28 years after the fall of the berlin wall Luc Deleu & T.O.P. office and Tatjana Pieters present an architectural and urban investigation into borders and division relating to migration as a dynamic spatial phenomenon. The works presented are a response to the debates around nation, protectionism and division that flood society today.
Looking at the reality of migrant and refugee lifes it seems that the more connected we get (internet, cheap charter flights, etc), the more it breeds a fear of loss of possessions, standing and identity. New walls are being discussed and built that separate people from one another. in a world in which trade is global, in which personal communications function on a global scale and in which the threat of rapid climate change can only be tackled together, populism still calls for exclusion.
For Sunday, Deleu, for example, proposes two countries; Zwischenland & Tierra Grande. In analogy with the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 of November 29, 1947, also the birth of the Jewish state, Deleu imagines Zwischenland in Europe and Tierra Grande in North America to be functioning as a refuge. For this, countries in Europe would need to install a 10 km strip on both sides of the border, and a 10-mile strip on the Mexico-US border. In order to remain close to the source of inspiration, we have to calculate through the average density of Europe, of Mexico together with the USA, and the average density of Israel, the possible number of inhabitants of these countries. This means there would be between 4.75 and 40.85 million people in Tierra Grande and between 10.5 and 58.55 million in Zwischenland.
Another striking example of architectural division is the Trump Wall sample card. The sculptures at the Mexico - USA border that could easily be interpreted as historical land art. It was on a sunny day last October, when President Trump unveiled his eight prototypes for the proposed 1,900-mile border wall. Large slabs of concrete and metal stood tall. Some looking like the Berlin Wall, others striped like jail cell bars. Many of us became instant comedians by the sight of this uncanny architectural intervention. The reality is that there are already almost 70 border walls around the world that force migrants to take ever more dangerous routes to cross borders.
Abolishment of The State, rethinking Nation and Nationalism as being artificially constructed, opposed to being a natural order, Decolonisation, Degrowth, ... Whatever dream we might have for Spaceship Earth to become a biosphere free of nation(alism), the migrant and refugee problem is also a spatial issue that, besides all the other complexities, must be taken into consideration.
Around The World in 72 days, for example, can be seen as an illustration for the privileged position we as white Europeans find ourselves in, being able to freely travel the world. Political freedom, language, strenght of currency are all factors that make travel less accessible to a large part of our population.
The Barricades using culturally significant objects as a means for peaceful protest, or the idea of appropriating within the art wold as a reaction to overproducing, stems from an urge to create organised chaos. Doing by undoing the status quo!
As a counter weight to the white Eurocentrism, Dapper Bruce Lafitte shares with us his personal experiences dealing with systems of opression in the US.
One recurring theme in his work is the tragedy and suffering (in the aftermath) of Hurricane Katrina. This example can be seen as symptomatic of a crisis in the United States that extends far beyond matters of governance and the incompetence. Entire populations are marginalized by race and class are considered redundant, an unnecessary burden and consigned to fend for themselves.
This new biopolitics is marked by deeply existential and material questions regarding who is going to die and who is going to live, and represents a set of forces that have given up on the sanctity of human life for those populations rendered “at risk” by global neoliberal economies. Some groups are rendered disposable while others are given more privileges.
Making human beings superfluous is the essence of slavery, colonialism, and totalitarianism, and the ongoing struggle for an inclusive and substantive global democracy is the antidote in urgent need of being reclaimed. The images of floating bodies serve as an desperate reminder of what it means when justice and politics, as the lifeblood of democracy, become cold and indifferent in the face human suffering and death.
Another striking example of race politics is present in the work ‘T.D.B.C. Presents Colored Federal Inmates from New Orleans, LA.’ where we can see a clear depiction of the mostly coloured population of the US prisons. America’s first prison was built by the Quakers at the end of the 18th Century as an alternative to corporal and capital punishment, with the objective of rehabilitation through hard work, religious study, and penitence. Two hundred years later, the US is facing an unprecedented binge in prison construction, to the point that it now has the highest number of people under the control of the criminal justice system among “first-world” countries.
