In July 2021, a collaboration between the Institute of Visual Communication (IVC) and the Artist Collectives Anti-Customs Enforcement (ACE) and For the love of inquiry (FLI) commenced, propelled by a shared vision of exploring the intricate relationship between art, technology, and the challenges artists face in an increasingly digital world. This partnership was made possible through the support of the Cross Culture Program (CCP) of the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (IFA) in Germany. The ambitious venture was aptly titled “Artists at the Digital Border.”
The IVC embarked on a mission to curate and host a series of interviews, discussions, and roundtables with Lebanese artists and their international counterparts. These conversations aimed to collect invaluable testimonies and research data to form the basis of a manifesto addressing the issues of artists’ mobility and digital borders in today’s world.
The research team, composed of Christoffer Horlitz from Humboldt University, Germany, Ayodamola Tanimowo Okunseinde, and Ella Hillström from The New School in the United States and Sweden, and local academic practitioners Joe Elias and Hassan Choubassi from the International University of Beirut, conducted a series of semi-public interviews known as “Salons.” These salons brought together artists from around the globe to discuss the complex interplay between the physical and virtual worlds. Topics ranged from how artists navigate virtual borders to the use of technology in art versus physical presence, border crossings, and their impact on artistic practice.
Six artists, Tarek Mourad (LB), Jamila Al-Yousef (PS/DE), Alexandre Paulikevitch (LB), Noah Hellwig (SE), Hiba Najem (LB), and Teresa Braun (US), actively participated in three recorded online salons spanning over three months. The insights and discussions that emerged from these sessions served as the cornerstone for further research and exploration.
After two years of intensive data collection and rigorous analysis, the research group organized a one-day workshop, bringing together artists, activists, and world-makers to challenge the barriers that stifle artistic expression. The objective was to counteract the evolving global border technologies that constrain artists and redefine their capacity to shape the world around them.
This workshop unfolded in two distinct physical locations: first in August 2023 at Winter Studios in Lagos, Nigeria, in collaboration with the Wac People creative agency, and subsequently in October 2023 at Haus Der Statistik in Berlin, Germany. The primary goal was to delve into the identification of barriers obstructing artists and creatives, limiting their potential for self-expression. Through exploration, glitching, and manifesto-making, participants sought to confront these challenges head-on.
“Artists at the Digital Border” represents a journey that unites artists, academics, and activists in their pursuit of transcending digital borders. Through collaboration and exploration, this initiative aims to creating an intervention in the art world, dismantling barriers, and giving voice to artists worldwide. As the Manifesto takes its final shape, it will stand as a testament to the power of collective efforts to redefine the boundaries of art, technology, and human expression.