A World Without Borders - BorderXing Guide

Posted by Jonah Brucker-Cohen | Mon Jul 15th 2002 1 a.m.

A World Without Borders
BorderXing Guide

The Euro was supposed to make things easier for Europeans. With one
currency, travel and commerce are simplified and become ubiquitous. Despite
the changeover, questions emerge regarding preserving borders and European
national identities. Does one currency compromise cultural and social
individualism and traditions? If not, why do physical borders still exist
between member states?

In the art world, borders have been a pre-occupation among artists working
in every medium. From early border artists such as the Border Art Workshop
(http://sunsite.wits.ac.za/biennale/catalog/baw.htm) protesting the
Mexico/US border with mixed-media installations to Denmark's web-based
Border Crossing Hitlist (http://www.nicolette.dk/hitlist) that tracks
people's border crossing activities, territorial rights have figured
prominently in artistic expression. Through border art, questions arise as
to how cultural identity transcends physical borders, what psychological
obstacles these barriers represent, and how people respond to these both
personally, socially, and creatively.

On the European side, British techno-artist, Heath Bunting's project,
Borderxing guide (http://irational.org/borderxing), attempts to create a
virtual map and guide of how to cross European borders without papers. "I
have not been [to Europe] that much this year, " admits Bunting, "But I did
notice that I was often unsure which country I was in."

Instead of having the guide online, the project uses the web as a 'guide to
the guide', where the website features a collection of real-world computers
that carry the information. Therefore if you want to learn how to border
hack, you have to log on, find the closest physical host computer, get out
of your chair, and head out. People can volunteer a machine to be a 'host'
of the guide, but the computer must be publicly accessible for all.

By giving a physical location to the information we take for granted as
being online, Bunting has made a digital project that requires movement.
"For the sake of elite power, human movement is restricted and information
and money mobilized, " says Bunting. "This project intends to suggest the
reversal of this whereby humans are encouraged to move and the immaterial is

Ultimately, Bunting's goal is to make land-based borders irrelevant. Even
with the growing ubiquity of the Euro, the physical barriers between
neighboring states remains an obstacle for tourists and citizens. Borderxing
guide is a first step of social protest against the idea that physical
barriers can curtail the spread of culture across distance. If the currency
is the same, why isn't the continent unified? Or why not even create a
hybrid language that combines every accent? That might be a long shot,
but Bunting sees the future of borders as 'information-based borders' where
the only difference between countries is the information made accessible to
us while inside.

-Jonah Brucker-Cohen (jonah@coin-operated.com)
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