2005-6 outpost transcript
transcript of audio for installation
speaking is Angelica Nuzzo
Two in-wall speakers located in the far corner of an adjacent room. A woman’s voice projects as if in a large hall; a helicopter can be intermittently heard off in the distance.
The border is not a natural situation, it is really a violent political way of controlling where people go; and forcing where people go. And it is something that we cannot control.
The experience of border crossing is really a physical experience, being allowed to take that step and cross that line. And it is an experience where the mind is of no help.
It is the body that has to pass. And there is this whole virtual apparatus in the computer; and your whole existence reduced on a screen that the officer sees and you have no means to see because there is that black screen. And then there is the body. One is the whole record they have in front of them and you are wondering what is that record about, but then is your physical presence that is reduced to that fear; and let me just take this step and pass that line. Just let me go.
Well, there are little details that change; there are the rules that apparently change all of the time. But it is always the same feeling, always the same feeling of being completely powerless. And the fact that it’s a violation of your privacy, of your identity. And that is something repeated, I think it is the same for everybody, in which you have to hide your emotional situation…does not play any role officially in that act of crossing the border is something that can’t appear on the outside, on your face and in your gestures. That is something that for me is a terrible thing. I think the result is that aggressiveness that I feel from the officers or from the immigration people then is something that I project and comes out of me, so I become aggressive. So you really understand that mechanism of the act of violence that may appear is a sort of self-defense.
The other thing is…well, you could say, “Why do I really want to cross? What if I get rejected? Why do I really have to go thru? And the fact is the sort of double existence, it’s a life split in two. So you have…you need to have the other part. That is the sort of blackmail that immigration or that border uses…that people have to because of family, because of their work, because of resources; you have to cross that border. It’s really a matter of surviving: physically, materially or emotionally.
And the fact is that when I am standing in front of the officer, you are looking at the camera, you are looking at the person who is asking you the questions and I think I can fake my thoughts. I think my eyes don’t convey what I really think or feel, you know, all of the hate or emotions or fear or hopes. And you are also wondering is this how they see if you are a criminal or not? or a terrorist?
There is a suspect and the fear that they are not just getting a physical…that they are intruding and getting close…but I think I always have the sense I can trick them. I can think of something different…I can be… I think the idea that behind that barrier of the eye there is your mind that is a totally private, inaccessible sphere…that thought is stronger that the fact that they could penetrate that.
Does the answer, the way in which you formulate your thoughts, correspond to the image of your eye? You can think that your eye conveys the emotions that you have but is that what they want? What is iexactly that they are…what kind of identity is going to be construed in their black monitor down on the other side.
I think that I am still in control…or maybe that is only a fantasy,…but I feel that I am in control and fear shuts down. I was thinking that I want to give an image of a totally blank eye. And maybe you do so by just thinking bad thoughts in the moment in which they take the photo. I think there is still an idea that you can exercise a control and push that intrusion away…because that’s the most…I mean that is the only center that you have, that’s you, that’s your mind.
But the eye is a very strange mechanism because I do not know what the other person thinks and yet by looking into the eyes I am already trying to capture something. That is the most expressive part. So I am thinking that through the eye somehow I can capture a thought. But then if you are staring into someone else’s eyes it is a sort of contact, it is not like staring into to a camera. I think that what happened is a of replacement of the officer with a sort of instrument that you cannot decipher and the instrument instead is capturing something. So it is no longer an equal battle. I knew how to engage the officers eyes but I do not know how to deal with that camera.
There are these philosophical theories according to which to look another person in the eye is to…that’s a sort of moral obligation. Your idea of a responsibility towards the other person, the idea that you can harm another person and you should not do it comes from establishing that contact that the eye is an extremely individual contact with another person. But obviously the whole mechanization of it is like taking away that whole idea. I mean there is no contact that you are establishing.
So you feel that you are crossing the border and getting in at the expense of having left something behind; you don’t even know what exactly.
It is a privileged situation to be able to have a plan. Because it implies that you are at peace with a lot of little details…that those details don’t really disrupt your life.
But the initial experience of displacement is an experience in which all of those details are all you have to worry about.
So it’s not just being nomadic and changing place but somehow being forced to do so according to rules that…who knows what they are.
I think the intellectual reaction is to create a different system of orientation that creates a sort of freedom that counteracts that constraint of the external borders. So it is a way of organizing a world that makes sense, maybe a private intellectual world but has a dimension that is also not so private, but is an alternative. So, you can live in the labyrinth only if you know how to find a way out, or you have the hope of building a path to a way out. And maybe that is a path that only you know, and certainly you are not going to disclose to the border officer, but…is a sort of alternative.
