The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed
— William Gibson
Europeans have a birth-right to reside inside of what is more and more becoming the gated community called the EU. That right gives them the opportunity to participate in and benefit from Europe’s blissful future. In my work I am looking for the viewpoints of those who do not wish to be part of this utopian world, those who are willing to work on an alternative future or those who can not be part of that privilege for whatever reason – and I have positioned them against the borders or inside the no-mans lands that seem to define them. Will they be honored as martyrs in future-Europe, just like the early monks who gained sainthood because of their apocalyptic visions, the hardships they endured and the good deeds they performed?
Since long before colonial times Europe has learned to create borders and boundaries that can be defended with men and weapons – today we use drones and other high tech for that purpose. Some of the boundaries of old can still be seen on the world map of today – in certain cases drawn with the ignorance of a long wooden or metal ruler.
But boundaries do not only define what is outside. A border separates and also creates order: these people belong over there and we live over here, and that is how it is supposed to be. Certain thinkers have pointed out that Europe has the tendency to create places where that what does not fit in society will be banished to, like the terminally ill, the mentally unstable, the disabled, those with grotesque appearances and the criminal minds. These are the places where that what is deemed unclean, unholy, non-rational and unacceptable is expelled to, surrounded by a set of boundaries of their own.
Most of the times people are put there against their will. But there are also people who choose to step outside of the grandeur Europe has to offer, and they try to create their own place of refuge with their own rules.
I see this as a part of a long standing european tradition that I have labeled ‘Standing outside looking in,’ shared by diverse groups like mysticists, the romantic poets and punks. Among others. These people are searching for a better world and experiment with it by trying to bring a new way of life into praxis. Sometimes these experiments are seen as a positive change and will result in broad acceptance -like the work of the fighters for freedom of religion, gay-rights and women’s-liberation. These rights are then incorporated in our set of basic human rights and we are willing to defend those rights against the people who live outside, on the other side of our boundaries. And the people we deem fit to start living inside the European boundaries coming from outside, are hard pressed to accept those rules.
When we look at these experimenters like this, they might be called the prophets of what Europe is to become. Sometimes these people are honored for it – some during their lives and for a few this recognition comes long after they have died a violent death for what they believed in. We celebrate their way of thinking, their mindset, in movies, statues, political pamphlets and children’s books.
Europe has a rather difficult relation with these people – some are seen as great artists or thinkers, that is true, but only if they are seen as successful. A small group will be marked ‘memorable but insane’ – and might be considered the failed experiments, but not always, time will tell. But most of them you will never see or hear about, and they will be forgotten.
But still this live of experimentation -‘Aussteiger’ as the Germans call it- is not seen as a live of devotion, what it is in my eyes. At most it will be accepted as a right of passage from youth to adulthood, but as you grow older you are expected to grow out of it. True it can be worse and it has been way worse in the past.
If I meet some people begging for scraps, I tend to see them as the mendicant monks of our time – we should start asking them to pray for us after we have given them some change for beer or dope or a place to sleep. Like any man or woman ready to endure hardships voluntarily for their believe system, we should at least acknowledge that they are trying to become holy men and women. I think it would be fitting.