Starting from an investigation into the construction of my own international passport privileges as a Belgian and European Union citizen, 'Simple as ABC' is a practice-based artistic research into the EU’s border regime, into border thinking and the border gaze. Framing EU migration and border policies as part of an ‘international im/mobility management apparatus’ that exercises “the capacity to capture, orient, determine, intercept, model, control, or secure the gestures, behaviors, opinions, or discourses of living beings” (Agamben), I zoom in on how, through complex processes, this apparatus produces basic mobility violence, facilitating the international movement of some people, while at the same time illegalising the movement of many others. The different works from the 'Simple as ABC'-series are multiform attempts to develop self-critical artistic strategies to “counter-document documentary governance” (Taschereau Mamers) and ‘profanate’ this apparatus I myself am so profoundly embedded in. 

I analyse this endeavour to counter-documenting through the frameworks of ‘speculative documentary’ and ‘speculative museology’. Similarly to early documentaries, European state museums emerged as part of a historical apparatus of imperial control that was grafted on what artist and visual culture theorist Ariella Aïsha Azoulay describes as the ‘institutionalization of neutrality’ - which also includes other technologies of power, such as taxidermy, anthropology, biology, archaeology and archival practices. 

With 'Simple as ABC', I'm trying to figure out what documentary and museological gestures I could appropriate for wholly different purposes than those pursued by authoritative documentaries or state-built/state-building museums. Thus, I hope to create spaces that - rather than reproducing images - produce imagination, that foster narratives illuminating yet-to-be-realised pasts, presents and futures. Throughout the research, I attach great importance to a dialogical approach, interviewing and/or collaborating closely with dozens of EU officials, border guards, people smugglers and - above all - experts who have been physically and psychologically subjected to the EU’s external border which I as an EU citizen help to construct on a daily basis - experts whose embodied knowledge is all too often ‘actively unseen’ (Khosravi).

Simple as ABC #2 / 1 © Laura Van Severen
Simple as ABC #2 / 2 © Laura Van Severen
Simple as ABC #3 / 1 © Laura Van Severen
Simple as ABC #3 / 2 © Laura Van Severen
Simple as ABC #4 / 1 © Pol Guillard
Simple as ABC #4 / 3 © Pol Guillard
Simple as ABC #6 / 1 © Thomas Bellinck
Simple as ABC #6 / © Leonard Pongo
Simple as ABC #7 / 1 © Nathan Ishar
Simple as ABC #7 / 3 © Nathan Ishar

Simple as ABC

project team
Thomas Bellinck
Jelena Juresa (KASK & Conservatorium), Christel Stalpaert, promotor UGent
01.12.2016 – 29.02.2024
speculative documentary, speculative museology, critical border studies, state violence, mobility justice