Utopia: Final Project

 

 

Some pages from my final project art zine, as requested…

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And here is some blah blah blah about the symbolism and such: 

There was a wall. It did not look important. It was built of uncut rocks roughly mortared. An adult could look right over it, and even a child could climb it. Where it crossed the roadway, instead of having a gate it degenerated into mere geometry, a line, an idea of boundary. But the idea was real. It was important. For seven generations there had been nothing in the world more important than that wall. Like all walls it was ambiguous, two-faced. What was inside it and what was outside it depended upon which side of it you were on.”                                                               -Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia

                According toHarsha Walia (2013), The United States, India and Israel alone have built over 3500 miles of walls on their borders “under the guise of fighting ‘illegal immigration’ and ‘terrorism’” (p.30). There is so much tied up in this figure, so many sorely needed resources, such violence, such fear. As Le Guin writes, it is the idea that built those 3500 miles that is important. It is the idea that is perhaps more real, more important than the concrete and the barbed wire. The preceding quote from The Dispossessed was an important jumping off point for this project in thinking about how walls are inherited as ideas before they become physical structures and how such borders are always differently permeable, depending on which side of the wall one comes from.

               While walls are the major theme of the work, the choice of white lilies as a recurring motif is also significant. White lilies, traditionally used as a symbol of purity throughout art history, are also the symbol of racist groups such as the Lily-white Movement in the southern United States. The constant rhetoric around ‘illegal’ immigration is invariably one of maintaining a national or racial purity and racism continues to serve as a justification for wars and state building activities abroad which push thousands from their homes and into perilous waters.

               The boat imagery in the book are all images of real boats used by refugees attempting one of the most dangerous forms of ‘illegal’ immigration. The Red Cross conservatively estimates that “fifteen hundred migrants died trying to reach the Canary Islands in just a five-month period in 2005” (Walia, 2013, p. 33) and the voyage to Australia or other parts of Europe via the Mediterranean is similarly treacherous. The three wooden boats are images taken by photographer Heiko Schafer of vessels used by African refugees trying to enter the European Union (Jobson, 2011); echoing the form of the three ‘lily white guardians’, they stand like coffins on the waves. In keeping with Walia’s (2013) attempt to disrupt “the myth of Western benevolence towards migrants” (p.16), the text that accompanies the refugee’s ghost-boats on the preceding page is a critical rewriting of three lines of Emma Lazarus’ famous sonnet ‘The New Colossus’, which is inscribed in bronze on the Statue of Liberty in New York.

                The deer in the book reference the real case of the deer of Sumava National Park, site of the former Czechoslovakian border, where 500 people were killed along the iron curtain. Deer who never encountered the electrified fences and barbed wire still keep to their side of the borderline.