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The San Francisco Art Institute BORDER POLITICS, BORDER POETICS A thesis submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements

for the degree of MASTER OF ARTS In HISTORY AND THEORY OF CONTEMPORARY ART by Ian Alan Paul May, 2011

The Thesis of Ian Alan Paul is approved:

__________________________________________ Dale Carrico, Ph.D. Thesis Chair __________________________________________ Krista Lynes, Ph.D. __________________________________________ Andrej Grubacic, Ph.D.

____________________________________________ Claire Daigle, Ph.D. Director of MA Programs

Border Politics, Border Poetics by Ian Alan Paul is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


visit for the internet iteration of this project

List of Figures

1. Ricardo Dominguez displays the transborder immigrant tool. JPG,
(accessed April 10th, 2011), ... pg 18

2. Demonstration illustrations of the transborder immigrant tool. JPG, (accessed April 10th, 2011), 23 3. Captured Still from Contained Mobility (2004). JPG, (accessed April 10th, 2011),
... pg 28

4. Map of the E.U. Highlighting Migrant Deaths. JPG, (accessed April 10th, 2011), ... pg 31 5. Photograph of Contained Mobility (2004) installation. JPG, (accessed April 10th, 2011), ... pg 46 6. Still from Green Line (2007). JPG, (accessed April 10th, 2011), ... pg 61 7. Map showing the Green Line and Israeli Settlements. JPG, (accessed April 10th, 2011), ... pg 63 8. Still of Green Line gallery installation, David Zwirner Gallery, 2007. JPG, (accessed April 10th, 2011),
... pg 71

Abstract Ian Alan Paul Border Politics, Border Poetics

Despite the waning sovereignty of nation-states at the beginning of the 21st century, the borders that define and enclose them are increasingly militarized and have become the objects of the global Norths moral imaginaries. Contemporary bordersecurity projects effectiveness rests in their affective qualities, and the subjectivities that they enable. Just as political systems in crisis have become animated by border discourses, so too does the border become an important site of cultural production. Francis Als, Ursula Biemann, and Ricardo Dominguez all work to both intervene and aesthetically engage with political borders. Looking to these three contemporary artists whom are directly engaging with border systems in their work, my project both produces a theoretical ground upon which we can critically read borders while also allowing readings of the artists work to encounter that ground. Beyond the content of the thesis, the project takes on a formal interdisciplinarity and is presented as a transmedia, where textual, performative and digital iterations all contribute to the projects whole.

To view the work, visit:


I would like to thank first and foremost both my parents, Bil and Loraine, and my partner Ashley for all of the support and encouragement they have offered me throughout all of my studies and work. Second, I would like to thank all members of my thesis committee at SFAI, Dale Carrico, Krista Lynes, and Andrej Grubacic, for challenging me on my assumptions and guiding me in the right trajectories. Last, I would like to acknowledge all of those who choose to make it their struggle to resist and dismantle repressive borders, youve inspired me and have made my own work possible.

Between here and there youll find a line drawn in the ground.

A Frame At the turn of the millennium, it was easy to recognize the imperializing nature of transnational capitalism: it crosses all borders, it colonizes and subjectifies all citizens on different terms than ever before. It is imperative to recognize the profound transformations in first world cultures that Fredric Jameson points to in his diagnosis of postmodernism as neocolonial and imperialist in function. It is also imperative not to lose sight of the methods of the oppressed that were developed under previous modes of colonization, conquest, enslavement, and domination, for these are the guides necessary for establishing effective forms of resistance under contemporary global conditions: they are key to the imagination of postcoloniality in its most utopian sense. (Chela Sandoval, Methodology of the Oppressed, pg. 9) The dominant capitalist narratives at the end of the 1990s espoused and celebrated a borderless world expressed in the frictionless and smooth flows of capital and people. Social struggle would come to a halt as liberal democracy and Western values would permeate the surface of the entire globe. According to this metanarrative, the beginning of the 21st century was supposed to mark our arrival at the end of history.1

See Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York, NY, Harper Perennial, February 1, 1993) 2

And yet everywhere we look, we find borders; lines are ceaselessly drawn to enclose, capture, parse, and divide. While the exchange and movement of capital has certainly accelerated over the past couple of decades, people nonetheless find themselves subject to the controls, limits and powers of the states that articulate and regulate them.2 These borders are more heavily militarized and securitized now than at any other moment in history, and continue to perpetuate the forces of colonial pasts. While it is perhaps clear now that the process of contemporary capitalist globalization hasnt rid the world of borders but rather have continued to fuel their operation, disruptive figures continue to appear in these border territories and drive an alter-globalization3. This other globalization works to sabotage and undermine borders and generate encounters that aim to not only dismantle these enclosures, but also poetically point to an always present potentiality of other futures. In our experience of perceiving a divided world and understanding it as such, we affirm the already existing order of things and precariously risk remaining blind to these radically other futures. This project began as an attempt to study up, or to describe and outline the systems of power that maintain borders. This vertical looking is still present in the project, although it is no longer the focus. While I found it important to

Saskia Sassen, Globalization and its Discontents: The De Facto Transnationalization of Immigration Policy, pg. 12 3 William Patterson, Altering world order: The alter-globalization movement and the World Trade Organization 3

include tracings of the historical forces and structures which have produced our bordered world, I soon found it equally if not more important to look horizontally, to look to some artists and thinkers whom are working against borders and providing experiences composed not of recognitions, but rather of what I will describe as encounters. As Simon OSullivan describes: An object of recognition is then precisely a representation of something always already in place. With such a non-encounter our habitual way of being and acting in the world is reaffirmed and reinforced, and as a consequence no thought takes place. Indeed, we might say that representation precisely stymies thought. With a genuine encounter however the contrary is the case. Our typical ways of being in the world are challenged, our systems of knowledge disrupted. We are forced to thought. The encounter then operates as a rupture in our habitual modes of being and thus in our habitual subjectivities. It produces a cut, a crack. However this is not the end of the story, for the rupturing encounter also contains a moment of affirmation, the affirmation of a new world, in fact a way of seeing and thinking this world differently. This is the creative moment of the encounter that obliges us to think otherwise. Life, when it truly is lived, is a history of these encounters, which will always necessarily occur beyond representation. (Simon OSullivan, Art Encounters Deleuze and Guattari, pg. 1)

The critical gesture that constitutes the trajectory of this project is the assertion that the borders that enclose and deny, separate and bound together, are products of a phenomenology of recognition. In an experience of encounter, our understanding of the world is thoroughly ruptured. The codes and assumptions that we would normally deploy to make sense of and order the things and people around us become inoperable, and we are forced to look elsewhere in our desire to recognize again. In this experience, we lose grasp of the literal and instead traverse the poetic. The three artists whom Ive included in this project, Francis Als, Ursula Biemann, and Ricardo Dominguez, all have artistic practices that work to sabotage our experience of recognition of borders. While the specificity of each of the contexts these artists are working in (Israel-Palestine, the European Union, and the U.S.-Mexico border, respectively) warrants the focus of an entire thesis, Ive found it more valuable instead to bring these three artists together in an effort to develop a broader conceptual understanding of contemporary borders, and the power(s) that they generate. Each artists work defamiliarizes our understandings of border systems and make -strange the operations of such structures. It is in this rupture that the possibility of a radical affirmation germinates, and new routes to liberated futures are glimpsed. As will be explored throughout the project, I will be looking to the potential methodology of teleopoiesis in not only resisting the current border systems, but also in

working to imagine and perhaps make world(s) without them. In her text Harlem, the critical theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak first introduces the term in this way: Therefore Alice and I attempted teleopoiesis, a reaching toward the distant other by the patient power of the imagination, a curious kind of identity politics, where one crosses identity as a result of migration or exile We beg the question of collectivity, on behalf of our discontinuous pasts, her mother in Damascus, I in India, as New Yorkers. If the Ghost Dance accesses something like a past and grafts it to the perhaps of the future anterior, teleopoiesis wishes to touch a past that is historically not ones own We must ask, again and again, how many are we? Who are they? These are the questions of collectivity, asked as culture runs on. We work in the hope of a resonance with unknown philosophers of the future, friends in advance. (Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Harlem, pg. 117-118) By framing ones current efforts as in concert with the work of a future project is to labor in the effort of generating a new now. The teleopoiesis I mean to make use of in this project manifests as a kind of prefigurative politics that both realizes the importance of a politics of the now while also requiring a turn to the poetics of a possible future. The poetics of these projects are manifest as an active process of imaginative making. Spivak describes the work of teleopoiesis as being situated within a future anterior, as if the work that is being done in the present is acting in relation to

the possible futurities that they exist in relation to, and creates a history within which new poetic work can take place. By reading the poetic in relation to the political, we can experience and encounter the world in a way that potentially could rupture its order in the wakes of new ones. This project is also written in an imagined solidarity with you, the reader. Whether you consider yourself as a part of a movement for a horizontal world or not, I hope that your encounter with the text either reminds you of, or points you to consider the possibility of one. Just as the artists works included in this project imagine subjectivities and collectivities in order to make use of a teleopoeisis, I too am writing with our potential solidarity in mind. As Spivak reminds us: We must ask, again and again, how many are we? Who are they? It is in my hoped-for collectivity with you that perhaps the poetic can take root and other futurities can be prefigured. It is my aim to present all of this in a way that encourages readers to have their own encounter with my project, to not only challenge borders but also challenge the traditional methods of reading a text. In my attempt to do this, Ive chosen a form that both encourages the reader to navigate the text in a variety of different ways and denies a single linear route of reading. Throughout the work youll find links that will take you to different sections of the project and will offer different methods of moving through the parts. I hope that each reader is able to come back to the project several times in

search of different paths and routes through the text. I hope for a text which generates an encounter with the reader and dismantles the familiar avenues of recognition.

From Lines to Territories Ricardo Dominguez, Bang.Labs and the Transborder Immigrant Tool

The English word border is derived from the Latin ambitus, or edge. Interestingly, ambitus is also understood as going around or as circuit, disrupting the first definition thoroughly. This way of thinking about borders, as a limit that is necessarily overcome, reveals an embedded subversive logic of borders. We should resist conceptualizing a border as an infinitely thin dividing edge between two territories. Rather, it would be more generative to understand a border in its capacity to expand from a line into a territory - a zone of affect and entanglement. A border certainly divides and parses, but it also equally generates the avenues and tunnels through which its logic is inverted. In the vertiginous landscape that engulfs the eastern half of the U.S.-Mexico border, a migrant traverses the desert with a cell-phone in hand. A strained and dehydrated voice (a dehydration that kills hundreds of border crossers each year) calls out agua, and a phone responds with a vibration.4 On its screen, an arrow appears, much like an arrow on a compass. It directs not according to magnetic field lines, but rather to the nearest water cache left in the desert by the Border Angels activist group5.

