Tactics & Practice #6:
Bodies, Borders, and Technology
Conference and exhibition
24 April–25 May 2018
Kino Šiška Centre for Urban Culture, Ljubljana
Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova +MSUM
Aksioma | Project Space, Ljubljana
We live in a time of stark and often violent paradoxes: the increasing liberalization 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, computerization and digitization, 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.
This contradiction is also clear in the balkanisation of newly independent and fragmenting states, and in the 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 those identities – 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 in associated lectures from artists, researchers and theorists, 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 prototyped 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. It does not assume the passing of old regimes, but proclaims the inevitability of new ones, and strives to make them legible, comprehensible, and accessible.
James Bridle is an artist and writer working across technologies and disciplines. His artworks and installations have been exhibited in Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australia, and have been viewed by hundreds of thousands of visitors online. He has been commissioned by organisations including the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Barbican, Artangel, the Oslo Architecture Triennale, the Istanbul Design Biennial, and been honoured by Ars Electronica, the Japan Media Arts Festival, and the Design Museum, London. His writing on literature, culture and networks
has appeared in magazines and newspapers including Frieze, Wired, Domus, Cabinet, the Atlantic, the New Statesman, and many others, in print and online, and he has written a regular column for the Observer. “New Dark Age”, his book about technology, knowledge, and the end of the future, is forthcoming from Verso (UK & US) in 2018. He lectures regularly on radio, at conferences, universities, and other events, including SXSW, Lift, the Global Art Forum, Re:Publica and TED. He was been a resident at Lighthouse, Brighton, the White Building, London, and Eyebeam, New York, and an Adjunct Professor on the Interactive Telecommunications Programme at New York University.
24 – 25 April 2018, 5 – 8:30 PM
Kino Šiška Centre for Urban Culture, Ljubljana
The Real Name Game
New technologies are allowing new forms of identity and community to flourish and be recognized, from virtual citizenships to digital nations, and gender identities to non-human actors. At the same time, systems of power and governance attempt to corral and suppress identity within geographical borders and database schema. James Bridle explores the uses and abuses of identity in his own practice, and the work of others.
Reclaiming Humanity: The utopias of world citizenship
The transnational reality of living in contemporary global societies poses several challenges for contemporary societies. The prioritization of western nation-state membership and economic imperatives has produced second-class citizenships, while the inhumanity of managing migration by reintroducing border regimes and prioritizing fake security has robbed millions of individuals of their humanity, and fed populist rage against migrants. World citizenship, based on more than the nation state, might assume an interplay of institutional policy with non-institutional practices of various subjectivities, constituting the public. Reclaiming humanity against “the globalization of indifference” requires a utopian invention of “worldliness of people” that stands for a political project of equality, rather than the moral project of the defence of traditions.
Italian Limes: Mapping the Shifting Border across Alpine Glaciers
The border between Italy and its adjacent countries traverses snowfields and perennial ice sheets at high altitudes, mostly following the path of the Alpine watershed. Due to the global warming–induced shrinkage of the glaciers, a substantial shift of the watershed line has been detected in several places. Between 2014 and 2016, the project team of Studio Folder installed a network of custom-made, open-source sensors on a small section of the Austrian–Italian border on the Similaun glacier, to transmit in real time the position of the line. Marco Ferrari will talk about the genesis of the project and the fieldwork done in the Alps; he will also present the ongoing research on the history of Italian border surveys, along with a glimpse over other projects of Studio Folder that aim to develop a similar methodology of inquiry within the field of cartographic representation.
We have built our concept of the nation on the ideas of institutions, of fixed points on maps, in time, and in law. We’re also somewhat aware that this is fiction? Here, we’ll explore how we might re-understand what we call a “nation”.
steɪt əv nəʊlænd [State of Noland]: on potent futures post- sovereignty, nationalism & imperialism
The nation state is a modern fiction: a result of the conceptual intercourse between a sovereign introduced by Thomas Hobbes in “Leviathan” and the imperialist and nationalist ideologies of the nineteenth century. Despite all the criticism of it, it is approached as a fundamental component of the political order, an everlasting tabula rasa for (re)structuring power. We suggest an alternative ideology for political self-organisation: steɪt əv nəʊlænd [State of Noland]: a ‘state of mind’ of not aligning with any geopolitical entity and a ‘state-after-state’ as a constellation of practices that functionally replace nation-state monopoly.
Hacking politics with subversion, civil disobedience and law
Peng’s art functions as a burning barricade in the media biosphere. What are the challenges to this position when working across national boundaries? Something apparently edgy in Germany might be illegal in Poland or the UK. In Europe, freedom of art is of greatest importance; in the US, freedom of speech. In the midst of questions of left-wing censorship and right-wing subversion, Peng share their tactics for disrupting both sides of the debate.
On April 7th, 2017, Raphael 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 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.
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.
They Are Here
We Help Each Other Grow, 2017
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.
Border Bumping, 2012-2014
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.
Jus Sanguinis, 2016
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.
New Unions – Map, First draft, 2016
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.
Italian Limes, 2016
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.
Biographies of the artists and the curator: HERE
Curated by: James Bridle
Artists: Raphael Fabre, Jeremy Hutchison, They Are Here, Julian Oliver, Daniela Ortiz, Jonas Staal, Studio Folder
Speakers: James Bridle, Mojca Pajnik, Marco Ferrari, Eleanor Saitta, Denis Maksimov, Jean Peters (Peng! Collective)
Artistic director: Janez Janša
Head of production: Marcela Okretič
Executive producer: Sonja Grdina
Development Specialist: Jana Reneé Wilcoxen
Technician: Valter Udovičić
Public relations: Urška Barut
Documentation: Miha Fras (photo), Gregor Gobec (video)
Corporate visual identity: Kristjan Dekleva
Aksioma – Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana, 2018
Kino Šiška Centre for Urban Culture, Ljubljana and Drugo more, Rijeka
Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova
Transnationalisms is realized in the framework of State Machines, a joint project by Aksioma (SI), Drugo more (HR), Furtherfield (UK), Institute of Network Cultures (NL) and NeMe (CY).
the Creative Europe programme of the European Union, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia, the Municipality of Ljubljana.
Media sponsors: Radio Študent, TAM-TAM and Mladina
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This communication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.