Jack Nicholson and Crossing Border

The work of Javier Tellez, One flew over the void, 2005 takes its title from the classic of Jack Nicholson’s filmography, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

The title of the work refers to the movie and its content respectively, that takes place in a mental hospital with the hospital patients. Just as the characters in the movie, the primary participants of the work are the patients from a mental institution. The border is an institution, a strong one that disciplines as a mental hospital, segregates one and the other as hospital distinguishes the healthy and not.

An addition to this reading, I have found another Jack Nicholson starring film (and Keitel and so on.) In the film “The border”, 1982, Nicholson is a border patrol.

jack_border.JPG    one flew over cuckoos nest.jpg
original posters of the films, The Border, 1982 and One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 1975.


Javier Tellez, One Flew over the Void, 2005

to be continued.




In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus (/ˈnəs/; Latin: Ianus, pronounced [ˈjaː.nus]) is the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways,[1] passages, and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past. It is conventionally thought that the month of January is named for Janus (Ianuarius), but according to ancient Roman farmers’ almanacs Juno was the tutelary deity of the month.


1- Varro apud Augustine De Civitate Dei VII 9 and 3; Servius Aen. I 449; Paulus ex Festus s. v. Chaos p. 45 L

notes on Orientalism, Said

“It is perfectly possible to argue that some distinctive objects are made by the mind, and that these objects, while appearing to exist objectively, have only a fictional reality. A group of people living on a few acres of land will set up boundaries between their land and its immediate surroundings and the territory beyond, which they call “the land of the barbarians.” In other words, this universal practice of designating in one’s mind a familiar space which is “ours” and an unfamiliar space beyond “ours” which is “theirs” is a way of making geographical distinctions that can be entirely arbitrary. I use the word “arbitrary” here because imaginative geography of the “our land-barbarian land” variety does not require that the barbarians acknowledge the distinction. It is enough for “us” to set up these boundaries in our own minds; “they” become “they” accordingly, and both their territory and their mentality are designated as different from “ours.” To a certain extent modern and primitive societies seem thus to derive a sense of their identities negatively. A fifth-century Athenian was very likely to feel himself to be nonbarbarian as much as he positively felt himself to be Athenian. The geographic boundaries accompany the social, ethnic, and cultural ones in expected ways. Yet often the sense in which someone feels himself to be not-foreign is based on a very unrigorous idea of what is “out there,” beyond one’s own territory. All kinds of suppositions, associations, and fictions appear to crowd the unfamiliar space outside one’s own.”

Edward W. Said. “Orientalism”


DAAR, Amina Bech, Lawless Line

Borderspace and Artistic Practice in Palestine Borders

Trans disciplinary artistic practices like BAW/TAF on the US- Mexico Border, exist in other borders as well, as conditions of borders make them sources of creativity, sensuality, and performativity. Out of the dichotomies of traditional methods, DAAR (Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency) in Palestine is an applied research practice and space. According to the definition they put forth for themselves:

DAAR is an architectural studio and art residency programme based in Beit Sahour, Palestine. DAAR’s work combines conceptual speculations and pragmatic spatial interventions, discourse and collective learning. DAAR explores possibilities for the reuse, subversion and profanation of actual structures of domination: from evacuated military bases to the transformation of refugee camps, from uncompleted governmental structures to the remains of destroyed villages.

Spatial practice can take many forms, including of the political intervention. The spatial toolbox that architecture has, when critically put in use, can function as an interventionist and be transformative. In the residency of DAAR 2011, artist/architect Amine Bech based her research on this very specific story of the map of Israel-Palestine, where she discusses the land (that is a buffer zone, because of the width of the ??) that is property of no one and lawless at the same time. The research also underlies the ‘borderline syndrome’ of the area.

DAAR, on the other hand, utilizes the design and architecture to intervene with the idea of camps, and to assuage their living conditions. Throughout its practice, DAAR researches and works on three camps, Dheisheh, Shufat and Fawwar camps, and more borderspaces in addition to the one that delineates the ‘Lawless Line’. In all these borderspaces examples, people are reduced to ‘bare life’, and space and its displaced subjects are deemed extraterritorial.

DAAR/ Amina Bech, Village Battir: The thickness of the line and Red Villa, and The Lawless Line.

The main ideology that Israel-Palestine borderspace reminds us is the idea of the frontier. The difference between the border and the frontier is undoubtedly important (see Prescott 1987). The former has typically been considered a line, whereas the latter has been constructed as an open and expansive space. Also, by some scholars (See Giddens, 2008) the former belongs to the modern nation state, whereas the latter belongs to the old empires. Rather than taking this kind of a difference approach of extension of one (traditional) and preservation of the other, which stabilizes the outer boundaries in both examples, I believe that every border condition turns into a frontier, visible in the examples of US-Mexico and Israel and Palestine. When border functions as a demarcating line, it turns into the ‘frontier’. Like Anzaldua (1998), scholars and creatives talk about being border dwellers, pointing to the original relationship between resistance and frontier. Line not only separates but also generates—the frontier idea emphasizes that the space of a border is based on the performance of the struggle while also being the source of re-generation.

Shibboleth, Doris Salcedo

From an  abstract line to its reality, maps are the one and the most used way to deliver information. Since maps solely would lack the informal and life stories , artistic practices are to used to extend this ‘living’ borderspace(s) by making it visible in another dimension.