Richard Marosi, Border Crossing Deaths Set a 12-Month Record, Los Angeles Times, October 1, 2005. 5 Richard Marosi, UC San Diego Professor Who Studies Disobedience Gains Followers and Investigators, Los Angeles Times, May 7, 2010. 9

The migrant continues to walk north in search of the water that will help them complete their travels safely. Ricardo Dominguez, an artist and professor at the University of California San Diego (UCSD), made headlines across the United States (U.S.) when he first publicized the Transborder Immigrant Tool. A project of Bang.Labs, an artist collective based out of and funded by UCSD, the Transborder Immigrant Tool is an art project manifest as a piece of software. The program, designed by Bang.Labs, is intended to be loaded onto widely available and inexpensive cell phones that then can assist border crossing attempts as well as fundamentally alter the border crossing experience from one of lost wandering to poetic direction. The reprogrammed cellphones are designed to, among other things, point the user to nearby stashes of water, show them maps of the border territory and generate routes through it, and even deliver excerpts of inspirational poetry to urge the migrant along in their journey. The migrant remains an imaginary figure in this work; we never witness an actual crossing or meet any of the migrants whom have undergone it with the Transborder Immigrant Tool. This is both for practical reasons, that the illegal crossing wouldnt be allowed if it were public, but also for poetic reasons, that the body of the imaginary migrant is generated in each persons encounter with the work. The migrant in this work emerges as an embodied collectivity, as the figure comes to be imagined as all genders,


ages, races and every other possible subjectivity in our own productive encounter with the work. While undocumented migration across the U.S.-Mexico border has been a constant process since the United States annexed its western territories, the recent increase in deaths at the border over the last decade is largely the result of its securitization that pushes crossing attempts into more treacherous terrain. With over 640 miles of protective fencing, a classified number of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) patrolling and transmitting surveillance video, and over 20,000 law enforcement officials regularly deployed, the territory has become the most militarized border in history.6 With over 250 million border crossings each year, 700 thousand without proper documentation, it is also the most heavily traversed.7 The signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994 established a free-trade zone between Canada, the United States (U.S.) and Mexico, lifting trade barriers and enabling an economic integration of the three countries. As a result of its ratification, new economies of exploitation emerged at the northern edge of Mexico. Accompanying the increase in trade between the U.S. and Mexico was a relocation of textile plants and automobile factories to border-towns in Mexico where environmental regulations and labor standards were and are much lower compared to

U.S. Plans Border Surge Against Any Drug Wars 7 Bureau of Transportation Statistics: 11

the United States. The factories and plants, known as maquiladoras, are sites of exploitative and unsafe labor practices where union organizing campaigns are often violently repressed by factory owners and working conditions are extremely harsh due to the prevalence of toxic chemical exposure, injuries resulting from the use of unsafe machinery, and sexual violence.8 The increasing gross domestic product (GDP) of both the United States and Mexico, credited as the result of NAFTAs signing, was also accompanied by a larger rise in domestic economic inequality in both countries.9 The combination of unemployment in rural and indigenous regions of Mexico, poor working conditions where there is work, and political turmoil across much of Latin America results in large-scale undocumented migration into the United States. The border between the U.S. and Mexico, as a contested site, functions simultaneously to ensure the steady uninterrupted flow of capital and goods while also denying unpermitted or undocumented crossings. This relationship between open borders and militarized ones manifests ultimately as a productive conflict within which the logic of postmodern capitalism flourishes. Although the border territory is policed by hard-power, that is to say by means of armed agents of the state, it exerts and manifests its power nonetheless primarily as a coding apparatus. The border is able to articulate in the way it does because of its structure as an assembly of entangled political and social actors. In order to maintain and enforce a set of coded subjectivities
8 9

David Bacon , The Children of NAFTA: Labor Wars on the U.S. Mexico Border Saskia Sassen, Globalization and Its Discontents: The De Facto Transnationalization of Immigration Policy 12

and socio-economic relationships, individuals are inscribed in relation to the border. The border does not have an agency or subjectivity unto itself, but rather enables (or forces) the operation of agencies and subjectivities in relation to it. Wendy Brown describes how borders and their walls contain a capacity to police and code subjectivities as a kind of spectacular phenomena: There have been political walls before. Indeed, there have been fences since the Beginning, and despite the new walls distinctive global context, there exist certain continuities between contemporary walls and older walls. Political walls have always spectacularized power they have always generated performative and symbolic effects in excess of their obdurately material ones. They have produced and negated certain political imaginaries. They have contributed to the political subjectivity of those they encompass and those they exclude Like the Berlin Wall, contemporary walls especially those around democracies, often undo or invert the contrasts they are meant to inscribe. Officially aimed at protecting putatively free, open, lawful, and secular societies from trespass, exploitation or attack, the walls are built of suspended law and inadvertently produce a collective ethos and subjectivity that is defensive, parochial, nationalistic, and militarized. They generate an increasingly closed and policed collective identity in place of the open society they would defend. (Wendy Brown, Walled States, Waning Sovereignty, pg. 39-40)


Borders and walls function both to create an imaginary homogenous moral interiority and to conjure the specter of an infectious and violent exteriority that constantly threatens to invade. To say that the border wall is ineffective at halting illegal crossings is to miss the true function of the border entirely. A borders effectiveness rests in its affective qualities, and the subjectivities that they project and enable. When articulated by the border in this way, one is rendered always either a citizen or a hostis (an enemy of the state), a man or a woman, an officer or a criminal, white or not, and it is through these processes of binary coding that power comes to be exerted upon those within the border territory. In this process of articulation, the line which constitutes the division between the two countries folds out and expands into a territorial zone through its entanglement with agents of the state, artists, activists, technologies, and of course migrants. Power at the border does not arrive vertically, but rather from mobile and dynamic relations between subjects. A kind of horizontal networked power, power in the border territory is always generated between subjects, but nonetheless relies conceptually on the borders capacity to articulate and parse. This is the logic in which the line of the border multiplies into a territorial web of power and social relations. By giving border-crossers access to GPS satellite systems that guide their movement across the harsh terrain of the desert, as well as giving them access to a library of poetry and even spontaneously generating new routes through precarious

canyons and mountains, the Transborder Immigrant Tool fundamentally changes their experience of crossing. While it is perhaps obvious is that the Transborder Immigrant Tool is an art object in the traditional sense of its aesthetic sculptural qualities, it is better understood for its relationship and entanglement with the migrant using it, and their subsequent entanglement with the activists and artists on the other side of the border-line. The phone never does anything on its own, but rather requires the participation of subjects who become active in their entanglement with it. The figure of the cyborg-migrant, walking through the desert linked to positioning satellites and path-finding algorithms, destabilizes the juridical and repressive modes of articulation within which they would be rendered a criminal situated in a hostile enclosed landscape. It is of no surprise that Ricardo Dominguez describes the Transborder Immigrant Tool as a disruptive technology in that it moves to disrupt the typical traumatic experience of a border crossing.10 A hybrid cyborg figure challenges the border both on its conceptual level, as an articulating and categorizing mechanism, but also on a technical level, allowing the cyborg-migrant to evade the border-security apparati and survive the crossing. Survival in this context, and in all contexts, constitutes a resistance unto itself. There are three very different audiences in this work. There is the physical migrant whom uses the phone to traverse the border territory. Their experience of the


Brad Taylor, Border Disruption Technologies,, Dec 8 2009 15

work is a prosthetic one, and as described elsewhere the work becomes about experiencing crossing the border in a poetic way. The other audience is us, the imagined collectivity of viewers who are in solidarity with the crosser. Our engagement with the work is on the discursive level, and as such our politics come to use the work as a vector of discussion, mobilization and knowledge production. A third audience to the work emerges in the broader public space, as people with diverse and conflicting politics relating to the boarder engage with the work. All three of these contexts inform our reading in very different ways, but in these three different registers we also get a glimpse of how political and poetic encounters operate in all three instances and how all three audiences are nested in one another. More so, when thinking within the North American historical contexts the work takes on new meaning. One is immediately reminded of the Underground Railroad in the United States during slavery, where outlaw slaves travelled to the North with the help of networked safe-houses. We can also think of other instances of migration which relied on networks of solidarity, such as the migration of Jews from Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe into Western Europe and the U.S. Similarly, the discourses surrounding border-crossing also are in conversation with the discourses surrounding Mestizaje identity or around the emergence of a South American diaspora in the United States.11 The borderlands theorists have positioned a hybrid figure as the site of resistance


Karen Mary Davos, Exhibiting Mestizaje: Mexican (American) Museums in the Diaspora, pg. 26-27 16

against the border. This hybrid figure is adopted from the post-colonial conceptualization of the Mestizaje (translated to English as mixed), a term used to describe the people of South America who find themselves in the middle of two histories: one Spanish and the other Indigenous. Domniguezs project instead cites both the cyborg and the networked collectivity as the liberatory site. All of these histories inform and affect our reading of the work and our imagining of the migrant figure that is using the tool. The Transborder Immigrant Tool moves to invert certain modes of surveillance and control at the border. The military mapping of the border that aimed to document the territory in enough details to exert total control onto it also enables the Transborder Immigrant Tool to generate quick and safe routes through some of the harsher areas of the terrain. In this way the power generated by the mapping process also generates the methods of its own subversion. Dominguez asserts that the project is meant to do more than simply assist border crossers in a utilitarian way. Rather, the project is supposed to aesthetically affect the user: Immigrants should not only be able to move safely, find water, and hear poetry, but they should also be able encounter the landscape in a way that American painters have approached the landscape: as a sublime object."12


Evan R. Goldstein, Digitally Incorrect: Ricardo Dominguez's provocations: art or crimes , The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 3, 2010 17

Figure 1: Ricardo Dominguez displays the transborder immigrant tool.

