In the 80’s and 90’s the world was still polarized and we were discussing the order of center and periphery. The world was divided by real and conceptual borders even walls, which designated the center to an absolute sovereignty on the periphery. Now we tend to speak about an all encompassing global world, yet again with multifarious states and concepts of borderlines. In an era of mass migration, globalization and instant communication we cannot trust a map reflecting the borderlines between the countries. Illegal immigration is a vast business, global capitalism erases all national distinctions and instant communication accelerates the interaction of peoples and systems in an immeasurable way.
We are used to think of a border as a fence, a sea, a river or a mountain pass. Today's borders cannot be defined as such. They are transient, constantly remade by technology, new laws and institutions, and the realities of global capitalism -- illicit as well as legitimate. With borders much more indefinable, opportunities for profit multiplied and cross-border activity or illegal emigration boomed. The fluid, unpredictable nature of modern borders is evident even among the most geographically isolated and remote nations on earth.
On the other side the borders became the entrance to horror, abyss and death. Paradox is that throughout the 90’s art has profited from the cross-border activities and legal or illegal emigration. Artists and different art making forms and aesthetics traveled to the so called main-stream art centers and transformed the content and aesthetics of contemporary art. Yet, the reverse of this opportunity displays the reality that there is a mainstream art world and it is not so accessible.
Today, borderline art and art making is the hot topic of all debates and exhibitions. With this borderline, we mean the ambiguous zone between interconnected territories/fields, i.e. established orders or different systems. This zone is open to sides, giving opportunity of unpredictable extension and obliterating or disturbing the control and power of the established orders or systems to each other. These territories may represent country blocks, geographical regions or even cities with their heterogeneous systems, even if the global economy and politics are the ubiquitous cover.
The border zones can exist as patrolled borders, as intersecting margins or as real and virtual networking. According to the medical terminology, borderline is not as safe as in the socio-political sphere. Borderline personality disorder is a symptom of major childhood traumas. The so called borderline subjects are giving histories of such trauma, including physical abuse, sexual abuse and witnessing serious domestic violence. Even though now borderline productions in art are being evaluated as attractive, motivating, inspiring and “neo”, we should look into the prerequisites, rationale and roots of this production. There may be similarities between the medical and artistic/cultural meaning of borderline. The creativity emanating from the borderlines of different memories, systems, orders, habits and everyday life realities may not necessarily have welfare, peaceful, constructive and encouraging background. Here I would like to quote Julia Kristeva. In an interview she was asked: “Given the fact that you have written a lot about the importance of the so-called "sick" states of mind, could you tell us whether they are related in any way to Art? Would you see Art as the means of healing them or do you see it as an independent entity? Is Art a sort of "love" for you (the way Freud would have it) and a sort of human cure?” Kristeva replies: It has always shocked commentators when I affirm my agreement with the ancient Greeks who viewed art as catharsis or purification and I would add that it is a sort of sublimation for the "borderline" states, in the broadest sense of the term, that is, it comprises those characterized by fragility. If we analyze contemporary art, we get the impression that two types of fragility are examined by contemporary artists. On one hand, we have perversion, that is, all sorts of sexual transgressions…They testify to the existence of these states, as well as that of a certain desire to make them public, or even share them with others, that is, to take them out of their closet which is a soothing action after all despite its commercial aspect since one turns a "shameful thing" into something positive. So you see, here we have something that transcends the notion of "cure" and is at times something gratifying. Some think that these works are scandal-oriented; others think that they rejoice in ugliness, yes, certainly there are elements of such orientations in them, but, on the other hand, the existence of these works is also a research -- often in a very specific manner -- on the anticipation of difficulty of living. "
This is her approach to the relation of contemporary art making and all borderline states (psychological or sociological). The practice has shown us that art has played a curing role – maybe not directly but in a disseminative way - in this matter. The contemporary art works build up a rich and vast cognitive space for awareness and consciousness.
