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Walking the line – Art of border zones in times of crisis



Section I         Partitions: Controls and Dislocations

The first theme explores the particular challenge that partitions of countries pose to artistic creation in post-War and contemporary times. The key question is how artists respond to the violent (re-)drawing of national borders and the complex identities and social  divisions produced by border zones. Creatively embracing aspects of the dis-location and/or re-location caused by such divisive borders is one of the attempted strategies for overcoming the imminent as well as lingering effects of militarized and policed states of partition. Artists have also directed critical treatment towards the visual representations of official border-related ideologies and non-official discursive and social formations. This section will consider broader historical surveys of representational regimes and more specific case studies of individual practitioners and their artistic efforts to affirm, undermine or overcome the manifold separations. While a modern world map reveals the patchwork of nation states with discrete political and geographical borders – and interests – we instead mine the possibilities of re-imagining identity, fraternity and community as defined other than by boundaries. Discussing artworks and art practices from a variety of (national) partitions that occur(ed) in different parts of the world, we will also explore the ways in which border crises are perceived differently from locale to locale and relate to diverging historical contexts.  


Section II        Open up – close down: Art and Civil Society

Recent incidents of censorship and protest with respect to art production, ranging from gallery-art to public art activities, or other creative interventions across the globe call for a re-evaluation of assumptions about the contemporary social role of art as political action and the artists’ importance in times of dramatic change. In such spaces and times of crises, artistic engagements play important roles as they not only document and represent, but also mediate and explore the positions/ experiences of social agents, and the varied socio-political issues in diverse contexts. Very often, these engagements emerge in moments of remarkable tensions and contestations – around governance, civic responsibility and participation, as well as political restriction or censorship. We therefore examine how artworks are located within and impact on border zones, opening and closing domains of debate (for instance around civil rights, responsibility or ownership) by navigating the diverse routes of access and intervention, distribution and disruption. Such ‘provocative’ art could sometimes be read as morally offensive and insensitive to particular public sentiments, or even as alarming acts of political subversion, turning them into subjects of censorship. In this section, the role of art in times of crises, and how it opens up spaces for concerns of civil societies to be made public will be investigated. We will also look into how spaces may be closed down to prevent public reaction or the ‘viral’ circulation of ‘moral panic’. Main questions for our discussion are: How are artistic expressions negotiated in localities with different politics of censure? Do social media and digital technologies open up new spaces on a global scale for formulating rights to expression and for extreme views to be heard, subverting local censorship? How do various spaces and localities relate to each other and create new synergies or ruptures in this context?



Section III       Memory and the Re-Turns of Trauma

The third part of the summer school examines art practices and visual cultures that relate to traumatic events and their effects on the social memories of various border zones. The key question is if and how trauma plays out in art and other visual cultures from the twin perspectives of theory and practice. While we will consider a broad range of traumatic experiences caused for example by the acute violence of a war, by physical wounding, or by the long term suffering of (generations of) separated or exiled peoples, we will also engage with the psychological aspects of such experiences. These particularly challenge visual representation and artistic practices and methodologies since they result from an inner wound or after-shock which, not integrated in the symbolic order, essentially defies any direct representation and return as uncontrollable flashbacks. In contrast to regular memories, these ‘re-turns’ take the form of the real and the now, disrupting the everyday with the foreign and uncanny. We will ask with reference to specific cases how the concept of trauma can help to methodologically explore, compare events and experiences that were/are difficult to integrate into personal and collective orders of memory, or even forbidden from retelling by incumbent powers and interests. We will investigate how artists find ways to represent the unspeakable and address painful pasts and disturbing presents, as well as how contemporary online media could coalesce widely distributed publics, often revealing personal, social, collective and public remembering as a multi-layered, dynamic, and conflicting process.