibility and expression.
Exhibition opening – Photo: Tanja Kanazir / Drugo more (Flickr gallery)
This contradiction is also clear in the balkanisation of newly independent and fragmenting states, and in a rising current of nationalism across Europe, which seems to run in parallel to, and might even be accelerated by digital connectivity. Some of the most outwardly regressive powers themselves employ what Kremlin theorist Vladislav Surkov has called “non-linear strategy”: a strategy of obfuscation and deliberate contradiction clearly indebted to the convolutions and confusions of the digital terrain – and of art. As ever more varied expressions of individual identity are encouraged, revealed, made possible and validated by online engagement, so at the same time a desperate rearguard action is being fought to codify and restrain identity online – and off. These new emergent identities are, inevitably and by necessity, transient and contingent, slippery and subject to change and redefinition.
The artists featured in Transnationalisms address the effect of these pressures on our bodies, our environment, and our political practices. They register shifts in geography as disturbances in the blood and the electromagnetic spectrum. They draw new maps and propose new hybrid forms of expression and identity. In the exhibition and associated lectures from artists, researchers and theorists, Mine, Yours, Ours: Transnationalisms acknowledges and even celebrates the contradictions of the present moment, while insisting on the transformative possibilities of digital tools and networks on historical forms of nationalism, citizenship, and human rights. While the nation state is not about to disappear, it is already pierced and entangled with other, radically different forms. Alternative models and protocols of citizenship, identity, and nationhood are being protoyped and distributed online and through new technologies. Transnationalisms examines the ways in which these new forms are brought into the physical world and used to disrupt and enfold existing systems. We do not assume the passing of old regimes, but proclaim the inevitability of new ones, which will exist alongside and within them, and strive to make them legible, comprehensible, and accessible.
About the exhibited works & their authors:
We Help Each Other Grow
They Are Here (Helen Walker & Harun Morrison)
Thiru Seelan dances on an East London rooftop, looking out towards the skyline of the Canary Wharf financial district. His movements are inspired by the dance form Bharatanatyam, traditionally only performed by women and taught to Thiru in secret by his younger sister. Thiru is a Tamil refugee and when he arrived in the UK in 2010, following six months of detention in Sri Lanka during which he was tortured for his political affiliations, Canary Wharf was his first home. His movement is recorded by a heat sensitive camera more conventionally used as surveillance technology and deployed to monitor borders and crossing points, where bodies are recorded and captured through their thermal signature. The song ‘We’ve helped each other grow’, composed and performed by London based Mx World, was chosen with Thiru to soundtrack the performance. Mx is a prefix that does not indicate gender. In the UK, it can be used on many official documents – including passports. The repeated refrain, ‘We’ve helped each other grow’ suggests a communal vision for self and social development.
They Are Here is a collaborative practice steered by Helen Walker and Harun Morrison, founded in 2006. They are currently based in London and on the River Lea. Their work can be read as a series of context specific games. The entry, invitation or participation can be as significant as the game’s conditions and structure. Through these games, they seek to create ephemeral systems and temporary, micro-communities that offer an alternate means of engaging with a situation, history or ideology. In parallel, they initiate multi-year socially engaged projects that become generative spaces for further works. They Are Here work across media and types of site, particularly civic spaces.
Music: We’ve Helped Each Other Grow, composed and performed by Mx World
Performed by and co-choreographed with Thiru Seelan
New Unions – Map, First draft
print, 250 cm x 198 cm (+120mm tunnelseam)
Jonas Staal’s New Unions is an artistic campaign supporting progressive, emancipatory, and autonomist movements all over Europe, and proposing the creation of a “transdemocratic union” which is not limited by the boundaries of nation states. The New Unions map illustrates the recent, massive rise in social movements and new political parties which are creating new models of political assembly and decision making while challenging traditional national and institutional structures. From the civil initiative in Iceland to collectively rewrite the constitution after the economic crash, to regional independence movements and pan-European solidarity groups, these emerging political experiments propose new forms of transdemocratic practices. This map is the first in a series which is continuously updated to reflect the evolving geography of transdemocracy.
Jonas Staal (1981) lives and works in Rotterdam (NL). He has studied monumental art in Enschede (NL) and Boston (US) and received his PhD for research on Art and Propaganda in the 21st Century from the University of Leiden (NL). His work includes interventions in public space, exhibitions, theater plays, publications and lectures, focusing on the relationship between art, democracy and propaganda. Staal is the founder of the artistic and political organization New World Summit and, together with BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht (NL), of the New World Academy.
Digital Print, Documents
On April 7th, 2017, Raphaël Fabre submitted a request for a French ID card. All of his papers were deemed to be legal and authentic and so the demand was accepted and a new national ID card was issued. In fact, the photo submitted to accompany this request was created entirely on a computer, from a 3D model, using several different pieces of software and special effects techniques developed for movies and video games. Just as our relationship with governments and other forms of authority is increasingly based on digital information, so the image on the ID is entirely virtual. The artist’s self-portrait suggests the way in which citizens can construct their own identities, even in an age of powerful and often dehumanising technologies.