Why does it become necessary to Dominguez for the migrant to consider the importance of an encounter precisely when they are most potentially threatened? We can imagine the migrant holding up the Transborder Immigrant Tool while traversing the harsh desert terrain between the U.S. and Mexico where one is easily lost, where temperatures are life-threateningly high and low depending on the time of day, where right-wing vigilante groups and border control agents hunt for undocumented crossers. Nearly 500 die trying to cross the border each year in these conditions, as migrants are


forced to traverse more dangerous territory as a result of the border security projects expansion.13 The imagined migrants footsteps may very well be activating underground motion sensors or their image may be being captured by surveillance towers, alerting authorities to their crossing attempt. Meanwhile, the Transborder Immigrant Tool is constantly communicating with satellites orbiting the earth and positioning the migrant in their global positioning system (G.P.S.) coordinate location. This is the moment when the migrant is perhaps most articulated by the border systems and also most exposed to the dangers associated with crossing; this is also the moment in which the Transborder Immigrant Tool urges us to reconsider the poetry of the landscape which threatens to kill at every moment. Amy Sara Carroll, a member of Bang.Labs and a contributor to the project, describes the Transborder Immigrant Tools insistence of the poetic in this way: For, oftenrightly enoughconversations about crossing the Mexico-U.S. border refer to disorientation, sun exposure, lack of water. The Transborder Immigrant Tool attempts to address those vicissitudes, but also to remember that the aestheticfreighted with the unbearable weight of lovetoo, sustains. A poetic gesture from its inception, the Transborder Immigrant Tool functions, via


Wayne A. Cornelius, Death at the Border: The Efficacy and Unintended Consequences of U.S. Immigration Control Policy 1993-2000 19

the aspirations of such a dislocative medium, as dislocative media, seeking to realize the possibilities of G.P.S. as both a global positioning system and, what, in another context, Laura Borrs Castanyer and Juan B. Gutirrez have termed, a global poetic system. The Transborder Immigrant Tool includes poems for psychic consultation, spoken words of encouragement and welcome, which I am writing and co-designing in the mindset of Audre Lordes pronouncement that poetry is not a luxury. The particular poems included herepart of that larger collection, which code-switches between languagesare for a predominantly English-speaking audience, who recognizes uncanny connection (i.e., for the sake of a Dublin/Belfast presentation, that of the Irish and the Mexican, historically made manifest in phenomena like the San Patricios, artistically acknowledged vis--vis travelling exhibitions such as the 1995-97 Distant Relations). Postscriptually, Derridas vision of hospitality, indexed as scrolling text in Dubliners, speaks to the Transborder Immigrant Tools overarching commitment to global citizenship. For, the excerpt, itself infused with the transversal logic of the poetic, acts as one of the Transborder Immigrant Tools internal compasses, clarifying the ways and means by which I and my collaborators approach this project as ethically inflected, as transcending the local of (bi-)national politics, of borders and their policing. (Amy Sara Carroll, A Global Poetic/Positioning System: The Transborder Immigrant Tool, 2009).


The way which Carroll describes the Transborder Immigrant Tool as being connected to the global poetic system proposes a poiesis which resists the hegemonic articulating systems at the border. This gesture can take on the form of a teleopoiesis that, according to Carroll, points us to a global citizenship with a transversal logic. If we consider the Transborder Immigrant Tool as a kind of compass, both in the literal and the poetic sense, we come to understand it for its capacity to generate a present that acts as a trajectory towards a multiplicity of possible futures. This is the future anterior that Spivak wrote of in her work, and provides a potential model of alter-power in the context of a bordered world. When Carroll tells us that the Transborder Immigrant Tool is largely for an English-speaking audience that recognizes uncanny connection, and then reminds us of the San Patricios (a battalion of Irish-immigrant soldiers who switched sides in solidarity with the Mexican army during the Mexican-American War), Carrol is asserting the poetics of solidarity and collectivity that can never be anticipated but can be and always are potential.14 While crossing, the Transborder Immigrant Tool directs the migrant towards water caches left by various activist groups in the United States. The tool also points the migrant to various buildings which have been established as safe-houses, where the migrants feet can be mended and they can receive food and water. Although theyve never met before, in this moment the migrant enters into a political and poetic entanglement with the activist networks that have made their crossing less dangerous.

James Callaghan, "The San Patricios". American Heritage Magazine. Volume 46, Issue 7, November 1995


This organized effort of activist networks in the North in solidarity with migrants from the South generates the conditions of a radical future-anterior, where liberatory trajectories and collectivities emerge. Through working to establish routes and territories of aid and assistance, these activist networks and artists collectives prefigure a set of relationships that represent a different possible global futurity. How is it that the migrants use of the Transborder Immigrant Tool generates both a politics and poetics at the same time and what could this mean about the relationship between the two? In this experience of crossing the border, the poetics of the encounter come to be an expression of a politics of free movement. An encounter is understood as an experience that resists closure and resolution. When one experiences the landscape in an encounter, it is to experience it as both unrecognizable and productive. The uncontainability of an encounter with the landscape positions it in opposition to a border-territory, where the landscape is very clearly being limited, rationalized and divided. Similarly, a politics which asserts a universal right to the freedom of movement manifests a vision of a globe free of any borders that would seek to contain peoples or keep them out.


Figure 2: Demonstration illustrations of the transborder immigrant tool.

This instance of poetic human solidarity constitutes a political act in that it not only creates the conditions within which a greater freedom of movement is enabled, but also poetically suggests different ways of living in the world. The systems that would aim to deny those freedoms, such as the right-wing vigilante group the Minutemen or the security agents of the state, become partially dysfunctional as a result of these networks of solidarity. The activist networks, artists, and migrants help to create the conditions under which radical kinds of living and being in the world are nurtured, and they work to develop a collectivity outside of the binary politics of the state. When I write of a future or of possible futurities that always exist in our experience of the now, I mean to assert a prefigurative framework for considering action and social change. In this framework, its important to understand that we will never arrive in the future but rather will always be experiencing the possibilities of a

multiplicity of futurities in the present, both dystopian and utopian. I started this project in hopes that it would position you the reader, and myself in opposition to the current national borders that restrict human movement. However, this single gesture of course must expand and continue to consider power at all levels, in the economic, the governmental, the personal and the social. This is in a way a move away from considering an ideal, but rather positions process itself as the important consideration. It is my hope that this project works to point to a horizontalized process against the hierarchies that everywhere tower above us. It is a claim of the universal right to life and the freedom of movement that is asserted in this entanglement between the migrant, the artist and the activist network, and in their mutual entanglement a poetic territory is projected over the political border line. Community in this instance isnt a static relationship, but rather is one dependent on flows and exchanges, always in motion. As tactical media theorist Rita Raley describes the border-art projects: Reminiscent to some extent of the cultural nationalisms of Franz Fanon and Aime Cesaire, such thinking marks a moment of anticolonial art practice: the aim is not to theorize liminality but to force a rupture in the binaries of interiority and exteriority, here and there, native and alien, friend and enemy. The radical dichotomies integral to the war on terror youre either with us or against us find their counterpart in art practices that themselves depend on the solidarity of

the we against the them. A fence has been built, binaries constructed, and these artists intend to overturn them. Their struggle, while embedded in a binary, rather than a hybrid, cultural logic, nevertheless suggests a reconfigured notion of oppositionality. As we will see, both the we and the them in these artists projects and practices are understood to be diffuse, networked, and temporarily, rather than territorially, situated. (Rita Raley, Tactical Media, pg. 37) The language that Raley uses to describe the border-art practices mirrors the language used to describe an encounter. The formless and boundless character of the network between migrants, artists, and activists point to a collective subjectivity that embodies a solidarity without clear limits, as if solidarity were an uncontainable vector which could potentially unravel the politics of the border. This relationship between the dividing line of the border and the entangled territory that multiplies from it comes to exemplify two different ways of encountering the border, one political and one poetic. The border is in the end a moral political structure, always generating a contained us and a marauding them, always setting the stage for a politics of opposition and exclusion. The poetic territory on the other hand exerts a different kind of relationship, one predicated on entanglement, contingency and exchange. A poetic landscape resists becoming localized or contained and instead is always extending and changing, defamiliarizing the ordinary and making us look again. A transborder, for which the tool is named, is a border which is always being crossed and

overcome, a dividing line which creates the routes through itself. The border-line is best understood for its relation to the literal and the political while the encounter with the landscape is understood for its figurative and poetic operations. This unfolding of the line into the landscape, through an unraveling of the literal border politics to the poetry of an encounter is the ground in which the teleopoietic reading of this project takes root.


Flows at the Border Ursula Biemann and Contained Mobility(2004)

The English word border is also derivative of the Latin ora, which can mean edge but also coastline. Conceptualizing the border as a coast, as the point where the physical and segmentary material of the land meets the shifting and erosive flow of the ocean welcomes a reading of border-as-coastline that exposes the liminality not just of borders but also of all those who ceaselessly wash up and set foot on their shores. Here, the continental interiority enclosed within a border comes to be enveloped by the crashing waves of its coastal edges, constantly entangling the solidity of land with the flows of the sea. Ursula Biemanns video work Contained Mobility (2004), starts with a shot of an open body of water. The camera swings up and down with the waves, disorienting the viewer in their search for a steady horizon. A voice soon begins to speak over the image: Entering the harbor the voyager leaves the exceptional condition of the boundless sea, this traversable space of maritime immensity, to come ashore in an offshore place in a container world that only tolerates the trans-local state of not being of this place, nor of any other really, but of existing in a condition of


permanent not-belonging, of juridical non-existence. (Ursula Biemann, Contained Mobility) From this starting prologue, we are then presented with the story of Anatol, a migrant born in 1949 in Magadan, a forced labor concentration camp in the Eastern Soviet Union. Through a chronicle of displacements, detentions, deportations and even a nuclear accident, over the course of the work we follow Anatol across most of Western Europe while he seeks asylum after being expelled as a dissident from his own country.

