East of New Eden: Alban Kakulya and the borders of the European Union

Posted by Ian on Apr 17, 2009 in blog | No Comments

A soldier stares out across a vast and expanding horizon. His presence marks a line, a border between the European Union and beyond. Without his presence, would this merely be another beach, another vista?
Borders and boundaries are human ideological constructions – ways of ordering the world to help establish systems of governance, control and exploitation. As human constructions, they require constant human vigilance to remain present – a continual cycle re-remembering the lines which we agree divide us.
Award-winning photojournalist Alban Kakulya has taken the subjectivity of the European Union’s borders as his study in his project East of New Eden with Yann Mingard. In 2002, Kakulya took a documentary journey along the eastern borders of the European Union. Somewhat in response to the period of expansion of the European Union in the early 21st century, the photo-essay reminds one of the intangibility of borders – that they are abstract concepts that can yield perverse concrete structures. The ecologies of the world (both human and environmental) undercut and transcend these structures, often rendering them irrelevant.
In the past, borders often hugged natural boundaries such as waterways or mountain ridges. Even these borders in many ways were as undercut by human activity. Rivers for example were highways that connected people, rather than simply boundaries that divided people. It was quicker and safer to move goods along rivers than overland.
Kakulya’s study reminds us of both the long traditions of undercutting borders and also the tangible heritage that results from the regular reiteration of borders. It leaves one with the questions: where are the EU’s boundaries? Are they physical? Or are they only ideological?

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