A part of the Unilever Series at Tate Modern, Doris Salcedo’s 2007 installation project titled Shibboleth, 167 meter crack along the concrete ground of Turbine Hall. “Shibboleth” refers to difference and genocide, in particular to the Old Testament test used by the Gileadites to identify the defeated Ephraimites. The latter were unable to pronounce the soft “sh” of the word, therefore their otherness were proved and resulted with a massacre. The crack represents “a negative space … the area occupied by those that have been left out of the history of modernity and kept at the margin of high western culture” (Financial Times, 2007). In the accompanying essay to the installation, Eyal Weizman takes the attention to the building of Tate Modern itself.  The year of 1947 was when the building was commissioned as a power station, and the same year marks the independence of India along with the mass immigration that came and changed the UK.

Anderson asserts three ‘power institutions’ that helped to maintain “the way that colonial state imagined its dominion—the nature of human beings it ruled, the geography of its domain, and the legitimacy of its ancestry” (1991: 164). These are the census, the map, and the museum. (ibid.) The census is the categorical enumeration that numbers the citizens, the map is the closed and bounded imagination, and the museum is where the ‘archaeological’, retrospective history is excavated, or created, and shown. Border is an issue that delves in on  all three of these power institutions. Systematic organization of the establishment of the Israeli State in Palestine was administered and constructed with every detail in  accordance with its  historical, geographical, and ethnical distinctions. In Israel, archeology becomes a tool to investigate the so-called down or buried history in order to find the roots and the evidences of existence of the  non-existing state.


Doris Salcedo, Shibboleth, 2007

Therefore the references of Shibboleth, as a crack, a wound, a border, an archaeological investigation starting point, or a protesting artwork in the museum, allow me to open the discussion of the border(s) of Israel- Palestine. According to Weizman, in his exhibition accompanying writing Seismic Archeology (2007), the crack almost afforded an archaeological experience for the visitors, which allow them to look into the foundations of the building and metaphorically into history, also how the Tate’s collection was originally built from sugar industry based in slave labour and colonial exploitation of land. Just like the maps which makes tools and knowledge out of experiences of imperialists and places they ‘discover’, the very exhibition hall is open to discussion by the work installed there. Same is the potentiality of border. Salcedo’s work, as a line and as a border, both for the surface and the layers of history, not only reminds the segregation that was made based on sound of sh, but also the divisions based on territorial belongings and their backgrounds. (Weizman, 2007)


The crack of the work is a marker of what is beneath, not the sand under the pavements, but a wound that exists, inflicted by many violences. Inherent in the artistic practice, showing the dark side of the things, or better yet turning the tools upside down to make them visible, is also an approach to somehow an inherent architectural impulse: Virilio says that architecture (building) comes with its destruction. The artistic methods of creating a negative space that deals with the approach like Salcedo’s crack can be exampled as a border based on the contact zone as defined by Mary Louise Pratt, who basically defines the term as   “ to refer to social spaces where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power, such as colonialism, slavery, …” (1991, 34). Additionally, such an approach is similar to Gordon Matta-Clark’s, who opened huge holes on buildings, challenging the observer  to think on the permanency of the built form and how it is  perceived through and from within.

Although the line is an abstract mark and does not have width in maps—existing only to represent—they still as serve   as representations of some reality. In physical reality, a line has width as well; it defines a space around and on both sides of an architectural organization. The story of the border provides hints about the border line, its representation and the contestation that goes on and around it. The laid-out map after the Israel and Jordan war in 1949 was drawn with pens of different thickness and softness, producing strange places on the map, and this is where  story takes on a few different versions. I will continue to  refer to this foundational story, which keeps its main idea alive—that the unnatural, constructed border created in this historical incident tells the struggle of representing the demarcation and delineation of the real world on a map.

When Benveniste asks the question of “[w]ho owned the width of line?” (2000: 57) he again refers to the story of the borderlines of Israel-Palestine. Based on the difference of the points of the pens that were used to draw, the borderline on 1:20000 scale map represented borders  with widths that were up to 80 meters of space, which belonged to the neither side. The story has a few different versions, which might also suggest that the urge behind the practice of bordering is a wonder, and certainly avers that “[b]order policing is a ritualistic performance.” (Brown, 2011)

Ursula Biemann, Performing Border (1991)


Performing The Border is a video essay made by Ursula Biemann in 1999. Set in the Mexican-US border town Ciudad Juarez, where people cross borders to work in maquiladoras, Bienmann focuses on the construction of border both mentally and spatially, including gender relations, working conditions, and performance. Bienman’s practice of documentation is rather different; instead of archiving or traditional documenting, she structures the moving image and the notions as a video essay. This is an attempt where she was involved in the process as herself. Before the 2010s, the main focus of the artist was on space and mobility. Therefore works of curation, texts, and lectures like  “Geography and the Politics of Mobility” and “The Maghreb Connection” become very important for the scope of this thesis.

In Performing the Border, a car moving in the Mexican desert, heading to Ciudad Juarez, we hear Bertha Jottar’s, the director, comments as follows:

“You need the crossing of bodies for the border to become real, otherwise you just have this discursive construction. There is nothing natural about the border; it’s a highly constructed place that gets reproduced through the crossing of people, because without the crossing there is no border, right? It’s just an imaginary line, a river or it’s just a wall…” (quoted in Biemann,  2001)

She takes the attention away from the performative characteristic of the border; rather than being only discursive, the border itself is an applied/made border with a crossing. This kind of use of notion links the video essay with the human cannonball sculpture, as in both cases transgression of the border turns it into a physical that can be altered.

Adding another level of knowledge to the video, Bieman produces and experiences the border personally by crossing it herself. This coincided process reveals the collective experience by real gestures, departing from her own jests. In addition to the circulation of women bodies, from South to North, the work includes her own body’s circulation. This intervention opens up how the border metaphor is materialized in architecture, structure, and corporate and social regulations that fell on gender.