Figure 3: Still from Contained Mobility (2004)

The work consists of two videos playing simultaneously next to one another. While the images on the two screens sometimes switch their placement from left to

right, the content and narrative structure remain consistent throughout. This pairing of the two screens next to one another immediately establishes a framework of bifocal viewing, each screen being an input for one of our two eyes. While the viewer nonetheless comes to focus on one screen or the other in their encounter with the work, nonetheless both images remain with the field of vision and affect one another in their visual rhythms, synchronicities and discordances. Most importantly, each screen presents us with a different way of seeing the world. On one screen we always see Anatol, the central figure and protagonist of the work. On the other, we are always looking at the landscape, in a variety of mediated forms. This bifocalized viewing both resists singular and totalizing monocular viewing but also suggests the constant operation of multiple modes of production, in this case poetic and political processes. As we shall see, this work becomes primarily about Anatols poetic and political (dis)entanglement with the landscape which is expressed in the bifocalized relationship between the two video screens. After the first shot fades to black, we first get a glimpse of Anatol who has taken up residence in a shipping container. He constantly paces around the container, occasionally stopping to look at maps on the walls, lie down on his small bed, or make cell phone calls to unknown recipients. A text describing Anatols travels, resembling a travel log, scrolls slowly within a black rectangle in the bottom corner of the same screen. Formally, the video on this screen suggests that our visual encounter with Anatol and his home is a mediated act of surveillance; the low resolution and choppy frame

rate of the video and the text-box which displays his travel logs is reminiscent of footage recorded on inexpensive surveillance systems. This aesthetic articulates Anatol as a subject under surveillance and monitoring, and immediately figures him as a suspect to us as viewers. That Anatol lives in a shipping container throughout the work reflects the character of his subjectivity throughout his journey in search of asylum. The shipping container, like Anatol, doesnt have a home or resting place where it is meant to be, but rather it is always in motion, in a perpetual transition. The shipping container is also suggestive of the political and economic conditions under which Anatol finds himself trapped. After the creation of the European Union (E.U.) in 1950 as well as with the signing of the Schengen Agreement in 1985, barriers to trade between Western European member states were lifted and freedom of movement within the E.U. was guaranteed to its citizens.15 What the European no-border social movements describe as the establishment of Fortress Europe, the emergence of deregulated movement of capital and peoples within the E.U., coincided with the militarization of the E.U.s borders with Eastern Europe and North Africa. While obtaining citizenship or asylum within the E.U. is difficult and border security projects continue to become more elaborate and totalizing, nonetheless individuals do migrate into the E.U. without official documentation in the

European Commission. "The EU Single Market: Fewer barriers, more opportunities" 30

hundreds of thousands. Because of the increases in border security, migrants are forced to attempt dangerous methods of crossing which result in high mortality rates. Since 1993, over 13000 migrants have died attempting to cross into the E.U. 16

Figure 4: Map of the E.U. Highlighting Migrant Deaths.

While the mass-migration of undocumented peoples into the E.U. is largely discussed in terms of its illegality and economic costs in mainstream discourses, activist scholars within the E.U. have reframed this migration as a manifestation of social movement. This kind of social movement, one which does not seek to reform but rather moves to transcend, has been celebrated in the terms of its resilience, its capacity to

UNITED for Intercultural Action, Death by Policy: The Fatal Realities of Fortress Europe 31

survive and flourish despite the harsh border security systems, and its prefigurative form which creates the conditions of a new world in the present.17 This kind of social movement moves to transcend in that it does not seek to reform the current structures, but rather insists on the existence and operation of worlds beyond the dominant systems already in the present. Undocumented people have managed not only to enter the E.U., but also have formed long lasting communities and networks amongst themselves. As briefly explored earlier, the world being prefigured is not simply a world free of borders, but rather a world free of the systems that necessitate their generation in the first place. The collectivities that emerge between migrants already within the E.U. and migrants making undocumented crossing into it prefigure social relationships and solidarities outside of market or legalistic logics. These radical solidarities do not represent an end unto themselves, but rather point to a process of liberation that will always be necessary in the face of power. Again, this reading of the migration as a prefigurative phenomenon emerges as a potential teleopoietics, one which makes manifest a community of a future in the actions and solidarities of the present. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak describes this imaginative making of a community through her reading of Jacques Derrida: Derrida brings the notion of a teleopoiesis teleopoietic rather than legitimizing reversal into play many times in his book. That is indeed one of the

Autonomous rear Entrances to Fortress Europe?! January 10th, 2006, 32

shocks to the idea of belonging, to affect the distant in a poiesis an imaginative making without guarantees, and thus, by definition predication, reverse its value. Again, note the difference between this and the mechanical convenience of map-making. The teleopoiesis we are speaking of is a messianic structure we are not yet among these philosophers of the future, we who are calling them and calling them the philosophers of the future, but we are in advance their friends This is perhaps the community of those without community Active teleopoiesis in all moments of decision makes the task of reading imperative and yet indecisive (Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Death of A Discipline, pg. 31) By figuring the undocumented migration into the E.U. in relation to its future anteriority, we can read it as a community that is undergoing its formation across great poetic, literal and political distances. The work Contained Mobility has been predominantly exhibited across Western Europe as well as the United States, and as a result the audience members who witness the work are predominantly made up of people who are on this side of the border. This either positions the viewer as someone who is in a position the affect the conditions which continually displace Anatol as a landless person, an exile, or it positions them as a migrant themselves who perhaps see themselves in collectivity with Anatol in a diaspora of migrants. In both instances, Biemanns work positions the viewer as someone who is capable of affecting the world and is in potential solidarity with Anatol.


Anatol, throughout the entire work, seems to be in search of this community of those without community in his travels. He is very much a subject lost within the matrix of the European Unions harsh immigration laws and regulations. Throughout the work, Anatol applies for asylum four different times, each time in a different country. Each time he is turned down. The dense bureaucracy of border-systems is a major theme within Contained Mobility, as we learn from the scrolling text on the screen that Anatol is persistently detained, moved between detention camps, deported, arrested and his possessions confiscated: March 1999_The regime in Belarus abolishes elections. Anatol leaves the country and travels to Poland. Again he swims across the river Neisse to Germany, this time half frozen. He applies for asylum at the Gorlitz border checkpoint, where he is detained by border guards. His application is rejected, his money is confiscated and he is deported to Poland. March 1999_He enters Slovakia across the green boundary, making his way through bushes and swamps. Transits the country to enter the Czech Republic, with the aim of reaching the humanist society of Austria. Crossing the bridge at night during a blizzard, the police awaits him with dogs on the other side. (Ursula Biemann, Contained Mobility) Anatol constantly faces these problems in his search for amnesty as his status as a noncitizen of the European Union renders him illegal within its borders. Well educated and

eager to work, he makes no progress towards becoming situated in this new place. His unsituatedness comes to articulate him as a person, a person without a place, a landless person. And yet despite all of this harassment, Anatol remains resilient and determined, and is able to finally find refuge in his paradoxical permanent non-permanence within the shipping container at the port. The title of the work, Contained Mobility, points to this kind of reading as well. What does it mean after all to be both mobile and contained? This naming seems to foreground the contradictions between borders, the nation states that build and maintain them, and the global trade of capital and goods that increasingly transcends them. Anatol himself becomes an expression of this contained mobility, as he drifts across the continent but is subject to capture and regulation throughout his journey. While Domniguezs Transborder Immigrant Tool focuses on the act of border crossing itself, Biemanns work instead contemplates the state of being within a territory after crossing. Both of these modes seem to connote different expressions of solidarity and community. In Dominguezs work, this collectivity is heavily contingent on temporal and spatial relationships that exist between the entangled subjects in the border territory. In Biemanns work, Anatol is forced to consider his community as a landless person without destination and as an exile. This is an imagined community that exists in relation to his being, whereas the solidarities imagined in Dominguezs work rely upon a community surrounding an act. The one register that both of these works

share is their consideration of how poetic collectivities are formed to transform and potentially disrupt the normative political control of space. In the opening of the work a voice speaks of the trans-local state of not being. Anatol occupies this translocalilty, always present on the geography of the local but nonetheless entangled and connected to the flows of the global. He is simultaneously entrapped and displaced by these relationships contained and mobilized. It seems appropriate that Anatol finally finds a measure of rest at a port harbor, where ships come and go and the border becomes incomparably more porous and open to facilitate the global exchange of goods. Here is perhaps where the flows of global capital are most conspicuous, and in his container-turned-home Anatol can finally be situated in his movement as a placeless person, a perpetual migrant in exile. James Clifford, in his text Routes, describes how migrants become situated in their status as members of diaspora, and how border crossing becomes a defining action for some in this position: "How do diaspora discourses represent experiences of displacement, of constructing homes away from home? What experiences do they reject, replace, or marginalize? How do these discourses attain comparative scope while remaining rooted/routed in specific discrepant histories? ... Separate places become effectively a single community through the continuous circulation of people, money goods and information'. 'Transnational migrant circuits,' as Rouse

calls them, exemplify the kinds of complex cultural formations that current anthropology and intercultural studies describe and theorize. Aguilillans moving between California and Mochoacan are not in diaspora; there may be, however, diasporic dimensions to their practices and cultures of displacement, particularly for those who stay long periods, or permanently, in Redwood City. Overall, bilocale Aguilillans inhabit a border, a site of regulated and subversive crossing" (James Clifford, "Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century", pg. 244-246) While describing the indigenous people of North America, Clifford speaks to how communities become situated within the territories they are constantly moving through, though perhaps never settle in. In Contained Mobility, Anatol similarly seeks to find a placeness through his travelling, and does find a measure of home in his movement. The importance and consistent citing of the translocal in Contained Mobility disrupts the traditional claims of rootedness and situatedness that cant operate when space becomes entangled and dislocated in the way that it has. A translocal place is a fractured and decentered one that denies traditional geographical identification in that it is a place defined by its transience. Thus, when we encounter the travel logs that constitute Anatols journey, we are left with a text that simply lists his movements across space rather than his placement in them. It is the story of a migrant in exile, and as such Anatol is robbed of the luxury of localized placeness and rootedness and instead becomes situated in his movement.

While Anatol occupies his shipping container on one screen, on the other we are shown a series of geographic maps, views from the decks of ships, computer screens and aerial photographs. Some of the images show a digital representation of a harbor and seem to be tracking the ships movement through them. The aerial photographs show a harbor area as well, and the camera slowly pans across the channels and warehouses in the image. The digital computer maps are of areas that are crisscrossed with various demarcations, grids and codes, most of which are unreadable or indistinguishable. And lastly, we see shots from the deck of a ship looking over its railing, surveying a body of water and beyond that a distant port city. The trope of viewing the landscape from above is constantly present throughout the work. A mediated view from the sky, this perspective suggests a subject that experiences the world through their encounter with the screen. Certainly this cannot be said to be a bodily phenomenological experience of a geography, but rather is a digitized perspective that proposes to survey the landscape, measure it, and order its parts in opposition to one another. This is the perspective of the satellite, the jet fighter, and the surveillance tower. It is a phenomenology mediated by the technologies and machines that capture and articulate the data of the geography and transcribes them into the database and then onto the screen. This indexical view of the geography is an expression of a database aesthetic, where symbols and information become inscribed in catalogue entries.


