press release

Borders are very much in the news, with emerging geographic barriers being discussed as political realities by a globally interconnected world. Outposts: Global borders and national boundaries considers these ideas in an exhibition that features work by Irish and international artists who creatively explore the dividing lines that distinguish territories. From Mexico to the Middle East, Ireland and the European Union, the works challenge our perceptions of national identity while addressing the conflicts that often arise over these disputed boundaries.

The establishment of national boundaries are often the product of past conflicts or political disputes. This also leads to their contestation by certain parts of the population, who might see such definitions as arbitrary or unrepresentative. Katharina Cibulka re-purposes wooden roofing shingles from South Tyrol, an Alpine region of Italy which maintains a vocal separatist movement, to create a fence-like barrier that cuts across the gallery floors. Hrair Sarkissian’s photographic series Front Line depicts the self-proclaimed independent Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, situated between Armenia and Azerbaijan, through quiet, unpopulated images of sedate landscapes, bullet-ridden buildings and rusting machinery. Dragana Jurisic’s extensive photographic project YU: The Lost Country documents the artist’s return to her native Yugoslavia, a nation since dismantled and reshaped into different enclaves of overlapping ethnic and cultural affinities.

This shifting of national borders is not only caused by conflict: it can be the project of deliberate national and international policies. In Larissa Sansour’s film Land Confiscation Order 06/24/T, the artist reveals how Israeli occupying forces have systematically seized territory in Palestine, using discriminatory legal rulings to redraw historic borders. Dara McGrath’s photographs show sites along national boundaries of the European Union, with glimpses of signs and roadways acknowledging a gradual erasure of "hard" borders. In Bouchra Khalili’s film The Seaman, a Filipino narrator speaks of his experiences as a migrant, accompanied by footage of ports, harbours, shipping containers, looming cranes. The remaking of landscapes as extraterritorial freeports and "special economic zones" finds an absurd yet poetic corollary in Jun Yang’s Phantom Island, which follows the artist’s installation of a bright green, artificial island in the waters off Taiwan.

The border between Mexico and the USA is the subject of international scrutiny, as elected politicians demand increased security and renegotiated trade agreements. In Javier Tellez’ film, it is a site of festive celebrations, culminating in a "human cannonball," complete with passport, being fired into the United States. Brian Maguire’s paintings depict women who have disappeared or been murdered in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juárez, alongside textual descriptions of the circumstances surrounding their deaths. This femicide, of mothers and daughters victimised by brutal and ongoing violence in the region, finds a counterpart in Teresa Margolles’ works. She considers the situation in Ciudad Juárez through photographs of transgender sex workers who are seen standing proudly amidst the ruins of demolished nightclubs.

The exhibition opens with Willie Doherty’s Border Incident, a 1994 photograph of a burnt-out car against a landscape of green Irish fields. The picture was taken on the outskirts of Derry, Northern Ireland, where the artist lives and works. Balancing this specific border image within the wider context of Irish history, Doherty’s photographic series Loose Ends bring together sites from Donegal and Dublin that were formative in the constitution of the Irish republic. The images combine lush beauty and piercing detail, reminding us of the ways in which the land both resists and retains the man-made markings of border lines.

Artists: Katharina Cibulka, Willie Doherty, Dragana Jurisic, Bouchra Khalili, Brian Maguire, Teresa Margolles, Dara McGrath, Larissa Sansour, Hrair Sarkissian, Javier Téllez, Jun Yang

Curated by Chris Clarke and Fiona Kearney, in association with Professor Nuala Finnegan, Head of Department, Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies, UCC