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B Zone: on the Margins of Europe

The project features a multidisciplinary collaboration including installations, videos and essays focusing on: the transformation of social, political and intimate geographies that are sweeping from the Balkans to Turkey and the Caucasus; the creation of transit zones and infrastructure, sometimes aerial, sometimes underground, often invisible – satellites, oil and gas pipelines – which change spaces and societies in their wake.

B-Zone: on the Margins of Europe is a new phase in the visual and textual research project begun in 2003 by Ursula Biemann, Angela Melitopoulos and Lisa Parks entitled Transcultural Geographies. It focuses on a specific territorial area stretching from the Balkans to Turkey and the Caucasus, a B-zone, as the authors call it, on the edges of the European Union, a space of transit, transition and experimentation for the A-zone, the united Europe.

Each of the projects presented in this exhibition follows the visual and hidden progress and history of the construction of transnational communications infrastructures and their impact on the multiple human geographies through which they pass. Black Sea Files by Ursula Biemann is a critical research project supported by images and texts organised into ten video archives on the construction of the BTC (Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan) oil pipeline. The video essay Contained Mobility, by the same author, goes beyond this framework and presents a metaphorical space with numerous questions found in this project, such as the various intimate geographies crossed by transnational structures that are an expression of power and control, in this case international legislation on immigration that creates a congestion of uprooted peoples at the coast or on the edges of any system. Timescapes is a co-operative venture that brings together, in a 25-hour bank of images, various materials regarding the shared geographical space of the authors, who are from Turkey, Serbia, Germany and Greece. Noteworthy works in this project include Corridor X by Angela Melitopoulos, which reflects on the areas of migration in a particular territory, the former Yugoslavia, in relation to the socialist project to develop infrastructure; Behind the Mountain, by Oktay Ince and Raw Footage: T[here] I [t]Here by the group of activists VideA, which focus on forced migration and political pressure exerted on local minorities in Turkey. Lisa Parks’ Postwar Footprints is a visual and textual essay, found in the publication accompanying this exhibition, on ‘footprints’, understood as territorial areas where satellite signals can be received but that are also zones marked by a multitude of human histories, which, in the case of Yugoslavia, take on greater tension as they reveal the networks of socio-political control in places ravaged by war, territories in part devastated by the very people now trying to impose their rule from above.

These works emphasise the need to think in a different, more complex and nuanced manner about the conflicts subjected upon the liminal spaces of the great regions of the world – vast geographical areas in which the links between social, economic, cultural, and historical components are especially strong and homogenous, and whose potential for civilisation, and barbarism, is all the greater. This B-zone, in which the works of Biemann, Melitopoulos and Parks are set, is a remarkable area of experimentation situated at the intersection between three large world regions – Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States (the community of countries once members of the Soviet Union) and the Arab-Islamic World – a fragmented area that has undergone extraordinary mutations, the setting for wars and ethnic and religious strife, and one of the most important corridors of raw materials and workers migrating to an expanding Europe.

Tipografías políticas. Ensayos visuales en los márgenes de Europa / Political typographies. Visual Essays on the Margins of Europe, the title of the publication accompanying this exhibition, is a possible conclusion to the research begun in B-Zone: Becoming Europe and Beyond (title of the exhibition held at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin) and constitutes an expansion of its results in a number of directions. In the case of Ursula Biemann, it is in other visual research such as the video essay Contained Mobility. It takes the form of new analyses and conceptual revisions in the case of Angela Melitopoulos, who explores the need for a new regime for images, such as visual memory and the fundamental nexus in narratives on migration. For Lisa Parks it is the enlargement of her research – through the theoretical framework defined by the study of satellite communication systems and their influence on the so-called ‘structures of sentiment’ – in the postwar Balkans, research that she is now extending to societies such as Turkey and Mongolia. These are in turn gateway societies, new B-zones situated on the margins of the great centres of influence, where the superstructures of power cohabit and create points of friction with the microstructures constructed by thousands of human histories.

Nuria Enguita Mayo