This second screen which presents us with the drifting views of digital geographies is nonetheless dependent on an encounter with a subject. In Contained Mobility, we as the viewing audience come to be the subjects in an encounter with this perspective. Bill Seaman describes how a database aesthetic can generate a poetics outside of a traditional narrative while still producing affect: An embodied approach to computing acknowledges the importance of the physicality of experience as it falls within the continuum that bridges the physical with the digital. To illuminate the operative nature of database aesthetics, one needs to point at a number of human processes memory, thought, association, cataloging, categorizing, framing, contextualizing, de-contextualizing, and recontextalizing, as well as grouping. The production of boundary objects, grammars of information, grammars of attention, the production of media constellations and the exploration of principles of combinatorics all become potential variables for employment in the creation of interactive works of art. Of critical importance is interface design both physical and digital, as well as how human processes become operative through the functional nature of a relevant, robust, digitally encoded environment. A database is derived through human activity leading to residues and/or inscriptions of experience, including such creative processes as the shooting and editing of video, the sculpting of virtual objects, the construction of sonic content, the composition of musical fragments or selections, the writing of poetic texts, the spoken recording of text, the naming

of files, and the conceptual design of specific operative structures. Writing code is also a human process The database aesthetic puts the poetic nature of composition, media configuration, sequence, media distribution, and differing qualities of articulating in line (and/or in virtual time-space when we consider virtual space) with the constraint based nature of combinatorics Such works always depend on physical space and human action in that these works are always embedded within a set of interconnected physical spaces. They always depend on bodies for the activation of potential media flows, even if on the lowest level this is achieved only through observation as interaction In particular, this is not a narrative strategy. It is a poetic approach to the combination and recombination of loaded poetic fields Thus no fixed narrative is sought only a catalogue of shifting impressions and evocations. Interpretation is open and ongoing an operative meaning-becoming. (Bill Seaman, Recombinant Poetics and Related Database Aesthetics, Database Aesthetics, pg 121-123) When we are presented with what seems to be a computerized ship-tracking display of the port, followed by a slow scanning of satellite photos, and then finally a vista from the deck of an offshore ship, we are always kept at a distance from the physicality of the geography, and instead perceive a digital trace of it in our encounter with the database. We remain displaced and drifting, never located or grounded except in our mediated relation to the database and the screen. The objects and architectures being surveyed

all seem very neatly to fit into the space of the database, and all are situated within a digitized Cartesian grid. This mediated view from above articulates objects and subjects in this highly rendered way: as resolved and measured coordinates and trajectories occupying a literal register. Importantly, this encounter with the video-as-database leads us to think again about borders. The geography on the screen is certainly parsed and divided in its cataloging and borders become inscribed into the database itself as sets of code and information. However, in our experience with and access of it, an imaginative encounter emerges and the segmented data becomes open to interpretation and production. The relationship between the coded database and our poetic access is reminiscent again of the border-as-coast, with seemingly firm and sharp edges that are always unraveling and entangling. The view from the ship on the other hand seems to represent a different type of relationship to geography, a liquid one. While the ship floats up and down in the water it exists in a space that is always shifting and in motion, never steady. Much like Anatol, the water comes to be defined by its flows and motion and always exists in opposition to the static materiality of the shore. This relationship is manifest aesthetically as the horizon line visually swings around on the video screen in the ships movement. This relationship to the geography, from the deck of the ship, is expressed poetically in that it offers an expanded and shifting relationship to the geography that resists a stable recognition and instead offers an encounter. In relation to the other screen on which we are always seeing Anatol, Biemann positions us where we have to reconcile the hyper41

rational database articulations of crossing at the border and also the poetic subjectivity activated by Anatol himself. By positioning these two ontologies against one another, Biemann invites readings that challenge the relationship between the political and the poetic, the literal and the imaginative. Interestingly, the horizon line visible form the deck of the ship comes to operate as yet another border between the terrestrial land and open sky above it. While Anatol is restricted to the ground and the water throughout his travels (he never is able to fly, likely due to his non-legal status and increasing controls at airports), the satellite and planes that constitute much of the border security systems of the E.U. and monitor the port where Anatol lives all occupy the space of the sky. Again, this entanglement between Anatols mobility and the E.U.s containment becomes expressed visually on this screen. The port is often where travelers first set foot in a new country or territory; it is the imaginary point of arrival, the entrance to a new place. As a result, it is also a site that is heavily policed and controlled in order to ensure that only permitted travel is allowed. Nonetheless, large amounts of illegal goods and undocumented people pass through them each year. When arriving at the port as someone without citizen status and as an undocumented migrant, this arrival does not become manifest as a being here but rather a being in motion. Just as our view of the h orizon is always changing from the deck of the ship, so too does the poetic encounter with a landscape always undergo transformation and mutation as each experience generates new possible ruptures and affirmations.

These two different ways of experiencing the landscape are illustrative of the contradictions that define the contemporary operations of borders and the subjects in relation to them. One view of the border, mediated and from above, articulates each object clearly and unquestionably within the database, and every entry conforms neatly within the administrative logics of trade and capital. Our access of the database opens the possibility of a poetic encounter, but the entries nonetheless remain fixed. The other view, from the ship, shows a very different understanding of the landscape, and encounters the landscape as a geography always in motion and under transformation. These two different ways of experiencing the landscape come to take on the attributes of either recognition or encounter and suggests their entanglement with power in border territories. This power is expressive of the structures that aim to regulate and control movement in contested territories but also of the collectivities that aim to create spaces of subversion and resistance. When we recognize a landscape, it means that in our experience of it we are able neatly to categorize and articulate all of its parts into already existing and accepted knowledges. When something is recognized, it makes sense in that everything is foun d as it would be expected. In Contained Mobility, this is expressed in the digital readouts of the port that constantly articulate the landscape as a grid. Recognition is a coded experience of order.


To experience the landscape as an encounter is to experience it in its failure to conform to our expectations and preexisting knowledges. This experience of the landscape as a failure ruptures our understanding of the world and forces us to reconsider our own relationship to it. After this moment of rupture, we are forced to move and ultimately produce a new affirmation of the experience. This is manifest in the video as the view from the ship, where our movement in relation to the horizon defines our experience of the landscape. These two modalities of experiencing the world mirror the conceptualization of the border-as-coastline. If the land were to be expressive of a static stratified territory that contains its own set of codes and information, the sea would be expressive of the forces that constantly unravel and erode these sets of codes. Throughout the work, these themes of displacement and containment appear in an entangled relationship. The nuclear accident in Chernobyl appears in the travel logs as one of the events that displaces Anatol. Conceptually, Chernobyl is tied to Anatols encounter with place. The radiation of a nuclear facility begins as grounded and contained, and seems to exhibit a distinct locality. Then, in its structural failure, nuclear emanation and subsequent rupture, this containment fails and the radioactivity expands out across the geography, thoroughly contaminating and eroding the place-ness it once contained. In this moment, the radioactivity begins as a singularity and then transforms into a field. Chernobyl caused the displacement of thousands of people as they were forced to flee the surrounding areas for fear of radiation poisoning and sickness, and

created an entirely new diaspora of nuclear exiles. Even more so, the radioactive debris from the accident, after entering the atmosphere, spread across the entirety of the globe as jet streams carried it to each continent. Much like the radiation leaving Chernobyl that spread and permeated the landscape despite the efforts to create boundaries to stop it, Anatol is also perpetually in this radiating motion, always moving and permeating the borders across the geography and resisting containment. It is also this same process which denies Anatol a place. These themes of a locality as opposed to a radioactivity repeat throughout the transcripts of Anatols travels. For example, soon after Anatol is born his family lives in a dig-out in permafrost soil for two years.. At the very start of his journey, his home is composed of frozen water, the sea frozen and contained. From there, Anatol soon moves back to Minsk and he listens to prohibited Deutsche Wave Radio, refuses to join the Communist Party and is interrogated by the KGB. Anatol here finds himself entangled with the radio waves pouring across the borders of Europe. He constantly shifts between being held in detention camps and sneaking across borders into new territories, between being contained within borders and then radiating past them.


Figure 5: Photograph of Contained Mobility (2004) installation.

At the end of the work, when Anatol has gone to bed in the back of his container-turned-home, the text everything new is born illegal appears on the opposite screen that has just faded to black. This text points to a paradoxical logic of borders and states. To simply parse the statement, it suggests that anything that is new or inhabits the qualities of newness is articulated as illegal by the state because it is born outside of its enclosure. This creates a framework for understanding a border system that both polices and maintains the old and the enclosed, while also articulating everything outside of its enclosure as illegal and even reducing it to its status as illegal.


