Border Theories

The work Border Theories (2009-2013) investigates the Socialist Utopia and the writing and rewriting of history in the (urban) landscape by means of architecture. The work reflects on the historiography and construction of identity in three Soviet urban experiments on the remotest border zones of the former Soviet Union: Birobidzhan, Kaliningrad and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. The experiments originated within the context of enclaves, closed areas, border conflicts and wars, forced depopulation and repopulation. All three experiments have histories that are open to multiple interpretations; the Jewish, Prussian and Japanese history respectively as well as the (virtual) Soviet historical narrative. The work queries the way in which urban planning and architecture are employed as political instruments to write, rewrite and manipulate history in the (urban) landscape.

The investigation of three urban experiments in the outer border zones of the former Soviet Union raises many questions. Every question generates new questions. What is reality? What is truth? What happened - and happens - in the wetlands of Birobidzhan, the taiga around Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and the urban landscape of Kaliningrad? The wetlands aren't just the wetlands, the taiga isn't just the taiga. Soviet Kaliningrad was founded in 1945 on top of the ruins of the Prussian city of Köningsberg. Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk was established on the layout of the Japanese city of Toyohara in 1945. Soviet Birobidzhan was founded on formerly Chinese lands, that were designated by Stalin in the 1930's to become a Soviet Jewish Utopia. In the late 1940's Stalin began his war against the Jews, and Birobidzhan was Russified in the process.

The installation and publication Border Theories consist of photography, archival materials and fragments from newspaper articles. The texts provide intermingled perspectives on these border landscapes, their architecture, ungraspable identities and layered histories that are open to multiple interpretations. In 2013 the exhibition Border Theories was shown at Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam, besides this the book Border Theories was launched.

The work Border Theories is generously supported by the Mondriaan Fund and CBK Rotterdam