The term “borderland” is most commonly referred to as the crossroads where nations collide. It is a porous zone that diffuses outward from an artificially imposed human made punctuation called a border. Borders enact violence on the geography and identity of those living in borderlands. They are both imprints of power and scars of destruction. Borderlands, on the other hand, are the result of naturally occurring interactions among people and of nature trying to forge an existence in proximity to what is around them.
In this photographic series, BORDERLAND, Alia re-examines these demarcated zones as territories of exploration drawing attention to them as transient physical spaces and a contemporary phenomenon from which the body of artwork is presented and the viewer is a participant.
The characters in the portraits, called —cludes, are wrapped in layers of fabric from eleven regions of the world that shield them from interrelating with anything beyond the material. Who is on the other side of the fabric questions the very nature of belonging and interrogates the binary of home and exile. Is the subject the one who imposes the standards, the decision maker, the ‘include’? Or the ‘exclude’?
Seeing is an act of power, but so is being seen. Are the -cludes hiding or are they being hidden? Is it an active form of anonymity or a passive one? When confronting the -cludes, we are forced to confront the ways we include and exclude others in our daily lives. Is exclusion motivated by a primitive fear and search for security? A form of self-preservation? A metamorphosis of the outcast into villain?
What are the fabricated barriers in society that inhibit the incorporation of others? Or are the obstacles just that: ideas, intuitions, fear, discriminations and ‘understandings’? The fabric, like borders, is narrow but long, defined physically and yet interpretative in identity- both have a capacity of exploration. Textiles are products of the earth, canvases through which culture manifests itself at the surface, and objects that become a part of us. Aren’t borders as well? Or are they simply spaces of blankness?
BORDERLAND is currently on display at Peter Sillem Gallery in Frankfurt, Germany. For more details on BORDERLAND and Alia’s other work, visit alia-ali.com. §
Alia Ali (Austria, 1985) is a Yemeni-Bosnian-American multi-media artist. Alia is a graduate of the United World College of the Atlantic (UWCAC) and holds a BA in Studio Art and Middle Eastern Studies from Wellesley College. Her most recent series, BORDERLAND, has been on display at several galleries worldwide. She is currently on exhibit at the Peter Sillem Gallery in Frankfurt, Germany. Learn more at alia-ali.com.