Transition Zones

Much of the debate on borders — both academically and politically — has revolved around a dichotomy: whether they should be open, or closed. The open borders argument is about free and unfettered movement for all; and the closed borders argument suggests people should be able to create and maintain an inside and an outside. Neither side asks, however, whether we might reconcile borders in different terms — such as permeable, partial, temporary, multilayered — or in different forms such as welcome lounges, flyways, or weather fronts, shifting hour by hour depending on membership.

Transition Zones is a proposal for an experimental zone that replaces the border as a line that celebrates the meeting of different cultures, ideologies, traditions, narratives and economic systems.

As people walk across the zone, they are guided by floating sound platforms and slowly moving vehicles built from equipment typically used for policing borders repurposed here for more poetic ends. This is also reflected in the appearance of the devices. The drones are delicate, wooden, slightly ungainly structures far removed from the aerodynamic efficiency and streamlining of those used for surveillance.

Small groups of people wander behind these floating sound spaces enjoying the fusion and hybridization of national stories and histories. Strange looking vehicles composed of ad hoc seating and projection screens, or stages for gently amplified conversations between historians and citizens, slowly move along. In the distance, statues of historical figures float in groups, or are tightly arranged on platforms, present but demoted to iconic placeholders for contestable stories.

The project is a design response to conversations with anthropologist Miriam Ticktin and political scientist Victoria Hattam about their work on borders and is still under development.