The second half of the 20th Century was an example of union between nations and the end of borders, a situation encouraged by the development of globalization, the digital revolution and the emergence of new technologies. In the 21st Century, however, we have returned to the past. It is paradoxical that we live in the most digitalized and technological age in our history, yet we are further apart than we have ever been before. You need only open a newspaper to read about nationalist movements, xenophobic leaders, walls being built between countries or immigrants being turned away. As Ferran Montesa (from ‘Le Monde Diplomatique’) stated: “we are still talking about this global village, but the truth is that there are more borders than ever. In the 21st Century, more retaining walls are being built than ever before.” In this hyperconnected world, borders are back, and they are here to stay.
In this context, the first Dual Exhibition of the CreArt Network of Cities will be opened in Room 0 of the Patio Herreriano Museum. Entitled Borders?, it presents works by Bettina Geisselmann and Ana Kovačić that reflect on how borders affect us and our environment from different points of view.
Geisselmann, who was born in Germany and now lives in Valladolid, presents her installation Transitable Horizons. Comprising 28 pieces of glass suspended from the ceiling, this work is an ode to the borders of the current European Union and how they have changed throughout history. Its approach is interesting; each one of the glass pieces has two clearly differentiated elements: on the one hand, the border of a European country at a specific historical moment (outlined with tin solder); on the other hand, there are fainter marks present on the glass itself, which represent even earlier borders within the country.
All of these traces seem to be visual scars that have healed and are now in some way, part of the anatomy of the Europe we know today. If we look at the whole installation from the outside, as a whole, we have the feeling of seeing a global map of the continent without any order in space or time, infused with continuity and union. But if we walk through the pieces, we become travelers who can peer closely at all those past wounds (and see how they affect not only the territory – represented by the glass- but also other visitors walking through the installation, whose silhouettes we can see reflected in each piece). The good thing is that this closeness enables us to realize the symbolic fragility of the borders that divide us: although the installation seems tough and impenetrable as a whole (representing the apparent resistance of Europe), each piece is made of delicate materials that could break and burst into pieces at any moment.
In the same exhibition, the Croat Ana Kovačić meanwhile presents her video Where is home, which compiles testimonies of Croatian emigrants who crossed the border to Germany searching for a better future. The artist’s camera has managed to capture the duality in which many of these emigrants find themselves: they want to adapt to the country they went to without forgetting the culture of the place in which they were born. This leads to a series of evident problems: first, they are confronted by generational differences (the older people find it hard to integrate while the younger ones are already part of the new world); secondly, they suffer social rejection (to the local people they are still foreigners who come from abroad, but to their childhood friends, they are those who left and left them behind). Finally, they have to coexist with their internal conflicts (many are torn between their current desire to improve in a foreign country and the past memories of the land of their birth, to which they long to return).
These generational, social and emotional problems are other types of border that scar people as ineradicably as physical ones. Both of these works finish by engaging in a dialogue of sorts, in order to show visitors how the different existing borders (geographical, social, mental and generational) leave indelible scars on the citizens who inhabit them. Our past and our present, our historical memory and our current experiences all condition the way we interact with the world.