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The Dividing Line: 
Film and Performance About Border Control and Border Crossing


Castaway souls of Sjælsmark/Denmark (transnational) 
Chen Chieh-jen (Taiwan) 
David Fedele (Australia) 
George Kurian (India / Turkey) 
Welcome to Europe (transnational) 

The Dividing Line: Film and Performance About Border Control and Border Crossing is CAMP’s third exhibition in our 2-year exhibition program Migration Politics. As one European government after another is responding to the biggest refugee and irregular migrant flood ever recorded by tightening border controls and asylum and deportation policies, Europe has become the world’s most dangerous migration route and the Mediterranean sea the world’s most dangerous border crossing, according to IOM (International Organization for Migration). CAMP wants this exhibition to take a deeper look at this situation and provide a lens through which to better understand the complex interplay between human migration and border politics.

The exhibition

The Dividing Line takes its starting point in the rich tradition in contemporary art and film for examining borders as geographic, sociocultural, and symbolic dividing lines. The exhibition presents film, video, and live performance work by 5 transnational artists, filmmakers, and activist groups that bring different insights to the current situation. Most of the contributors have themselves experienced flight or migration. In his video installation Empire’s Borders I (2008-09), artist Chen Chieh-jen (Taiwan) shows how discriminative visa policies of stronger nations are a tool to exclude and govern citizens of weaker nations. Documentary filmmaker David Fedele (Australia), in his film The Land Between (2014), offers an intimate insight into the desperate lives of African migrants living in the mountains of northern Morocco and dreaming of jumping the border fence to Spain for a ‘better life’ in Europe. In his film The Crossing (2015), documentary filmmaker and photojournalist George Kurian (India / Turkey) takes the viewer along the dangerous migration route of a group of Syrian women, men, and children to Europe, and exposes all the territorial as well as sociocultural borders they have to cross. Lastly, in a variety of video and publication material, the transnational network Welcome to Europe documents the disobedient movements of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants along the Balkan route in summer 2015, who enforced their right to freedom of movement and refused to be deterred by border fences and guards.

Parallel to the works in exhibition, Castaway souls of Sjælsmark/Denmark contributes with a performance during the opening night entitled For the Right to Have Rights!, and a series of public work meetings during the exhibition period on how Danish society tackles its ‘undesirables’. Castaway souls of Sjælsmark is a group of rejected asylum seekers from the Danish deportation center Sjælsmark, who have formed a protest movement demanding an end to forced deportations, the closure of asylum camps, a stop to the criminalization of migrants and asylum seekers, and the right to move or to stay.

Chen Chieh-jeh: Empire's Borders (2008-09). Courtesy the artist.

Chen Chieh-jeh: Empire's Borders (2008-09). Courtesy the artist.

Background

The world is currently witnessing an unprecedented wave of mass migration, with nearly 60 million people being displaced from their homes because of war or persecution, and an even higher number migrating from poverty and climate change. In 2015, this wave hit Europe, and more than one million refugees and irregular migrants crossed into Europe, cutting open the continent’s borders and creating division amongst its politicians and populations over how to deal with the influx. Arguing that newcomers will strain welfare systems, threaten security, and undermine the quality of life, most European governments have re-imposed border control and stricter asylum and deportation policies, limiting the number of safe and legal routes to Europe and resulting in thousands of refugees and migrants dying each year while attempting to make unauthorized border crossings.

The Universal Declaration of Human rights states that we all have the right to ‘freedom of movement,’ meaning that we all have the right to move around in a country, to leave it, and to return to it. Simultaneously, international law states that it is the sovereign right of any nation-state to control its borders, regulate immigration, and refuse entry to some. This paradox means that is it legal to cross a border when leaving a territory, but illegal to cross the border into a new country without the necessary authorization or documents required under immigration regulations.

Education & Practical Info

The Dividing Line is accompanied by an extensive opening program featuring a talk by George Kurian about his film The Crossing and a live performance by Castaway souls of Sjælsmark/Denmark. In addition, CAMP offers weekly guided tours on Saturdays from 3–4 pm by a team of guides from  CAMP and the Trampoline House refugee community.

The Dividing Line is curated by CAMP’s directors and is supported by The Danish Arts Council, Knud Højgaards Fond, City of Copenhagen: The Culture and Leisure Committee, Bispebjerg Lokaludvalg, and private donors.