Mural on The Berlin Wall
International borders are abstract concepts, little more than lines on maps that we imagine upon the earth. Existing outside of the real world of rivers, mountains, or deserts, political boundaries have no bearing on ecosystems. ~Art against the Wall by Scott Nicol.
In the last decade, border controls have tightened so much that frequently artists are denied entry into countries. Take, for example, the denial of 5 Iraqi artists into Britain last April, who were part of a prestigious art show in Manchester, and the two artists that were refused visas into Scotland in 2009.
It’s not just a security issue however. The strict border laws are also motivated by economics. Last summer, Asheville performer Claire Elizabeth Barratt was denied entry into Canada – a country she has visited several times in the past – because of a discrepancy concerning her teaching a workshop. The border patrol didn’t like the idea of Barratt receiving payment in Canada so they denied her entry.
This is a real tragedy because artists and intellects are being denied collaborative opportunities and the exchange of information. While information transmitted via Internet has never been greater, vital face-to-face collaborations are being threatened. And it’s not just amongst visual artists: musicians, writers, Nobel Prize Laureates, dancers, athletes and intellectuals all face a growing epidemic of tightened border controls.
My wish for the new year is that the collective consciousness will actively reject ideas of borders and hierarchies of power. As artists we will take on more collaborative projects that harbor cooperation and creatively challenge cultural notions of "us" versus 'them."