français / english
kein mensch ist illegal
Personne n'est illégal
kein mensch ist illegal
noone is illegal


Media & RL activism against new border regimes

Workshop at next 5 minutes conference
De Balie, kleine zaal, Amsterdam
Sunday, March 14th
15.00 - 16.30 hours

With: Autonoom Centrum (Amsterdam), Marc Chemillier (Paris), De Fabel van de Illegaal (Leiden), IM-media (Paris), Cross the border (Munich), Olia Lialina (Moscow), RTmark (United States), Rex Varona (Hongkong) and others


OF COURSE, the dream of abolishing borders is much older than the Internet. The myth of borders was always tied up with the myth of pushing them back, overwhelming them, and moving the frontier forward. In the current process of globalization, borders, at least those which encompass nation-states, seem to dissapear in a way -- but for flows of money, goods, and capital, not for people. Borderlands have become a laboratory for new control technologies, and the postmodern or post- national borderlines become the barrings of a worldwide apartheid system.

Nevertheless, the hype of the Internet is essentially based on the promise that the worldwide dissemination of new technologies might remove all barriers between people. Many critics have unmasked this rhetoric as an escape from real existing capitalism or as promotional campaign for neoliberal barbarism. However, there is a more dangerous mistake made in the popular regard for the net as an 'alternative' territory to the 'real world,' or as a place, where free and unfettered communication might become a reality. In this view, borders become something you cannot see or touch, and the net and the various networks became an arena for 'new' border policies.

Ironically, then, the iron curtain was replaced very quickly by these new borders, which consist of the strategic use of modern observation and surveillance technologies. Thus we see the rise of huge decentralized databases such as Schengen Information System (SIS) and its national supplementary counterparts called SIRENE, or the fingerprint database in which personal data about asylum-seekers is stored. Along the German borderline with Poland and the Czech Republic, border guards are armed with a wide range of high-tech gadgets: Global Position System (GPS) navigation devices, thermo- and infra-red-cameras, and so on.

Thus, the former border is moving, folding in on itself: it is mapping the borderland and inner cities, the railways and main arteries, and the communications networks. The European borders are moving forward to neighbouring countries, expanding the control system toward a zone model, which includes the Schengenland as its center, surrounded by a cordon of countries under intense surveillance. These efforts are marked as well by intense propoganda that stigmatizes minorities, defames migration and mobility, and co-opts or coerces the local populations into acting as collaborators and administyrators of the border regime.

But is there still a chance to take the promise of the net seriously and turn these misunderstandings to productivity? If so, how can we claim for all what is permitted to only the very few with the resources to travel and settle freely? Free access for all -- in REAL LIFE -- is our goal: open borders and freedom of movement for everybody. These are not questions of charity or compassion, but a matter of course and concern for all. This is no longer a naive dream but a reality for everyone: globalization is not optional, its effects not for 'those other people.' These developments determine very directly the range and freedom of everyone's everyday practices.

Obviously, there is much more to do than praying and praising the new technologies or providing illusions about keeping them free from state control. Conceptually and practically, networks became battlefields for a regime in which life and its components are objects and targets, or, alternatively, as vehicles for autonomy, singularity, and the free flow of ideas, activities, and, most of all, for people as such. This latter vision involves new and unknown fields and possibilities, and with that, political, ethical, and esthetic challenges:

  • Researching and attacking the mechanisms of transnational collaboration and (post-)governmental networks for control and surveillance

  • Exploring new 'border-crossing' subjectivities outside of the boredom of so-called 'nomadic' congress-hopping, which in almost every case requires undignified begging for visa and invitations

  • Connecting artistic strategies and political interventions, tactical media activism, and 'real life' militance

  • Testing and developing connections and connectivity between the new social movements and struggles, such as the sans papiers fighting for their right to stay, and the resistance in the countries of origin

  • Debating a new abolitionism, fighting against any concept of border and apartheid inside and outside the perishing nation states

  • No one is illegal campaign
  • In summer 1997 three or four dozen political activists published in Hybrid workspace at documenta X the manifesto 'no one is illegal' <http://www.contrast.org/borders/noone.html>. For ten days we opened a temporary office devoted to the brand new campaign in the Orangerie in Kassel. Some of us were media activists, radio practitioners, photographers, filmmakers, and artists. Some of us had know each other for years: from the eighties social movements, or from the early nineties, when new, non-functionalising concepts of combining arts and politics were tried, such as the 'welfare-commitees.' But some of us were meeting for the very first time, having communicated only be email. The new meeting was made possible by an unprejudiced or accepting use of new technologies. Nobody was really an expert, but we were very curious about how to enrich and expand classical political symbolism: setting up the first websites, emailing, net-based audio transmissions, videotape exchanges, videoconferencing with hundreds of participants, or even broadcasting entire demonstrations with mobile phones.

    The appeal 'no one is illegal' was the starting point for a campaign based on the activity of dozens of local networks in every big city in Germany. But beside the appeal as a common ground, there is no apparatus or centralized structure. Connected by mailing lists and a postal mail circulars, the groups worked under specific circumstances to focus on very different points: hiding and supporting illegal migrants, squatting churches, organizing public or semi-public debates about illegal border-crossing, and starting actions against deportations. Three times per year conferences are held, where the groups exchange experiences and talk about common goals, practices, and problems.

    In 1998, two main Germany-wide events were arranged and/or supported by the 'no one is illegal' network: the Caravan for the rights of refugees and migrants, originally initiated by the Human Rights Association, Bremen. Some weeks before the German elections in September and under the slogan 'we have no vote, but a voice!', the caravan moved through more than 40 cities in Germany. Several hundred groups, exile organisations, asylum-seekers or migrant self organisations, and supporters joined the various action.

    Two weeks before, the tents for the first summer camp were pitched about a hundred meters from the German-Polish borderline near Goerlitz.

    For a second time, the "No one is illegal" campaign will move to the EU frontier between Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic. In summer 1999, August 7th till 15th, activists from many different countries will gather at a campsite some hundred meters from borderline. Connections to simultaneous camps all over europe and in the US are being planned.

    The event's slogan is "Hacking the borderline" points up the central role that media task forces and "real-life" militants will play. We invite all mobile radio- and camcorder-activists, tactical webmasters, communication guerilleros, soundsystems, dj's, musicians, artists, and anyone else to the camp and to contribute to it in any way possible.


    contact and more informations:
    mobile phone: ++49/172/8910825

    or subscribe to [cross-l] mailinglist with a SUBSCRIBE CROSS-L command in the body of a message to <mailto:listserv@relay.crg.net>

    -------------cross the border--
    --ueber die grenze ------------
    --phone: ++49/89/172/8910825---
    -----mar 12-14 n5m3 amsterdam--
    -mar 26-28 conference munich---
    ---aug 7-15 camp borderline----