Similarly, if we are to understand the poetic for its capacity to make and produce the new as Spivak describes, the poetic is rendered illegal because of its refusal of enclosure. Enclosure here dos not simply refer to the political process under which land becomes controlled and coded by its boundaries, but rather any system which seeks to contain meaning or police experience. These claims that rely upon binary distinctions such as inside versus outside, or old versus new, come to generate these distinctions within their own binary logics. A term always generates its opposite, and very much relies on it. Much like a border, which creates an enclosed interior only by imagining an unenclosed and infringing exterior, in Contained Mobility the new is always manifested in opposition to the old of the legalized, legitimized and permitted. This line also charts an interesting relationship between the temporal and the spatial, as the newness comes to be rendered illegal because of its position in space. The old is always the moment of recognition, while the new is the rupture of the encounter. How do we begin to read Anatols shipping container home at the port in relationship to the enclosure of the E.U.? The shipping container is importantly the central technology that facilitates the current scale of global capitalist trade. The standardized size of shipping containers allows them to be quickly unloaded and loaded onto ships at various ports across the globe, facilitating commodities trading at a speed and scale impossible before their adoption. While the fantasy of a frictionless global

economy proliferated in mainstream discourses at the turn of the century and was largely pinned to the increases in trade facilitated by the use of shipping containers, shipping containers nonetheless present limits on and costs to the global trade system. Perhaps most obviously there are the workers (often unionized) who must load and unload the containers from the ships. Various hazards related to this kind of labor either results in a limit on the speed of movement of these commodities in the interest of safety or in worker deaths as the result of accidents. Dockworkers unions historically have also gone on strike for political, social and economic reasons, halting the flow of capital completely for lengths of time.18 Ironically, the adoption of the shipping container that was meant to facilitate the flow of commodities also enables to flow of undocumented labor into the same territory. Shipping containers have increasingly become the method in which groups of migrants attempt illegally to cross into countries where border security is strict. This type of human smuggling has become more prolific as other methods of travel have become more difficult. The journey is incredibly dangerous as people are often given little food and water to support them in their travels within the container. The lack of bathrooms and other sanitary facilities as well as an absence of proper ventilation also ensures the spread of disease and sickness, leaving those who do survive the trip in poor


Andrew Herod "Discourse on the Docks: Containerization and Inter-Union Work Disputes in US Ports, 1955-85" 48

health.19 This human cost is often ignored in trade-discourses which remain disciplinarily focused on trade agreements, profit margins and other economic registers. The flow of global capital is undeniably riddled with these unmeasured costs and frictions, both human and otherwise. Nonetheless, the health of global economies continues to be dependent on investorss confidence in their markets, and as a result any talk of externality or cost is hidden or completely rendered invisible in the interest of positive speculation. Anatols residence in the shipping container blatantly points us to associate his experience within the E.U. with those who undergo human smuggling. Anatol is similarly undocumented and without access to legal forms of transnational mobility. His residence in the shipping container also points us to the historical processes which disabled access to legal travel in the first place. The neoliberalization of the Wests economies generated a psychic need to increase border controls in order to compensate for fading nationalisms. As Wendy Brown describes: Seen from a slightly different angle, the call for strong iteration of national boundaries would be a crucial element of what Saskia Sassen terms the renationalizing of political discourse corresponding to denationalized economic space. Boundary iteration and defense stages the righteousness and the


Lornet Turnbull, Kristi Heim, Sara Jean Green and Sanjay Bhatt, "15 days in a metal box, to be locked up", The Seattle TImes, April 6, 2006 49

possibility of such renationalization against its contemporary undoing. Thus do declining state sovereignty and the disappearing viability of a homogenous national imaginary redress each other at the site of walls. Visible walls respond to the need for containment and boundaries in too global a world, too unhorizoned a universe. They produce a spatially demarcated us, national identity, and national political scale when these can no longer be fashioned from conceits of national political or economic autonomy, demographic homogeneity, or shared history, culture, and values. (Wendy Brown, Walled States, Waning Sovereignty, pg. 119) Thus, Anatols shipping container emerges within the work as a signal of his condition as a migrant displaced by (and moved by) the economic forces which have shaped the European border systems. Even the collapse of the Soviet Union and the waves of revolutions within its satellite states which initially drove Anatol away were largely the products of economic processes within those countries, mainly the failure of centralized economies to link supply and demand and a high cost arms race20. Anatols home in the container leads us to read his experience of exile in the E.U. not just in terms of its juridical functions, but also its economic ones. Biemann has constructed the work in a way in order for us to consider the economic conditions that both displaced Anatol and also makes his well-being economically precarious, despite his high level of education


Lloyd Dumas, The Overburdened Economy, University of California Press, 1986. 50

and training. The neoliberalization of the Wests economies helped to produce many of the landless people whom now are transgressing their borders. In its claim to supreme authority over a territory, the logic of nation-state sovereignty constructs itself around a mythical social contract in order to maintain the support of the subjects that live under it. Anatol, because of his non-status, does not participate in this social contract and as a result fails to possess any of the political rights promised by a sovereign power to its subjects. In the prologue, Anatol is described as existing in a condition of permanent not-belonging, of juridical non-existence. He is reduced to a kind of bare life, where he has no agency within the sovereign nation-state but nonetheless finds himself enclosed within its rule. Antje Ellerman describes the operation of bare life drawing from Giorgio Agambens writings: Giorgio Agambens seminal work on the relationship between the individual and the sovereign state is anchored in the concepts of homo sacer and state of exception. Homo sacer, a figure of Roman law, embodies what Agamben terms bare or depoliticized life (1998). Under Roman law, a man convicted of certain crimes was banished from society and stripped of his rights as a citizen. Drawing on Hannah Arendts description of the naked life of the refugee (Arendt 1973), Agamben juxtaposes the bare life of homo sacer who subsists in zones of exclusion and rightlessness with the citizens politicized and rights-based life. The existence of homo sacer is central to Agambens understanding of sovereign

power because the possibility of rights-stripping reveals a schism between the individuals biological existence, on the one hand, and her political life, on the other. Reduced to bare, or biological, life, the refugee is rendered politically insignificant Agambens understanding of life in the state of exception reflects a conception of rights as fundamentally grounded in the institution of national citizenship. Following Arendt, Agamben rejects the notion that human rights are viable outside the confines of membership in the nation-state. Instead, the socalled sacred and inalienable human rights are revealed to be without any protection precisely when it is no longer possible to conceive of them as rights of the citizens of a state (1998, 126). Accordingly, it is those excluded from citizenshipthe refugee, the stateless person, the illegal migrantwho most fundamentally represent bare life in the exception. (Antje Ellerman, Undocumented Migrants and Resistance in the State of Exception, 2009) Anatols existence as a figure of bare life is paradoxical in that without a proper channel for integration or legalization, Anatol comes to be articulated in his lack of ability to become politically articulated. Anatol is not simply an exile-migrant in the sense of his being from somewhere else, rather he is without place altogether. Precisely because he exists outside of the social contract as an undocumented migrant, the state articulates him through systems of surveillance and capture in his condition as a stateless-body in order to exercise repressive controls onto him. As several entries in Anatols travel log reveal, his constant unpermitted travel across Western European borders is contrasted

with his detainment and containment in various concentration camps of refugees. In this way he is both inside of and outside of the legal system simultaneously, or inside of its regulations but outside of its rights. Border systems operate in this way, to both articulate the subjects within their enclosed limits as citizens with certain sets of rights and privileges while also articulating a bare life in those outside of the enclosure but nonetheless under its regime of power. Beyond a political life, economic life also is subject to this distinction. Western economies have become largely dependent on pseudo-legal workforces that arent subject to state controls on labor standards or guarantees of minimum wages. Agricultural and low-level service workers in particular have become the sites of incredibly large undocumented labor forces, and the majority of these markets would be unsustainable and unprofitable without this kind of legal and economic transgression.21 Even at the site of the port where Anatol has taken residence, the legal and sanctioned flow of commodities is also accompanied by corruption and illegal smuggling. The logic of a sovereign necessitates such a distinction between the citizen (the political body) and the hostis (bare life). Just as the conceptualization of the border-ascoast denotes a necessary entanglement between the stable and instable, so too does the figure of the political necessarily produce the figure of bare life. While it is important


Saskia Sassen, Globalization and Its Discontents: Americas Immigration Problem, pg. 47 53

that we understand the articulated body as a bare-life existing outside of a political life, it nonetheless comes to generate a poetic power of its own which prefigures other expressions of life beyond the state. Antje Ellerman goes on further to talk about bare life as a site of resistance: What is the nature of resistance in the state of exception? Rarely do acts of noncompliance by those reduced to bare life amount to collective acts of civil disobedience. Homo sacer exists in a state of abjection where the scope of resistance falls far short of the resource-demanding standard of organized political action In the state of exception, resistance arises from the circumstance that the individual already has lost all claims against the state and thus has little to fear from defying state orders. In other words, the power of resistance lies in the freedom from constraints that limit the scope of noncompliance for those who still have sufficient standing to fear the loss of rights. Ironically, then, it is homo sacers extreme political powerlessness that is at the root of resistance and thereby presents a potential threat to sovereign power. (Antje Ellerman, Undocumented Migrants and Resistance in the State of Exception, 2009) Anatols precarious condition as a landless person emerges as a site of resistance within the context of contemporary sovereignty. Here again we find the expression of a different kind of resistance, one outside of a politics of the state and instead rooted in

the poetic. Anatols life outside of the state renders his life precarious under the repressive apparatus of the state, but his life outside of politics also teleopoietically points to futurities beyond state controls. His resilience in the face of a political powerlessness also enables the expression of the power of poiesis: the imaginative making that constitutes new expressions of being in the world. Indeed, Anatols existence and survival points to the possibility of other futurities and existence of other nows. The existence, and indeed proliferation, of landless peoples has come define a certain relationship to senses of both place and home. Edward Said ponders what it is to be without a home in his Reflections on Exile, and describes Theodor Adornos experience as someone without (and even against) an identification with a particular home: Perhaps the most rigorous example of such subjectivity is to be found in the writing of Theodor Adorno, the German-Jewish philosopher and critic. Adornos masterwork, Minima Moalia, is an autobiography written while in exile; it is subtitled Reflecionen aus dem beschadgten Lebem (Reflections from a Mutilated Life). Ruthlessly opposed to what he called an administered world, Adorno saw all life as pressed into ready-made forms, prefabricated homes. He argued that everything that one says or thinks, as well as every object one possesses, is ultimately a mere commodity. Language is jargon, objects for sale. To refuse this

state of affairs is the exiles intellectual mission. Adornos reflections are informed by the belief that the only home truly available now, though fragile and vulnerable, is in writing. Elsewhere, the house is past. The bombing of European cities, as well as the labour and concentration camps, merely precede as executors, with what the immanent development of technology had long decided was to be the fate of houses. These are now good only to b thrown away like old food cans. In short, Adorno says with grave irony, it is part of morality not to be at home in ones home. To follow Adorno is to stand away form home in order to look at it with the exiles detachment. For there is considerable merit in the practice of noting the discrepancies between various concepts and ideas and that they actually produce. We take home and language for granted; they become nature, and their underlying assumptions recede into dogma and orthodoxy. The exile knows that in a secular and contingent world, homes are always provisional. Borders and barriers, which enclose us within the safety of familial territory, can also become prisons, and are often defended beyond reason or necessity. Exiles cross borders, break barriers of thought and experience. (Edward Said, Reflections on Exile) Much like Adornos exile, Anatol too is perpetually displaced and distanced from his home in Eastern Europe, caught in the systems and flows of the E.U. Both Said and Adorno situate themselves with a certain critical distance from their home, suggesting a process of defamiliarization as an engine of criticism. Anatol, as a landless person, is not

