13 August, 2018
Just three decades ago when current globalisation continuously pulled down the walls of regulation and made all boundaries porous, the answer to this question was clearly and definitely that the future is of a borderless world. Today, the world seems to be going in the opposite direction and borders are coming back. The issues of refugees, migrant workers, transnational corporations, environmental disasters, national and ethnic identities, and so on, bring attention to borders of various forms, which bears on justice, human and nonhuman rights, democracy, and politics per se. The future of borders has come to the centre-stage of our present.
Insofar as contemporary art is related to this process, it is the proliferation of biennials and their spread to different corners, often marginal regions, of the world, making themselves part of a large platform on which not only art from the periphery can be seen but issues of global and local concerns can be shared, discussed, and debated. It was under these circumstances that Autostrada Biennale was created. And at the hinge of its time, its first edition focused on various border problems.
The exhibition, along with its discursive and pedagogic events, looked at: How nation-states and their system function to politicise (or depoliticise) cultural identities, to territorialize natural, cultural, and economic zones under capitalist competition and profit generating. How local and regional resistances cope with geopolitical strategies of the state system. And how the citizen movement use different means, artistic and otherwise, to tackle border problems, to construct local identities and cross-border coalition.
In modernity, the city has developed along the culture-nature dividing line, establishing borders between urban and rural areas, between human and non-human environments. The city is rich in gender borders, ethnic borders, borders between the youth and the elderly, between outsiders and locals, between human and other species. While most of these borders in the city are invisible, overlapping and interconnected, their functioning constitutes the kernel of contemporary urban life. Artists, urbanists, activists and educators, were invited to reflect on these borders, particularly those in the city of Prizren which resulted in site-specific interventions, public works, and workshops on urban design and activism.
The first edition of Autostrada Biennale used Prizren’s opulent historic sites in accordance with the themes and forms developed in the artworks. The Bus Station and its vicinity focused on issues of mobility, migration, national and ethnic borders. Spread out in the city center were works related to city life, its history and cultural diversity.
Across the Lumbardhi River in the Marash area, on the hillsides, and in the Castle were found works related to ruins, human-natural environments, and the time-space beyond human borders. While the diverse positions of the artists could hardly be confined to simple spatial deployment in the city, they were there to also help redefine Prizren’s topography through their interaction with the visitors.