[-empyre-] passports and Lost Highway Expedition

School of Missing Studies info at schoolofmissingstudies.net
Thu Jan 17 01:13:13 EST 2008

Hello everyone,

Thank you Christine for organizing this and for the nice intro; we  
are happy to participate.

In the Western Balkans where Lost Highway took place, passports  
continue to be a big issue as borders have proliferated and for  
example Serbia has changed its country name four times in the last  
fifteen years. Yet we found with LHE that today travel in the Western  
Balkans is very open for all passports. Here is a little background  
and some questions that we throw out for discussion---

Lost Highway Expedition
Project of Centrala Foundation and School of Missing Studies

Lost Highway Expedition took place during August 2006 through the  
emerging capitals of the Western Balkans. The expedition plotted a  
route roughly along the unfinished ‘Highway of Brotherhood and Unity’  
as it was called in Yugoslav times, traveling to the nine cities of  
Ljubljana, Zagreb, Novi Sad, Belgrade, Skopje, Prishtina, Tirana,  
Podgorica, and Sarajevo.

The expedition searched for positive aspects of Balkanization and  
explored the emerging distinctions of each new capital city along the  
highway. Although the country that this highway was meant to unify no  
longer exists, the highway infrastructure remains as a significant  
reminder of the ideals of voluntary participation, rebuilding and  
connectivity. Today as the highway network is being expanded and the  
region is experiencing a different wave of building executed from  
individual initiative, the expedition set out to find out more about  
these processes and to speculate about its future.

During Lost Highway Expedition almost 300 architects, artists,  
writers, curators from around Europe, the Western Balkans, and North  
and South America participated along the route with partner  
organizations in each city in activities ranging from discussions,  
public art actions, guided tours, visits to archives, and picnics. As  
everyone organized their own journey, the makeup of the group was  
distinct in each city. Yet it temporarily cohered around points of  
common interest to investigate the abrupt and continuing structural  
and visual transformation of these cities that is both the result and  
the engine of the changing realities of the Western Balkans and of  
the future of Europe.

Lost Highway Expedition navigated the connections of independent art  
and architecture projects in the Western Balkan capitals and  
initiated new ones. The expedition did not carry a nostalgic  
imperative, but provided fresh opportunities for self-organized,  
voluntary participation and relay between the newly-distinct cities.  
The expedition generated both individual and collective outputs: self- 
propelled artistic projects and research, a collectively-curated  
exhibition and the production of Lost Highway Expedition Photobook.  
The network that emerged during the expedition has also sparked a  
long-term project to gather a source pool of knowledge on  
contemporary culture of the Western Balkans as it aspires to a future  
in the European Union.

Some questions prompted by the expedition are:
Can travel be a form of political activism? If so, under what certain  
Is LHE an artwork? Can it be architecture?
Is it necessary to have a material output or a human network as a  
result of such an experience, or is it an ephemeral undertaking?
What tools and models might this provide for a new approach to  
spatial practice, in terms of architecture, artmaking and curating in  
In comparison with experimental and conceptual art of the 1970s, with  
its main preoccupation with communication (whether visual, spatial,  
performative, or linguistic), what can we learn from the self- 
organized, collaborative aspects of LHE about the development of  
“phenomenological,” “situationist,” “relational,” and “participatory”  
creative modes?
What are the potentials of undecidability and unfinished  
infrastructure, such as those examples seen along LHE?

On Jan 16, 2008, at 8:31 AM, Naeem Mohaiemen wrote:

> Simon's reference to India reminded me of a short piece I had  
> written for FORUM about India's "illegal" Bangla migrants.
> Cloud of Silence in Bangla Town
> http://www.thedailystar.net/forum/2007/august/bangla.htm
> Read it alongside this companion piece by Udayan Chattopadhyay (he  
> and I have been dialoguing about the two Bengals for many years)
> Epaar Opaar (This Side, That Side)
> http://www.thedailystar.net/forum/2007/august/epaar.htm
> I think it will highlight that issues of passport/citizenship are  
> not limited only to North-South crossings, but also South-South.  
> India talks about the "Bangladesi illegal menace".  Bangladesh in  
> turn screams about Burmese refugees (Rohingyas) that have been  
> crossing "our" border for last 20 years.
> I was flabbergasted to hear of large number of foreign students  
> coming to Bangladesh medical schools (my father left the country to  
> study), until I discovered that a number of them were Palestinian.
> Everywhere in the world, there is always another country whose  
> passport is worth still less than yours.
> On Jan 16, 2008 4:58 AM, Simon Biggs <s.biggs at eca.ac.uk> wrote:
> A recent trip to southern India highlighted the issue. This is an  
> area that
> is supposedly "booming" but in reality is coming apart at the seams  
> as its
> social, technical and political infrastructures collapse under the  
> pressures
> of rapid change. The embedded class structures, amplified by passport
> apartheid, feeds a corrupt system where there is little respect for  
> human
> life. The benefits of globalisation thus only accrue to those with  
> the right
> passports. Others are left to die in the mud. In this context  
> perhaps the
> only sensible response to hopelessness is anger?
> Regards
> Simon
> On 16/1/08 01:01, Christina McPhee wrote:
> > To add salt to the wounds on this  issue of passport privilege and
> > site/non-site, I just want to say, that at this moment our mailman
> > software at COFA is apparently censoring Naeem's  email so that his
> > posts must be reposted through the moderator, or else they  
> completely
> > disappear.  In the past years (in late 2006) I recall that the  
> filters
> > were censoring in re Arabic/Islamic nomenclature, does anyone recall
> > this?  it was in connection with the month that Ana Valdes moderated
> > on Palestinian issues.   I am chagrined beyond belief that the list
> > moderating interface doesnt pemit us any way to address this  
> situation
> > and that I must appeal to the College of Fine Arts In Sydney
> > adminstrator whom I do not know. Apparently someone at the COFA has
> > set up filters for their lists and -empyre- is adversely affected.
> Simon Biggs
> simon at littlepig.org.uk
> http://www.littlepig.org.uk/
> AIM/Skype: simonbiggsuk
> Research Professor in Art, Edinburgh College of Art
> s.biggs at eca.ac.uk
> http://www.eca.ac.uk/
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