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THE GREEN LINE (SOMETIMES DOING SOMETHING POETIC CAN BECOME POLITICAL AND SOMETIMES DOING SOMETHING POLITICAL CAN BECOME POETIC) *

“Some of Alÿs’s walks tend to produce an ‘inverted geometry’ where the urban logic of the surface is reinterpreted, short-circuited and recomposed by crossing it. This action implies conceiving the city not as a place, but as a real politic medium where its flexible and almost liquid surface wavers continuously. In the Green Line, Alÿs walked and dripped green paint on that same Green Line,  that was internationally acknowledged and whose western boarders were invaded by Israel in June 1967. This line, depicted in the majority of Palestinian and International maps, was consumed, dissolved and erased by construction and by the city’s constant expansion. To walk among the line of the map means to cut through a trajectory where neighborhoods, streets, infrastructure lines, barriers and checkpoints, that constitute the net of Jerusalem’s current spatial politics, were imposed/put. To drip green paint on the city’s surface along the line, to the extent of the walk, in a 1:1 scale map, is an act of transformation of the landscape. […] Mapping according to a 1:1 scale could be the way of rethinking the map’s reductive power. If authorities use mapping as the language code through which designing what can be seen and codifying their interests, then re-mapping, even more so through a 1:1 scale, could become a vehicle of protest or even sedition. Alÿs’s walk, leaving a stroke of green paint on the landscape, settles the Green Line in its historical significance.”

The Green Line (Sometimes Doing Something Poetic Can Become Political and Sometimes Doing Something Political Can Become Poetic) by Francis Alÿs is an act that predetermines power as a political-economical hegemonic system ruling over different social categories. The analyses on power relations are filtered out reviewing the net of borders, barriers and geographic limits intended as mechanisms of repression. The Mexican Border just as the Israeli Green Line represent the control devices of a global system established on an inequitable distribution and division of the territory. The construction of limits/boundaries takes place through the denaturation of spaces, while spaces are redistributed eradicating identities, and identities are subjugated by a control-type of repression, and control is provided by laws that constitute the world disorder. The concept of limit is embodied together with the concept of situational and diasporic identity represented here by the Palestinian constellation, eradicated from its territory. By developing the definition of diaspora elaborated in the Diaspora Studies, it’s possible to analyze the Palestinian identity as “a dislocation of individuals or groups driven to a forced exodus and unable to repatriate, in which a special bond with the homeland is created even though the groups are scattered.”

Paradoxically such a definition recalls the Hebrew one and it coincides with the overlapping definitions of victim and cultural diaspora. The case of the Palestinian diaspora, with its historical roots that dig back to an involuntary expulsion, displays that the geography of dispersion is accompanied by the formation of a plurality of diaspora cultures. The complex geopolitical architecture of the Palestinian exodus, with reference in particular to the disaggregation of the diaspora in a myriad of diasporic segments, at the same time results as counterbalanced by dynamics of the imaginary reunion of all the diasporic communities within only one collective representation. The simultaneous presence of a fragmentation drive that corresponds to multiple havens, gives an answer to the need of imagining themselves as an undivided population.

In truth the de-territorialization experience, that the memory preserves, that constitutes in fact the element of cohesion according to which a Palestinian refugee imagines himself, the refugee community where he’s inserted and all the other exiled Palestinian communities as a whole undivided epistemological unit, as an imaginary experience in which the Palestinian people are an abstract entity, that extends beyond the real boundaries of the single communities that form it. But, within a constraint situation of dispersion and explosion such as the one of Palestine and the Palestinians, when facing the threat of dismemberment of an eradicated society, the Palestinian identity is claimed as a factor of unity, because identity is politicized.

This happened through the configuration and elaboration of a group conscience, because they carry out that same construction of boundaries that establishes not just the belonging to a single community, but also, and mostly, the interaction strategy with the other, meaning the members of the hosting society. The fact that the Palestinian diaspora is in its present state a composition of diverse localities, in which the existence of the refugees takes place, in Israel and the in the Occupied Territories, in the refugee camps, in the gatherings scattered through the Middle East, in migrations due to work or study issues in the United States, means that the creation of difference in relation to the haven society sometimes may just serve as a diacritic sign. This allows the Palestinian to diversify himself and his community thanks to memories and experiences of the same background (whatever way they were recreated). The criteria of belonging or exclusion trace those mobile limits that consolidate the “imagined” identity that the diasporic communities share. This is particularly relevant since cultural differences and their eventual persistence arise, endure and transform only when in contact with the other. As Edward Said pointed out: “Every culture’s development and preservation requires the presence of a different and competing alter ego. The construction of identity […] requires the setting of opposites and “others” whose positive reality is subject to continuous interpretation and re-interpretation of the divergences in respect to ‘us’.”  So, in summary, resorting to Stuart Hall’s unbeatable lucidity, we can deduct that a diasporic culture is the place where two simultaneous dynamics cross: one is similarity and continuity, and the other is diversity and rupture, where the first  one “gives us a sort of rooting and continuity with the past, the second one reminds us that what we share is precisely the experience of deep discontinuity.” Consequently, only by curdling the notions of citizenship, sovereignty, nationality and territoriality within the global politics device, it is possible to inflect the principles of verification of one’s belonging.

The association with Rancière’s thesis according to which “politics consist of making visible that which is not visible”, is modulated conceptually and in an extremely subtle way by Alÿs’s act as a reconfiguration of the Green Line’s invisibility, by means of the transitory element of the green paint that is meant to disappear quickly, but it is the medium through which such invisibility is displayed as visible. With this act, even though so ephemeral, the artist destabilizes the situational perception of conflict, reshaping the perspective of value, depicting the leap between reality and imagination, outlining imperceptible vanishing lines. Paradoxically the metaphor of the line was used by Plato in Republica in the demonstration of his theory of knowledge through the difference between the perceivable and the intelligible.

But no matter how poetic that which we can glimpse, the harshness of bare reality returns in the certainty of the mark that divides and segregates the Palestinian people. The line that keeps an entire population as hostage in their own lands, is the same line that Alÿs can easily trespass as a Belgian citizen. Even more so, he’s an artist with some “nonsense” ambitions such as performing an aesthetic gesture and, for the institutions, he doesn’t present any elements of danger, and as such he’s safe from controls and restrictions. In the video The Green Line (Sometimes Doing Something Poetic Can Become Political and Sometimes Doing Something Political Can Become Poetic) it is clear that his path is completely free, even when he keeps on dripping green paint on the street, while passing by an IDF military (Israeli Defense Forces) that seems to ignore hime.

*extracted from Teresa Macrì’s book Politics/Poetics, Postmediabook, Milano, 2014.

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