The virus has made a mockery of national borders, while simultaneously reinforcing them. It has circulated freely from country to country, even as governments have closed their borders to the circulation of people, leaving many migrants, travelers, and expats stranded in a terrifying limbo. Covid-19 fortifies not only the borders between countries, but also the borders within them—the borders dividing rich from poor, old from young, sick from well. The texts below from the e-flux journal archive ruminate on the violence and contradictions of borders—the metaphorical kind, and the all-too-concrete. At the same time, they hold out hope for a kind of borderless cosmopolitanism—one where culture, ideas, and bodies flow freely and without fear.

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8 Essays

Two imaginaries of space have played a crucial role in the emergence of liberalism and its diasporic imperial and colonial forms, and have grounded its disavowal of its own ongoing violence. On the one hand is the horizon and on the other is the frontier. These two spatial imaginaries have provided the conditions in which liberalism—in both its emergent form and its contemporary late form—has dodged accusations that its truth is best understood from a long history and ongoing set of violent extractions, abandonments, and erasures of other forms of existence, and have enabled liberalism to deny what it must eventually accept as its own violence.

Chapter 1: The National Museum This is a file published in 2012 by WikiLeaks. It forms part of WikiLeaks’s Syria files database. 1 The file is called “316787_Vision Presentation—Oct 30 2010 Eng.pptx,” in PowerPoint format, dated October 2010. 2 It details Syrian First Lady Asma al-Assad’s plans for the future of Syria’s museums. Her foundation aims to establish a network of museums to promote Syria’s economic and social development and strengthen national identity and cultural pride….
Ultranationalism and the “Deep State” There doesn’t seem to be a worse moment than the present to defend the project of stateless internationalism. The recent European elections of May 2014 showed the growing influence of ultranationalist parties on the political establishment; in terms of representation in the European Parliament, ultranationalist parties became the largest parties in France (National Front), Denmark (Danish People’s Party), and the United Kingdom (United Kingdom…

In 2004, artist Abdel Karim Khalil organized an exhibition in a small Baghdad neighborhood. It was a group exhibition of artists from the area who felt the need to position themselves against what was occurring in the city. Khalil’s sculptural installation A Man from Abu Ghraib (2004) is a set of realistic marble figures depicting torture: a visual documentation of a historical moment that disrupted and destroyed a society and a people and initiated a new wave of exiles and refugees. It is one of the rare examples of artistic practice that manages to directly confront eso- and exo-violence, in both its slow and fast forms. The work unearths the violence imposed by the Iraqis and the Americans equally in instantaneous bursts of fast violence during the Gulf Wars, but also throughout the interim periods, during the rise of ISIS and through today.

1. Facing History: Modernity as Prefix It is a hallmark of postcolonial theory to question selective, self-flattering accounts of European modernity. Postcolonial theorists from both Europe and the rest of the world have illustrated how ideals of emancipation, equality, freedom, and scientific and industrial development were only possible through their opposites: colonial exploitation, inequality, slavery, torture, and suffering in the Global South. 1 That’s why, during the 1990s,…
Continued from “Captives of the Cloud, Part II” A Massive, Expanding Surveillance State With Unlimited Power And No Accountability Will Secure Our Freedom by Hans Christian Andersen. — 1 Violence arms itself with the inventions of Art and Science in order to contend against violence. —Carl von Clausewitz 2 Infrastructure is the technology that determines whether we live or die. Your infrastructure will kill you—if it fails, you fail….
The Problem and the Provocation We would like to begin by taking a sentence from the formulation of the problem that set the ball rolling for this lecture series. In speaking of the “hesitation in developing any kind of comprehensive strategy” for understanding precisely what it is that we call contemporary art today (in the wake of the last twenty years of contemporary art activity), the introduction to the series speaks of its having “assumed a fully mature form—and yet it still…
Each day a required task remains undone And the mind can’t know what isn’t finished So, the soul continues to feel alone Unable to picture its own wishes The eyes glaze over news from Washington Vacations collect painted shells on sills Getting out of bed demands volition pills I have nothing to make, no gallery Yet I persist in calling myself art Not the maker but the thing itself. Fear Of the unstructured and unopposed—life An interminable…

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