“I speak to maps. And sometimes they say something back to me. This is not as strange as it sounds, nor is it an unheard of thing. Before maps the world was limitless. It was maps that gave it shape and made it seem like territory, like something that could be possessed, not just laid waste and plundered. Maps made places on the edges of the imagination seem graspable and placable.”
Abdulrazak Gurnah, By the Sea
The summer exhibition at Kalmar konstmuseum takes borders and boundaries as its starting point, as well as the new and other types of maps, networks, context, and identities that can arise in a society in our times of migration and refugeeship. Artists have always challenged the ideas about identity and belonging, and can give us new perspectives on issues of place and mobility.
Borders and border controls are part of everyday life in Europe today. Not long ago one border used to be the Baltic Sea. Today the Mediterranean Sea is where the new EU strengthens its external border controls, and the internal European borders are being monitored again. The freedom to move across the world applies to some, but not to others. Wanderers and migrants have crossed territories since ancient times and people travelled long distances already during the Bronze Age.
War has also meant large population movements. It is only a hundred years ago since Europe experienced very hard battles on the Western Front and the World Wars redrew the maps. Maps have been used in warfare, as aids to the combatants, and to tell about your conquests. When we look back in history we see that borders have moved and the births and disappearances of nations. Both the Kalmar Union and the European Union projects demonstrates a desire for peaceful relations between countries in partnerships, but also on the drivers for a strong defence outward towards the other.
We live in a world of visible and invisible borders that are in constant motion. Migration is a global condition, while human rights are being eliminated in many places. In the worlds of art you can relocate as you want without any passport or visa.
Professor of Sociology Saskia Sassen describes how the idea of the migrant has changed. If it used to be about a wilful person who consciously sought a better life and leaving a home behind, but always had a home to return to, today’s migrants often have no place to go back to. Sassen calls it a massive loss of habitat. The migrants have no choice and they are just searching for the bare essentials of life.
The artists in the exhibition can symbolically be said to describe the geography in the same way like the indigenous peoples of Australia did. They sang the names of all who crossed their path and thus the world came into being. The exhibition does not work with territories or conventional maps as a representation of the world, but with personal wanderings for a new atlas.
Torun Ekstrand, February 2016