Raphaël Fabre works on the interference of fictions and narrative storytelling in the real world, using techniques ranging from digital 3D technologies to set decoration. Born in 1989, he lives and works in Paris.
Studio Folder (Marco Ferrari, Elisa Pasqual) with Delfino Sisto Legnani, Pietro Leoni, Alessandro Mason, Angelo Semeraro, Livia Shamir
Italian Limes is a research project and an interactive installation that explores the most remote Alpine regions, where national borders drift with glaciers. Installed at 3,300m above sea level on the watershed separating Italy and Austria, a network of GPS sensors monitored the shifting position of the border between the two countries due to climate change. By focusing on the fragile balance of the Alpine ecosystem, Italian Limes shows how natural frontiers are subject to the complexity of ecological and territorial processes—and that they depend on the technologies and historical norms that are used to represent them. The full dataset can be explored at www.italianlimes.net.
Studio Folder is an agency for visual research founded by Marco Ferrari and Elisa Pasqual in 2011. The studio’s work spans between the cultural and commercial domains and the investigation of autonomous research paths, while working through a diverse range of outcomes—from data visualisation to the design of exhibitions, editorial products and digital platforms.
Photo by Paris Tavitian
The starting point for this work was a found photograph, taken by police at a border point somewhere in the Balkans. It showed the inside of a Mercedes, the headrests torn open to reveal a person hiding inside each seat. This photograph testifies to a reality where human bodies attempt to disguise themselves as inanimate objects, simply to acquire the same freedom of movement as consumer goods. Movables translates this absurdity into a series of photo collages, combining elements of high-end fashion and car adverts, enacting an anthropomorphic fusion between the male form and the consumer product. The results are disquieting yet familiar, since they appropriate a visual language that saturates our everyday urban surroundings, highlighting the connections between transnational freedoms and limitations, and international trade.
Jeremy Hutchison (b. 1979, London) works with situational performance. Operating in sites of production and consumption, he collaborates with factory employees, migrant labourers, online workers and job-seekers to examine the structures that limit human existence. How are unequal human relations constructed by global capital? How do consumer products function as portraits of exploitative material structures? In the process of developing these works, each context becomes a stage; a metaphor for the production of reason. To some extent, his projects are rehearsals for an uncertain kind of freedom. Having studied linguistics, he received a distinction from the Slade School of Fine Art. He was recently a member of the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York.
Border Bumping is a project to map the ways in which national boundaries shift and overlap in the electromagnetic spectrum. Using a freely available, custom-built smartphone application, Border Bumping agents collect cell tower and location data as they traverse national borders in trains, cars, buses, boats or on foot. Close to the border, cellular devices hop from network to network across neighbouring countries, often before or after we ourselves have arrived. These moments, when the device operates in one territory whilst the body continues in another, can be seen to produce a new and contradictory terrain for action: a tele-cartography, produced by movement and new technologies.
Julian Oliver is a New Zealander, Critical Engineer and artist based in Berlin. His work and lectures have been presented at many museums, galleries, international electronic-art events and conferences, including the Tate Modern, Transmediale, the Chaos Computer Congress, Ars Electronica, FILE and the Japan Media Arts Festival. Julian has received several awards, most notably the distinguished Golden Nica at Prix Ars Electronica 2011 for the project Newstweek (with Daniil Vasiliev). He is the co-author of the Critical Engineering Manifesto and co-founder of Crypto Party in Berlin, who’s shared studio Weise7 hosted the first three crypto-parties worldwide.
Map designed and developed by Till Nagel and Christopher Pietsch
video, 03:28; reproduction of drawing
Collage of Peruvian passport and medical book illustration
Jus sanguinis, meaning ‘the right of the blood’, is one of the main ways in which people acquire citizenship: from the blood of their parents. Daniela Ortiz is an artist of Peruvian descent living in Spain, where only babies with Spanish blood are recognized as subjects with the right to the nationality at the moment of the birth. As a result, her child would not have access to Spanish nationality. In this performance, undertaken when Ortiz was four months pregnant, she receives a blood transfusion from a Spanish citizen, directly challenging the racist and nationalist regime of citizenship which would classify her Spanish-born child as an immigrant.
Daniela Ortiz (Cusco, 1985) lives and works in Barcelona. Through her work, she generates spaces of tension in which the concepts of nationality, racialization, social class and gender are explored in order to critically understand structures of inclusion and exclusion in society. Her recent projects and research revolve around the issue of migration control, its links to colonialism, and its management by European-white states and societies. At the same time, she has produced projects about the Peruvian upper class and its exploitative relationship with domestic workers. Daniela gives talks and participates in discussions on Europe’s migration control system and its ties to coloniality in different contexts.