Such draconian shift in punishment, however, is said to have been strategically orchestrated to target impoverished Caucasians and minorities, particularly Latinas, Latinos, and African Americans. In effect, if incarceration rates continue, an African American male born in 2001 has a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison during his lifetime, and a Latino born in 2001 has a 1 in 6 chance, while a Caucasian male has a 1 in 17 chance of going to prison. The lifetime probability of going to prison among African American women (5.6%) is almost as high as for Caucasian men (5.9%), Latinas (2.2%), and Caucasian females (0.9%) have a much lower lifetime chance of going to prison.
Integration and rehabilitation are essential in the process towards iclusion and a world free of borders. The artists are in no way making political manifestos. They are merely pointng out the current issues we are facing regarding inequality and seperatism.
Luc Deleu (Antwerp, B) is an architect and urbanist. He graduated at the Hoger Instituut, Sint-Lucas, Brussels in 1969.In 1970 he founded his studio T.O.P. office. In 1973 he started to develop the concept Orbanism (cfr.Orban Manifesto & Proposals) and in 1980, after visiting the US, he started with the series Scale & Perspective.He set up a series of designs for infrastructures in 1988 and in 1991 initiated a study for Journey around the world in 80 days, followed, by The Unadapted City, a design by research study, set up in 1995. In 2006, he launched Orban Space, a “mobile medium” research project on board of the sailing yacht La Malu II.
Since 1983 Luc Deleu has realized container installations in Switzerland, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, The Netherlands.
Deleu was invited to participate in international exhibitions such as History of Art, the curator’s series ≠ 3, David Roberts Art Foundation Fitzrovia, London, 2010; Talking Cities, Zeche Zollverein, Essen, 2006; Le temps des Lumières, Nancy, 2005; Van IJ tot Zee - Van Halfweg tot Nauerna, The Netherlands, 2002; Horta and After – 25 Masters of modern Architecture in Belgium, Sao Paolo, 1999; Prague, 2000; Tokyo, 2001.
Solo exhibitions of Deleu's work have been organized by Technical University Eindhoven, The Netherlands, 2006; Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, 2005; M HKA, Antwerp, 2004; Open Air Sculpture Museum Middelheim, Antwerp, 2003; Centre d’Art Contemporain, Brétigny-sur-Orges, France, 2001; Netherlands Architecture Institute, Rotterdam, 1996; Storefront for Art & Architecture, New York, 1991.
His work has also been included in other major exhibitions such as Beaufort 03, Ostend, Belgium, 2009; Brussels Biennial, Brussels, Belgium, 2008; Shanghai 5 Biennale, Shanghai, 2004; International Triennale of Contemporary Art, Yokohama, Japan, 2005.
The work of Luc Deleu & T.O.P. office is currently on view at Centrale for Contemporary Art, Brussels in ‘Resistance’, curated by Maïté Vissault, with a.o. Lawrence Weiner, Navid Nuur, Guerilla Girls. An extensive part of his oeuvre is represented in the collection of Muhka, MCA, Antwerp. Deleu & T.O.P. office have participated in several solo & group exhibitions internationally. In 2013, 40 years after the foundation of the T.O.P. office, their critical contributions to the architectural landscape & contemporary art were highlighted with the monograph ‘Orban Space’.
Dapper Bruce Lafitte (US, 1972) was born to a 12-year-old mother and raised largely by his grandparents in the Lafitte Projects (which were demolished after Katrina by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and from which his name derives) in New Orleans’ 6th Ward. Though he displayed natural artistic talent as a child, he abandoned drawing as he grew older, only returning to it in the aftermath of the storm, driven by a visceral, almost mystical impulse.
The works by Dapper Bruce Lafitte (formerly Bruce Davenport, Jr.) have been exhibited nationally and internationally, notably in the Prospect Biennial, New Orleans and in solo shows at the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum, Biloxi, MS; Atlanta Contemporary (curated by Daniel Fuller); Vacant Gallery, Tokyo; Fierman, New York, NY; and Louis B. James Gallery, New York, NY. Group exhibitions include those at the New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA; Ballroom Marfa, Marfa, TX (curated by Dan Cameron); Lambent Foundation, New York, NY; the Hickory Museum of Art, Hickory, NC; among others. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Harper's Magazine, Hyperallergic and Victory Journal, among others.