You’ve met Ronen before on a couple of occasions here, tracing the periphery in his own sort of way with projects I always find refreshingly subliminal – in the sense that they are not these bombastic ‘hey check me out’ kind of art spectacles about the border, but more so the kind of work you’d find quietly screaming at the bottoms of your shoe, which to me is a much more clever way of engaging artistic spaces of immigration and conflict. I guess what I’m saying, is with all the political hype around the border these days, I just dig his more subtle tactics of using gutters and drains as a canvas to reflect on refugee flows, or football field chalk to delineate old geographic boundaries in once highly contested neighborhoods that are now simply a park.
Well, recently, he situated a life-sized two-dimensional cut out of a standard Israeli Border Police Jeep in the streets of the small East German town of Weimar (among other places in Germany), where reputations for violent intolerance against Jews and other foreign people have loomed in the past.
In his own words:
I want to examine what such an action would bring, how the presence of a militarized police force from Israel in a small quiet East German place would be perceived. Would it produce fear, antagonism, discomfort or maybe understanding and sympathy?
The site of the Star of David is never neutral on the streets of Germany, all the more so when it is painted on an armored jeep.
Needless to say, I dig these types of ‘out of context’ overlays that stir up the imaginary geographies of ‘the other’, and get us to either rethink the past in some newly connective way, or even force us to consider what is going on elsewhere in the present that we may have no bearing on otherwise. I am reminded of an earlier post when we mentioned the work of Paula Levine and the You Are Not Here project.
Ronen also says this:
This fake militarized jeep, I feel, will also bring another useful element to the discussion. The fake jeep, the two-dimensional façade barley standing on its wooden frame, is very much like the fake façades of Weimar’s historic building. The façades, historical manipulations, and the cultural cloning wish to suggest authenticity, but they do have to be really convincing to fulfill their purpose and to create in Weimar the romantic Disneyland of the east. In the same way, security can work as a façade. It does not really have to be convincing, you don’t need expensive systems, trained personnel, intelligence, and expertise. What is needed is a pretense of security, feeling of security, the knowing of its being and the statement that it is present.
Anyway, for all you Germans out there who may have a chance to go see it, let me know what you think. Would be real curious what if anything is stirred up by this. More coverage is of course available on Ronen’s site.
But, it also kind of has gotten me to consider my own crazy little border space overlay project. Who knows, I may have already mentioned this, but I’d love to cut out a piece of the border wall, or I guess more realistically just fabricate my own. It could be as small as 10 feet tall and 8 feet wide, scrap metal with some barbed wired lacing the top. I’d like to mount some fake robotic turrets to the top and some sirens, some would-be floodlights, and a bunch of CCTV cameras as well, so that this thing is one mess of insurmountable border fence security features, any gaps would be filled in by random pieces of fake sensor equipment, and some shreds of clothing clinging to the barbs.
I’d like to put the whole thing on wheels, and rig it up so that I could guide it around town by remote control.
Then, perhaps doing my best impersonation of Ashton Kutcher behind the scenes of one of his little Punk'd stunts, I’d cruise this thing in front of grocery store doorways, right there where the cheap plants are all stashed next to the soda pop machines. Perhaps, once I became skilled enough I’d wheel it inside somehow and just follow people around, blocking them off in certain isles, preventing access to some but not to others. I’d race my mobile border fence up to the checkout stand and quickly get in some line with it and then just not budge.
After I had my fun in the grocery store, I’d hit top speeds through the parking lot and go stand in front of an ATM machine, or do my brief part for Bank security and completely seal off the main entrance for an hour or so. Before I got caught I’d whiz to some Starbucks and block the entrance there, too. I’d throw up some mangled latte cups and spear them on the top of the fence for added effect, and then like some Jackass routine I’d leave my fence buddy hanging out in the middle of a massive intersection for awhile, just to see some drivers’ reactions (not to cause any accidents of course). I’d park by some bus stops, hang out for a bit in front of schools and libraries, at the airport, and even very briefly make my silly point by parking it outside the emergency entrance of the hospital; I’d follow some humvees around town with it for miles just in time to block a gasoline station, then some stairwells down to the subway; I'd wait patiently for Sunday to come and go to church with it. Afterwards we'd go shopping and stroll around outside the mall escorting shoppers to and from their cars and the mall doors. I might even go house-to-house one afternoon, door-to-door, and just sit for awhile in front of people's fancy driveways or kick it on their front lawn for bit. We'd lounge in Union Square downtown, barricade the Nike Town, grab lunch in the Carnelian Room on the rooftop of the Bank of America building.
Finally, properly well rested we would begin our tour of the nation slowly rolling along the road to the White House.
Me and my four-wheeler border fence.
And I’d record everyone’s reaction to it with a mounted camera and stream it all live for you right here on Subtopia.
Where else should I take this thing, any ideas?
(fresh in my mind: a little guardian angel barricade..., The Albino Hummer)
[All Images by Ronen, 2008]