Borderlands Conversations

Hospitality in the Margins
Borderlands Conversations is a trans-local gathering ritual and practice that centralizes the radical inhospitableness of our milieu and gestures towards the exiled Other. How do we meet the inhospitable? How do we touch ourselves in our discomfort, in the tangibility of hopelessness? How do we meet without dismissing our cynicism, and instead making it our holy ground? In a time when the usual dialogues seem to reinforce our contemporary addictions to solutions, to feel-good answers, we are creating this format to invite people into strange assemblages that disturb the idea that the Other was ever estranged and distant. Read more about Borderlands Conversations below.

The Story of Borderlands Conversations

Lost.


The insistence on clearly defined boundaries—from the abstract delineations of identity to the very real walls and barbed wire of political borders—is perhaps the most defining aesthetic of modernity. Rationality itself, the driving gaze of our age, summons the image of the partitioned number, the whole neatly divided into its polarized parts. Everything must be accounted for in the ledger of the known and knowable: in a time where all landscapes and mindscapes have hard lines, it is sacrilege to be lost. The hard edge of the border wages preemptive war on the encroaching chaos of wild spaces, safeguarding the puritanical humanity of civilization. In the rush to make our humanity impermeable, however, something has been lost: the capacity to be lost.

Strangely enough, it is this capacity to be lost which mediates our ability to encounter otherness. Without it, the other becomes an inaccessible world. Lostness is precisely what is needed when crossing borders: the consequence of refusing to be lost in the presence of difference is either a rapid retreat to what is known, or the conquest of the unknown.

“In the rush to make our humanity impermeable, however, something has been lost: the capacity to be lost.”

Walls.

An image of a wall bisecting the interminable landscape of a Sonoran desert. This side and the other, indistinguishable. The granular juxtaposition of broad urban blocks in El Paso, a paper-thin fence line, and the crowded barrio blocks of Juarez. Walls are not just the dominance of total separation, they are also the collapse of crossroads. Wild spaces between cities, queer identities between genders, gradients in pigmentation. As the conversations around ecological degradation, homophobia and misogyny, and racism take up more space in our public lives it seems the divides are expanding. And problem-solving rushes into the intolerable vacuum: we valorize difference for its own sake, crystallizing our sense of identity or denying distinction altogether. But perhaps something else is emerging: the value of being disoriented. Perhaps separation is not the enemy, but the ghost of an old god whose function has been forgotten. No man’s land as the sacred space of courtesy. What is in collapse are the places where dominion is relinquished in favor of courtship. The roadside inns on the pilgrim road and the village bazaar—the places where no one is advantaged in the exchange of hospitalities.

“But perhaps something else is emerging: the value of being disoriented.“

Borderlands.

It may just be that the trouble of our moment is not in the establishment of borders or the abandonment of borders, but in the enrichment of borders. The creation of lands wholly devoted to the disorder of perpetual otherness. Spaces created to house the unquenchable mystery of the stranger—other places of power.

These spaces can be playgrounds for transgression, forums for hostile conversations, gathering halls for bewilderment. To inhabit these spaces we will need skills, new and old technologies, that nourish hesitancy and demand the preservation of tension. Places where the discomfort of our alienation can appear and the courtesies of mutual failure can be cultivated. This is no time for solutions. What we are imagining is a global effort to be lost together.

“What we are imagining is a global effort to be lost together.”

Curators

Eric Chisler

Coordinating Curator, Media Matters & Story Telling

Bayo Akomolafe

Coordinating Curator