The Internal Frontier: How Art at Once Problematizes Borders and Draws us Closer to Them
Keywords:border transgression, contemporary art, x-rays, French immigrants, immaterial borders
This study combines first-person storytelling, visual interpretation, and linguistic investigation to analyze how a mixed-media artwork that Kasia Ozga produced in 2011, The Internal Frontier, represents immigrant journeys on an autobiographic, social, and discursive level. In the context of an increasingly polarized political climate, Ozga examines borders as individual experiences and geopolitical phenomena to explain how art conditions conflictual aspects of the self to coexist, promoting social consciousness and community engagement.
Those in power use borders to naturalize and separate what is familiar from what is strange. As an artist, Ozga explores how our personalities are partitioned, enforced, and made from external boundaries that define our movements, and by the internal borders that we impose on ourselves. Here, reproductions of different “frontiers” around the world are literally cut from the fabric of human chest x-rays collected from immigrant long-term visa applicants, highlighting physical removal and absence. To produce these modified artifacts, shown in light-boxes in various exhibitions in France and the United States, Ozga researched the border-as-process of inclusion and exclusion linked to regulative authority in social relations, nation-building, political sovereignty, as well as personal identity formation.
In the artworks, migration is transformed from an isolated act to a shared human experience. The images, at once precise and indeterminate, maintain the dual symbolism of the border as barrier and as springboard, simultaneously inhibiting and enabling interactions between individuals and select geographic locations. Just as migrants lead us to re-evaluate our physical and mental borders, critical cultural production can contest the impact and staying power of borders by underscoring how establishing and overriding boundaries enable us to claim and reclaim who we are.
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