Installation view: Borders | Us and Them exhibition by Rasmus Degnbol, John Craig Freeman, Charles Heller, Reena Kallat, and Leronzo Pezzani. NYU Shanghai Art Gallery, 7 March 2017.


Borders | Us and Them

NYU Shanghai Art Gallery

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  • Gallery


"There are no boundaries in the real Planet Earth…. Rivers flow unimpeded across the swaths of continents. The persistent tides, the pulse of the sea do not discriminate; they push against all the varied shores on Earth."

                        -- Jacques-Yves Cousteau, oceanographer

National borders are invisible from space. The impact of this visual experience on astronauts is so powerful that it has a name: the “overview effect.” They see only land, water, and air, natural elements that unite our planet. Back here on earth, however, we grapple daily with the artificial divisions that people have built.

Borders | Us and Them features works by contemporary artists and architects who focus on the political borders that divide our world. Employing media that ranges from photography to virtual and augmented reality (AR and VR), from cell phone to the drone, these works explore the violent separations that borders perpetuate: 

Rasmus Degnbol’s aerial photographs reveal the scale of the refugee crisis at the edges of European nations, providing viewers with a different kind of “overview effect.”

Filmmaker/scholar Charles Heller and architect/scholar Lorenzo Pezzani digitally reconstruct two episodes when refugees perished in the Mediterranean. Their projects are as journalistically investigative as they are aesthetically original and experimental.

John Freeman creates a virtual public wall memorial in the treacherous boundary between Mexico and the U.S., questioning the discriminating American values.

Reena Saini Kallat traces the changing Line of Control (LOC) between India and Pakistan, inviting us to reflect on the relationship between the LOC and patterns of oppression based on sex and gender.

For many years, the overview effect seemed to be playing out on earth, as global citizenship became more significant and national identity less so. In recent years, however, that process appears to have been reversing. These artists beckon us to reflect on the life-and-death consequences that follow from such a reversal.

This exhibition was presented by the NYU Shanghai Art Gallery antecedent (2015-17) to the ICA at NYU Shanghai.



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