UNSTABLE TERRITORY. Borders and identity in contemporary art
11 October 2013–19 January 2014
Centre for Contemporary Culture Strozzina
Artists: Kader Attia, Zanny Begg & Oliver Ressler, Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, Paolo Cirio, Tadashi Kawamata, Sigalit Landau, Richard Mosse, Paulo Nazareth, Jo Ractliffe, The Cool Couple.
Unstable Territory. Borders and identity in contemporary art, curated by Walter Guadagnini and Franziska Nori, showcases work by international artists which will encourage visitors to reconsider the notion of territory in a contemporary world. Whilst the latter is increasingly characterised by the obsolescence of such concepts as the nation state and borders, there is, at the same time, a return to new forms of nationalism and renewed interest in the individual in relation to a specific area or community.
The astonishing development of mobility for both people and goods, the digitisation of communication and knowledge, migration and an increasingly global economy have all radically changed people’s perception of territories, borders and boundaries. In view of the instability of these concepts crucial to the definition of personal identity, two different –though not necessarily conflicting – trends appear to be taking shape: one based on seeking shelter in the safety and proximity of the micro-territory, the region or even the family; the other, as theorised by sociologist Ulrich Beck, involving a new conception of cosmopolitanism in its most democratic and egalitarian sense.
What does it mean when we talk about “territory” today? The term does not simply refer to a geographical or spatial area, it also refers to a concept of social and cultural belonging and extends into the personal, psychological and mental sphere. The works in this exhibition reflect different approaches, lifestyles and ways of perceiving the unstable relationship between identity, territory and borders in an age of great expectations (and illusions) regarding a borderless society, a shared global territory. Photographs, videos and installations spark reflections on the notion of the border as discovery or barrier, on the hybridisation between cosmopolitism and territorial claims, on the figure of the artist himself as traveller, nomad or experimenter teetering on the edge of physical and symbolic territories.
Artists Paulo Nazareth (Brazil, 1977) and Sigalit Landau (Israel, 1969) focus their research on their own body and its relationship with territories, borders and boundaries. The heterogeneous work of Nazareth, a man who has explored many corners of the world at great length and on foot, from Brazil to the United States and as far afield as India, discloses a reflection on his figure as a nomadic artist playing with, and discovering, his multi-ethnic identity through performances, linguistic misunderstandings and ironic encounters with different people and places. Sigalit Landau, on the other hand, has submitted two performances, entitled DeadSee and Barbed Hula, reflecting on the theme of the physical and symbolic boundary and on the juxtaposition between life and death, the achievement and loss of identity. The first performance focuses on the creation of an intriguing spiral comprising her own body and a seemingly endless number of watermelons floating on the Dead Sea, while the second shows her naked body spinning a hula hoop made of barbed wire on a beach in Tel Aviv.
Marked by his own life story played out between Algeria and the Paris suburbs, Kader Attia (France, 1970) explores the contradictions and complexities in the relationship between global East and West, North and South, in a search through installations and works of art that invite reflection on the notion of the re-appropriation of culture and identity. For this exhibition Attia presents a new installation which will engage visitors in tight paths made of fragments of mirrors, sparking reflection on the relationship between external space and identity, physical and psychological territories.
Tadashi Kawamata (Japan, 1953) has produced a site-specific installation deployed in several different areas of Palazzo Strozzi, intensifying his characteristic reflection on the confrontation/interpenetration of different places and different styles of architecture. Resembling birds’ nests but also small, haphazard homes, a number of temporary wooden constructions (so-called Tree Huts) form an “illegal” graft on the Palazzo’s solid and powerful Renaissance structure, creating a strong contrast between transitory materials and permanent structures, between historical architecture and a temporary installation.
Addressing a highly topical theme for Italy, the exhibition presents a video entitled The Right of Passage by Oliver Ressler (Austria, 1970) and Zanny Begg (Australia, 1972) which tackles the issue of citizenship rights and national identity, dwelling on the main legal tool for travel and sojourn: the passport.

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