only perpetually in exile from his home, but is also exiled from politics itself as a figure of bare-life. Indeed, Anatol does cross borders and break barriers of thought and existence in his resilience and life outside of the state and in his own poetic encounter with the political. If we are to return here to the conceptualization of migration within the E.U. as a social movement, we are again reminded to a different model of social change. Chela Sandoval, in her seminal text Methodology of the Oppressed, describes the emergence of new syntheses of consciousness which could be the foundation for a global social movement: Differential consciousness, the technologies of the methodology of the oppressed, and oppositional differential social movement and its ideological weaponry are part and parcel of a global decolonizing alliance of difference in its drive toward egalitarian social relations and economic well-being for all citizenry: an oppositional global politics, a cosmopolitics for planeta tierra. Postmodern neocolonialism is mitigated by the differential form of oppositional social movement, which etches and transforms it with varying resistant movidas. The differential form of social movement is guided by the methodology of the oppressed, which is a set of technologies that grasp meaningtransforming and moving it on both sides, that of social reality, and that of the realm of the abyss. The methodology of the oppressed acts as a punctum, a courier that accesses the

realm of consciousness that is differential. This differential consciousness is a practice for identity, a political site for the third meaning, that obtuse shimmering of signification that glances through every binary opposition. Taken together, these processes and procedures comprise a hermeneutic for defining and enacting love in the postmodern world, and a method for generating oppositional global politics. (Chela Sandoval, Methodology of the Oppressed, pg. 181) This operation of what Sandoval describes as the third meaning is a site of resistance in the figure of bare-life. Outside of and read against the binary politics of the state, new expressions of poetic love are enabled which transcend the limits and logics of such systems. While Sandoval imagines an oppositional global politics, perhaps we could consider Ursula Biemanns work Contained Mobility as setting the stage for an oppositional global poetics.


Performing the Border Francis Als and Green Line (2007)

Sometimes Doing Something Poetic Can Become Political and Sometimes Doing Something Political Can Become Poetic (Francis Als) Its important that when we think about borders, we do not simply think of them in all of their attributes as material (their walls, checkpoints, high-tech surveillance systems, etc.), but rather think of them discursively and aesthetically, as structures which enable new types of speech and utterance to take shape. Ora, another Latin derivation of the English border, also forms the root of oratio, or to speak. This suggests another function of the border, its coding and articulating mechanisms and also its reliance on being spoken, on being animated and called into being. In this entanglement between speech and borders, subjects come to speak the border and in return the border speaks us. Green Line (2007) is the documentation of a performance by Francis Als in which he walks in Jerusalem along on the border between Palestine and Israel while carrying a leaking can of green paint. As he walks along, the green paint slowly dribbles out of a small hole in the can, leaving behind a wavering line on the ground behind him. On his journey, he crosses through various neighborhoods and streets, inevitably

passing through the many security checkpoints that divide the city. A videographer follows Als on his walk, documenting his travel and the green line that is drawn behind him the entire way. The way the line is manifest aesthetically on the ground is very much reminiscent of the marks on one of Jackson Pollocks paintings. While the marks on Pollocks works are seen as constituting a kind of action unto themselves in their suggestion of the gesture that generated them, the green line suggests the performative walk that drew it that is situated a specific historical and social context that demands a reading beyond the act alone. This logic of mark-as-action also lends itself to reading how borders operate, essentially as an object-action always in immanence, or not as an actual force but always as a potential one. The border relies upon a cooperation and collusion of subjects in relation to it in order for its power to become expressed.


Figure 6: Still from Green Line (2007).

The line-making itself manifests as a playful gesture, articulating the border as an arbitrary mark in the sand. The way in which Als carries the can of paint makes it seem as though where the paint actually falls on the ground is of little importance to him, as his arm swings back and forth in his walk and the paint dances through the air behind him before coming to rest on the ground. What is left behind is a line which seems as though it potentially could have been left there accidentally, as if paint were spilling from the back of a truck or someones shopping bag. The mark lacks permanence, and is sure to vanish quickly as traffic and dust erode the line.


Theres a way in which borders come to inhabit a space of naturalism in their construction and maintenance, creating an assumption of a naturalized landscape that has always been (and will always be) divided in this way. This normative reading of a border is of course thoroughly compromised when we look even briefly into the past, as the lines that delimit nation states shift and distort constantly in the clash of wars, trade agreements, annexations and cartography projects. This is mirrored in Als drawing of the line, as a kind of temporary permanence which will be sure to undergo metamorphosis as time and history lurch forward. To go further, Als poetic painting of the border is in stark contrast to the actual political border which is dependent on a rationality and literal recognition. The title of the work, and the green line itself, are references to the historic Green Line that was agreed upon in 1949 as the boundary between Israeli and Palestinian land at the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. After the war had resulted in a clear win for Israel, the Israeli state was established and a green line was literally drawn out on a map to demarcate its borders with Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon during the Armistice Agreements. Almost two decades later, after the Six Day War had ended in another Israeli victory, the Green Line also came to be drawn around the Gaza Strip, West Bank and Golan Heights.22


Brian Willson, "History of Palestine and Green Line Israel" 62

Figure 7: Map showing the Green Line and Israeli Settlements.

While created first as a temporary solution to the conflict in 1948 and again in 1967, over the decades it has become increasingly fortified and militarized, now complete with large wall building projects and high tech surveillance programs. The


walls are now constructed in such a way as to be easily moveable and transportable, almost as if the border was expected to shift and the wall would have to adjust with it. Its status as a temporary division has also lead to a certain ambiguity as to where the line actually is in some parts of the country, and also divides many towns, farms and neighborhoods in half. Just as Als seems to have arbitrarily drawn his line, so too does the cartographic Green Line seem haphazard and arbitrary in its drawing as it follows no consistent logic but rather is entangled in the politics and histories of the region. Despite the Green Line forming the basis of a political border for the state of Israel, it is important also to note the wall that actually composes the border was never conceived to be permanent, but rather was created in a state of emergency in order to ensure security for the Jewish settlers in Palestine. As Wendy Brown describes: Still another feature of the Walls seeming global uniqueness pertains to its temporally and spatially ad hoc and provisional qualities. Consequent to various constituencies that have shaped and reshaped its route, including the Israeli Supreme Court, anti-Wall protestors, settlers, environmentalists, and realtors, the Walls path has been repeatedly altered over the course of its construction. Moreover, it has never been formally anointed as a separation barrier, but rather has been built in the name of a temporary state of emergency constituted by Palestinian hostilities. It is officially declared removable and reroutable as the security situation requires or as a political solution permits (Wendy Brown, Walled States, Waning Sovereignty, pgs. 30-31)

What is profound about Als walking performance of the border is that it reveals the constructed nature of all historical, political and economic divisions. By denaturalizing the border, not only does Als call into the question all of the political and social systems which require the border to operate, such as claims to land ownership or restrictions on travel, but also reveals the potential to construct new histories, new politics and new societies. Through a process of reading Als poetic gesture against the politics of the region, an imaginative space opens in which routes to different futures are potentially made apparent. Als drawing of the line does not only draw attention to the historical and material processes that have shaped and transformed it over the decades, but also reminds us that the line can indeed be redrawn (or perhaps even erased) in any number of futurities. Its an understatement to say that the drawing of the Green Line as well as the construction of the walls and checkpoints which were erected on it has had an incredibly detrimental effect on the Arab Palestinians living on the eastern side of the division. A restricted ability to cross the checkpoints, along with the harassment and security procedures that one must undergo to cross while they are open, manifests in constant supply shortages and economic despair for much of Palestine. The humanitarian crisis that has resulted from these strict border controls is similar in ways to apartheid South Africa in their visible structural oppression of populations.23


Uri Davis, Apartheid Israel: Possibilities for the Struggle Within 65

Francis Als traversal and performance of the border makes certain expressions of privilege visible within this system. Als, as a male citizen of Belgium with light skin, is able to traverse the border in Jerusalem without being harassed, detained or arrested by Israeli Defense Forces (I.D.F.). In the video documentation, as he walks nonchalantly through security checkpoints with the dripping green line behind him, the soldiers barely take notice of him. This same performance would have without doubt been impossible for a Palestinian to act out, and comes to be an expression of how movement across such boundaries is selectively policed in order to maintain coded relationships of power. Martha Vanessa Saldivar, a Mexican border theorist, describes her experience of travelling in Israel-Palestine as a woman of color: Inside our blue passports, our names betrayed the brownness of our origins, and presumably our alliances. Thus, we were profiled under the guise of national security, as the Israeli soldier made us get out of the vehicle, take down our carefully arranged luggage, and open each piece so that he could search our belongings. Interestingly, the search was conducted in such a manner as to maximize fastidiousness and inconvenience along with a militaristic flair, without actual inspection. The soldier made a performance of making us open all of our bags and suitcases, briefly penetrating his weapon into each of our bags, leaving us with the cumbersome task of repacking and reloading. What exactly did he pretend to be looking for? Weapons? Bombs? Or perhaps more powerful than that, footage of soldiers or proof of injustices? Regardless, the inspection was

an act conducted on the pretense of some perceived threat created by our lack of legitimacy as Americans. (Martha Vanessa Saldivar, From Mexico to Palestine: An Occupation of Knowledge, a Mestizaje of Methods, pg. 822) Saldivar came to be harassed in the way she did because she failed to pass as an American, largely because of both her Spanish name and dark skin color. Interestingly, the IDF soldier didnt perform an actual inspection that wouldve revealed if anything was indeed hidden, but instead performed a kind of security theater. Saldivar was subjected to a performance with militaristic flair. The soldier performs the border in this way, by generating the spectacular conditions under which travel for the privileged in Israeli society is comfortable and for everyone else it is traumatic. Not only does this performance contribute to the conceptualization of a militarized and as a result secure interior, but also generates the specter of a hostis, or the enemy of the state. Again, whether or not this type of security theatre actually deters attacks on Israel is beside the point. Rather, these performances operate to enable and situate a set of subjectivities in relation to the border and the state. This experience again points to the reading of border as an oratory encounter, an event that is ultimately about articulating and speaking subjects along the lines of power. Its important to remember throughout our reading of the work that our encounter with Als walk is a thoroughly mediated one; we experience his walk through the lens of a camera. Our experience of the walk is the experience of following we are

always a few steps behind Als as we observe him drawing the green line across Jerusalem. We see passerbys non-reactions and we cross through the checkpoints with him through the documentation. If we are again to return to Jackson Pollock, the films of him painting largely impacted the reading of his work. Only in seeing the documentation of his gestural motions and flinging of paint do we come to understand the marks on his canvas. Similarly, we can move to read borders in the same way; only when we see the border being performed, either by Als or the IDF or even by border crossers in their enactment of security procedures do we come to understand their meaning and operation. In short, the power of the border-as-object is deeply entangled with the border-as-speech. The historic Green Line got its name for the literal green line that was drawn on a map to mark the separation between the Israeli state and the rest of Palestine, but in the physical terrain of Israel-Palestine the border is not always so clearly demarcated. In some places there are walls, at others, checkpoints, and still at others, it isnt apparent that there is a division at all. In his painting of the line, Als is performing this boundary (or lack thereof) and makes this relationship visible. The performance itself is banal in form, as it is clear in the documentation that the residents of various neighborhoods as well as security personal dont read his walk as much more than just that: a walk. However, in the space of the gallery the documentation of the performance takes on the shape of an encounter, a provocation.