In the same interview there is also a passage on Voyeurism, which for contemporary art is the most used tool or stratagem to explore and exploit the borderline states in individual and social life. "
Q: Does contemporary art have to do with Voyeurism, as is the case with the most recent literature nowadays which purports to describe the most intimate states of the body and the soul? Kristeva: Absolutely! This is ever the case with literature and when it does not try to treat perversion, it is deals with psychotic states, that is, the states of identity loss, the loss of language, the borderline cases which cohabit and coexist with delirium and violence, but all of this does not have to bear the imprint of something negative. Some think that these works are scandal-oriented; others think that they rejoice in ugliness, yes, certainly there are elements of such orientations in them, but, on the other hand, the existence of these works is also a research -- often in a very specific manner -- on the anticipation of difficulty of living. And Art can play an important role here since it can contribute to a certain creative assumption of such a difficulty. Nevertheless, I personally remain a bit skeptical of a certain drift or tendency of contemporary art to content itself with such, so I believe feeble appropriations of these traumatic states. We remain here at the level of the statement of the clinical cases with almost documentary style photography of these cases wherein the investment and the effort made in the exploration of new forms or new thoughts remains less visible. So, it is something regrettable which every so often leaves me with the impression that when I visit museums or read certain art books, I am looking into psychoanalytic or even psychiatric archives. But, perhaps this is an indispensable experience.
Interview conducted by Nina Zivancevic, In Paris, March-April 2001 / www.16beavergroup.org / mtarchive / archives / 000285.php)
When we consider art making and culture industry manifestations within the context of European integration process at the local and regional level, we can see that there are borderline conflicts in memory blocks, ethno-cultural frontiers and in system discrepancy. Or, if we look to the mega-poles we can see that there are layers of different marginal groups and districts which merge in the cultural or commercial centers of the city. The borderline realities and stories are utilized by artists to apply their statements and criticism through various forms of art making. With their work they act as transmitting agents between the social classes which in turn serves democracy in a clandestine way.
Borderline strategies of today’s art making is a part of democratization process.
Last month, right here in Athens an installation was realized for the most crucial borderline problem of our region. The border in geographical and official meaning is now on the acute stage of nation state ideology, police state, racism and discrimination. It is being performed in its extreme models. Illegal immigration or refugee movement, the logical consequences of global economy of politics are being swept up away from the city centers to the city margins and further to the actual borders. Kalliopi Lemos, in her work “Crossing” installed on an abandoned factory ground in Eleusis, tackles with this border and borderline people problem in a very audacious way. This installation of abandoned boats of illegal emigrants and documentation of their names needs close attention and should be preserved there for the global viewer.
To this enlightment issue I will present two examples of borderline art and culture operation in Anatolia “A consumption of Justice”, A meeting and exhibition of artists from South Caucasus, Middle East and the Balkans, realized in Diyarbakır Art Center, May-June 2005. Diyarbakır with its historical background and Kurdish identity is the cultural capital of South East region of Turkey. The city is a borderline zone in many connotations: Geographically the city is in contact with Middle East and South Caucasus; culturally it is representing the difference within the homogenous national state ideology; in reference to the trauma it endured during the 90’s civil conflict the borderlines between the social classes are significant. In 2000, the art center was placed within this complex structure as a cultural and artistic laboratory for local and international communication and exchange. This exhibition was one of the major events within the initiatives and goals of the center.
Sinopale, the 1st International Sinop Biennial was realized between August 15- September 3 with exhibitions, installations, interactive activities and performances in the historical arsenal and in different public and private spaces. Sinopale, designated as the first biennale on Anatolian territory, is conceived by Melih Görgün, an artist who was born in this city with the support of local and international individuals and institutions. The conceptual frame of the first Sinopale is determined as SEY / THING. Sinopale aims to project the state of being a "thing" in contemporary art, and comprises propositions which will provide confrontations of the individual with the state of being "art". Curator: T. Melih Görgün For further information: www.sinopale.org , www.sinopale.net, www.sinopale.com, www.europist.net/sinop
Beral Madra, November 2006 / Conference Text, AICA Hellas, Athens