There is a maybe unconscious desire of being uprooted that is also the searching for something that is different and there is a hope of finding that something somewhere else.
So the territory is a sort of extension, almost, of out bodies, what defines us. And it is an issue of boundaries and what happens when you step outside those boundaries. You are constantly forced to compromise. Compromise. Adjust. Assimilate. So it’s really a matter of constant redefinition.
Your territory should be defined internally by it’s own value not by the fact that you constantly need to assert those borders against something that is threatening it from the outside. So if you are too much concerned about defending that territory, defending those borders, it means you have lost already.
If you are talking about what the value of a human life is are you measuring it in relation to something, to some parameters, to some already given box? Are you situating that life somewhere in relation to some values. Can you consider that absolutely in and for itself, as such, without stripping it of belonging to a certain compartment, to a certain territory, to a certain nationality, to a certain…you know what I am talking about?
The outpost is something that does not merge, is keeping very strongly its own identity. And to keep that identity in the most advanced, or risky, usurping situation. You want to prove something; you want to prove that you can withstand influence—assimilation. And yet you have to…you end up having to…give up.
The outpost is a position that does not want to pass…that refuses to pass. Refuses to merge. Refuses to have the experience of that crossing. And yet wants to put itself within someone else’s territory without having that experience of crossing; having this idea of privilege, “ I can just implant myself here, be within your territory, but I don’t have to cross the border because I am the one who decides where the border is.” So the outpost is…is the rigid position that does not want to go through the experience of crossing the border…but the whole issue, I think, is that that’s impossible; it’s going to have that experience, even if it doesn’t want it.
You can’t be impenetrable, once you are out there influences are both ways. It doesn’t matter how thought out and rigid and strong your plan is, it puts you in a particular point of vulnerability, even if you do not want to acknowledge that.
You are usurping a territory that is not yours. And that in itself puts you in a position in which you really don’t know what you have to confront. You can have the most sophisticated plan, you can have a plan that is completely electronically commanded from your own territory but it’s not going to work.
Is that putting yourself out there in a moral position? Or does it require that you are oblivious of the moral implications of what you are doing?
Having to face more and more material obstacles you can’t deny that the plan has to be modified. You can be as stubborn as you want but the more you insist the more you have to acknowledge that you have to compromise. Or you have to take a step backwards. Or you have to change those boundaries. You have to modify the territory that you are occupying.
I think there must be a will to attract, that’s what power is ultimately. Everybody is watching you. You can’t be inconspicuous. You put yourself in a position. You can’t be innocent and say well I am just out there and now it happens that everybody is watching me.
But what others are watching ends up being how your plan develops. What is registered is never your original plan; it’s just how your plan confronts the circumstances. So it is not always a good thing to be watched by everybody. What is it that everybody registers and sees, of me outpost out there. Eh? That is what it means to be at the center of the attention but also being particularly vulnerable. I mean there are two faces to this mission. Do I really want that everybody sees what is happening?
So what is the logic or the general framework in which that territory is constructed? You are subjected to a certain procedure…to a certain control without really being given an explanation of the why. So that territory functions, theoretically, only because it is completely cut off from any kind of causal explanation. And it’s also cut off from any kind of other geography. It is like a place nowhere, really. And that has a correspondence, has a sort of exactly parallel logic in what the construction of a monument is—that focalizes the attention and the memory on a certain event, without giving an explanation of why that event became a monument. So there is a correspondence between the construction of a territory that is outside of any real geography and the construction of a monument in which any sort of historical relation to historical events, to a past and to a series of causes and effect, is completely deleted.
The isolation is not just for an aesthetic purity, it is a whole political intention. The isolation is meant to make people…instead of remember…to make people forget. So it’s meant apparently has the sound of being the monument in remembrance of something and is actually meant to have people forget something else, so that they can behave in a certain way, so that certain actions that follow can be justified—have their reason in that monument. And the same thing happens with that territorial island that is completely disconnected from the reality. The more that territorial island is disconnected the more you can justify things done for the sake of defending that territory. So it’s a sort of opposite logic—you think that the monument is there in remembrance or for remembering or for memory. And the more you fixate yourself on the memory and the less authentic and real the event that you are remembering is. But all that has I think a sort of instrumental function in order to justify something else.
It is a sort of fiction. And to be in a realm of fiction is very convenient when you want to skip the process of confronting reality. So I think that specific territory we are talking about is a territory from the outset construed as a fictitious entity. And to me that really is a parallel to the erasing of the historical connection.
And so there is something perverse about the idea of the monument is there in order for you to remember, in order for you to become conscious of history, and instead it really has the opposite function. It is something that makes you forget where this event came from and makes you oblivious of the fact that there is a reality around. And what you have to be conscious of is rather that reality.