These processes of recognition and encounter underlie how power is generated in relation to borders. A border relies on a literal experience of recognition for it to parse and articulate the subjects around it in clear and definite ways. Any sort of figurative encounter with a border in a sense works to undermine its capacity to code. Als walk in Green Line invites this kind of figurative reading in its enactment as an arbitrary and banal act in relation to the political and literal operation of the border. This encounter both ruptures the established meaning of the border and while at the same time invites new readings and affirmations. Just like in Biemanns work and Domniguezs work, the audience of the work becomes incredibly important as this is where the political work of the project is being done. Als walk itself isnt the intervention necessarily, just as Biemanns shooting of the video isnt of consideration. Rather, when it becomes placed in a public setting, within the gallery along with the other works, that an art going audience could potentially constitute a collectivity that he imagines. Its important to remember that Spivak, in her writing on teleopoiesis, reminds us that no future collectivity is for certain. Rather, Als performs the border in the hopes to one day seeing a future where the border has passed. Francis Als art practice almost always is centered on the act of walking. In his video work Sometimes Making Something Leads to Nothing (1997), he pushes around a block of ice in Mexico City, Mexico until it completely melts. In Walking a Painting (2002), he walks across Los Angeles, CA with a modernist painting under his arm. In his video work Tornado (2000-10), he runs into the center of spinning tornados. When

trying to read his work within the register of the literal, we are at a complete loss as the symbols and gestures are both arbitrary and absurd. The act of walking within his work is banal, and it is of no surprise that the public fails to recognize his actions as performances while he is enacting them. However, when we read his work figuratively within the contexts and histories within which they are enacted within, waves of meaning come crashing down on the audience. Each of Als performances is situated in such a way as to enable this kind of poetic reading of his work, one in which meaning is generated in our own figurative interpretation and reading of it against he politics within which it is situated within. The subtitle of the work Green Line: Sometimes Doing Something Poetic Can Become Political and Sometimes Doing Something Political Can Become Poetic, offers a potential reading of his work in relation to the border in that it suggests that his performance, through its poetic functions, could constitute a resistance or even a politics unto itself. This relationship between the poetic and the political is suggestive of the potential consciousness that could be generated in an encounter with the work. We can think of Als walk as an attempt to perform the border and provide the opportunity for us to reinscribe it with new meaning in our encounter with it.


Figure 8: Still of Green Line gallery installation, David Zwirner Gallery, 2007

The video documentation of the walk is situated within the gallery space along with several other works. The text Can an artistic intervention truly bring about an unforeseen way of thinking? Can an absurd act provoke a transgression that makes you abandon the standard assumptions on the sources of conflict? Can those kinds of artistic acts bring about the possibility of change? appears painted on one of the installation walls. A map of Israel-Palestine with the Green Line drawn on it is framed and on

another. Lastly, some rifles made of wood and film reels are propped up around the edges of the gallery floor. The toy guns that litter the gallery floor are propped up on their supports, as if aimed and ready to be fired. In the place ammunition in the guns however, we instead find film reels. If Als were to propose a model of change, it would undoubtedly be grounded in the potential of the poetic to transform the political, or the figurative to uproot the literal. In his film-reel-turned-guns, its as if his Green Line documentation has become the poetic ammunition with which the political battle of the division between Israel and Palestine will not be fought, but rather the terms of the political conflict itself will be disrupted as the border becomes unfamiliar and strange. Even the guns which are used to wage the bloody conflict between the two sides are transformed into toys on the ground of the gallery, forcing us to reconsider their significance, proliferation and history. Similarly, the political can manifest as, or even uproot, the poetic. For Als, the distance (and collision) between the poetic and the political is where the possibility of social change opens up. The text painted on the wall of the gallery seems to be an extrapolation of the subtitle of the work, and suggests that Als is interrogating conventional models of poetic action. When interviewed about the opening of the exhibition, Als responded: Can an artistic intervention truly bring about an unforeseen way of thinking, or it is more a matter of creating a sensation of meaninglessness that shows the

absurdity of the situation? Can an artistic intervention translate social tensions into narratives that in turn intervene in the imaginary landscape of a place? Can an absurd act provoke a transgression that makes you abandon the standard assumptions on the sources of conflict? Can those kinds of artistic acts bring about the possibility of change? In any case, how can art remain politically significant without assuming a doctrinal standpoint or aspiring to become social activism? For the moment, I am exploring the following axiom: Sometimes doing something poetic can become political and sometimes doing something political can become poetic (Francis Als, Sometimes Doing Something Poetic Can Become Political And Sometimes Doing Something Political Can Become Poetic) This potential of the poetic to uproot the political which results ultimately in a poeticization of the political, is the process that Als investigates in his work. Gayatri Spivak, when describing how literary criticism has offered readings which at the extremes are either poetic or literal, moves again to assert teleopoiesis as a strategy for generating collectivities: Copying (rather than cutting) and pastingteleopoiesisis part of the general technique of the new comparative literature, and I am grateful to Jacques Derrida for the word, which allows us to suspect that all poiesis may be a species of teleopoiesis, although we might keep the difference intactas the difference between event and task, provisionally, practically. The most important thing, as

far as I can tell, is knowing how to let go. And here fiction, as I suggested in the previous chapter, can be a teacher. If you push literary criticism to its logical end it becomes either absolute creative freedom (slyly supported by some corporate entity, as in the case of the Saatchi brothers in Britain) or maximum verifiability (as in the case of legalistic demonstrate by textual reference (literary criticism). We must learn to let go, remember that it is the singular unverifiability of the literary from which we are attempting to discern collectivities. (Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Death of A Discipline, pg. 34) We find a synchronicity between Als defamiliarizing articulation of the border and Spivaks suggestion that we learn to let go. Certainly each person who comes into contact with the work will have a different politics in relation to the borders, and as a result the stakes will be different for each person. We can imagine on the very basic level how different a Palestinian and an Israeli would encounter the work, for example. Nonetheless, the collectivity imagined in the viewing audience defies these distinctions in as much as they poetically figure a world beyond them. Als performance of the border is profoundly radical in that in his playfulness, he reduces the terms of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to its bare minimum terms: as a line in the sand. In this act, in this copying (rather than cutting) and pasting of the border, do the politics of the conflict become unraveled in their poetic function and we possibly can generate the other futures in relation to the politics and poetics of our current context


Towards an End We seek a world in which there is room for many worlds. (Subcomandante Marcos)

When discursively engaging with the border, it is not enough to simply describe the operations and modalities of its power. Any theoretical project, if it is to be considered seriously, must also look to the many microcosms of resistance, rupture and subversion which are always present. The story of the border territorys power is incomplete without also including the antagonists who always collapse and complicate the normative recognition of such systems. Power is never complete, without cracks in its foundation or sand in its gears. On the contrary, power is always failing, and its our responsibility as critical scholars to shine light through these fissures and faults. In this project Ive attempted to describe both the structural outlines of power in different border territories but also to introduce artists who have challenged these systems via aesthetic and conceptual grounds. As Simon OSullivan r eminds us, to dismantle a moment of recognition and insist instead upon an encounter, we are forced to reconsider the state of things as they are and new affirmations are generated as a result. Ricardo Dominguez, Ursula Biemann and Francis Als all do this on their own terms, each deploying different methodologies but nonetheless providing opportunities for audiences to inhibit and inhabit power. The imagined collectivities of each work differ just as their contexts do, but all of them provide a shared promise of teleopoiesis.

Through a process of attacking the binary structures upon which power is distributed as well as intensifying the contradictions between the states entangling and articulating processes, a potential for resistance unfolds. This is ultimately the power of art which I would like to highlight most: its capacity to defamiliarize the everyday and make the normal strange. This is arts promise of subversive resistance. The border aims to negate the universal and generate the binary. Through its segmentation, division, polarization and duality, the establishment of the border denies all claims of a universal humanism. In a divided plane, meaning and beauty are always oppositional and referential, and necessarily generate a plurality of moralisms. Borders do this in juridical ways, for example where one subject is coded as a citizen while another is not, but also generates a good on this side of the line and a bad on the other. This moral power is predicated on the division of space. The artistic interventions described throughout this project aim to explode these moral territories and subjectivities which borders enable, and instead assert a revolutionary humanistic universality an encounter with ethics beyond borders or nationality. Each work imagines a collectivity that acts against the logic of borders and suggests the possibly of a future community without them. The contact between the poetic and the political is the site which offers the potential of other futures. The artistic practices which Ive chosen to include in my thesis are very much the experiences of encounter against recognition and automatic affirmation. I fully believe it is in arts

capacity to not only change our perspectives, but also to remind us about the latent potential of social change. By way of conclusion, or in defense of my refusal of one, Ive attempted to make your experience with this text its own encounter in formal defiance of resolution and enclosure, and as such having a conclusion seems to be against the structure of the work itself. On this note, I would invite you to string back through the text and explore different avenues and routes in your encounter with it.


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