Maps and Sharing

Quite a while ago I began to sanction my [obsessive/compulsive behaviour when] peeling a soft skinned citrus (tangerine etc) in a single slough while looking at the topology that I effected by that one tear. There were several ways forward with this

Boundaries are for inclusion and exclusion and human responses to them are essentially tribal. Thus my current work is looking at comparisons between this shared global offering of a piece of fruit and the sorts of perimeters that occupy our attention e.g. the perimeter to the Reichsgau Wartheland, the Warsaw ghetto, the Berlin Wall and the Israeli Defence Wall.

By way of explanation the Reichsgau Wartheland was the result of a Nazi ethnic cleansing of an area around Pozen/Poznan in Poland. The idea that a successful race should expand out of its initial circumstances was not new to the Nazis but rather the result of the misplaced eugenics theories endemic throughout Western Europe. Certain elements perceived that Germany had lost out in colonial terms relative to Britain, France and others and the notion of lebensraum, literally room to grow began to gain traction in German thinking. Such elements believed too that the original occupants of the lands to the east had been Goths i.e. germanic and that they had been dispossessed by slavic people. On the occupation of Poland in 1939 the Nazis lost little time in the murder or eviction of the indigenous slavic or jewish population and from 1940 the settlement of aryan peoples. Contemporary accounts talk of settlers finding tables set with part eaten meals and beds with the outlines of sleeping children. We should bear in mind that British and other countries' colonial history is not much improved on relative to the Nazis.

The boundaries to the Reichsgau were not physical though the particular violence with which they were established makes them more material. The Troubles in Northern Ireland and the establishment of "peace walls" point up another kind of barrier. The Northern Ireland Government made an easy and tactical decision to separate warring factions by actual walls, fences or depopulated areas. An unseen enemy can be talked up by demagogues and slowly the Northern Irish are learning to dismantle these structures, recent events in the close of 2012 may turn out to be more indicative of the needs of criminal elements to fuel fear and alienation.

Where a clear imbalance in resources is available the purpose of a boundary can be containment (the Berlin Wall), imprisonment (the Warsaw Ghetto), exclusion (Hadrian's Wall).

The Berlin Wall (1961--1990) was ostensibly purposed to prevent the contamination by containment of western influences of the East German Communist state (GDR) but its construction revealed that it was intended to retain the GDR citizens and to kill or severely maim any who might attempt to cross.

The Jewish quarter in Warsaw, in Lvov and elsewhere were in war time repurposed as resettlement camps for the displaced Jews from smaller communities throughout eastern Europe and ultimately as transit camps before transport to extermination camps. The perimeter of the Warsaw ghetto followed the street lines of the surrounding city but was fortified in the nature of a prison to prevent exit of individuals and import of foodstuffs; starvation being a key aim of the occupying forces.

The Israeli Government built a wall either along the 1949 boundary or in the West Bank occupied territory in response to suicide bombings originated in the West Bank area. The number of these has dropped and the effect of the wall to the Israeli perspective has therefore been exclusion. Opponents of the wall point out that the effect of those portions of the wall wholly in the West Bank has sometimes been to dispossess Palestinians of land rights and to regularise settlement of the territory occupied after the 1967 war. Other parts of Israeli opinion feel that the wall is a de facto abdication of their claim to all of biblical Jewish lands.

When peeling an orange, better still a tangerine or clementine with easily detachable skin it is fun and sociable to offer segments of the fruit to others. For myself the issue arose that if the peel is removed in a single piece there is a discordancy with the underlying justice of sharing and the qualities of neighbourliness. If for instance the skin of the globe were taken in one piece the tears in the map would most likely pass through whole continents, cities, neighbourhoods and dwellings. Many would be cut off from their sources of livelihood or supply lines of foodstuffs. This takes me out of the comfort zone of the mathematical problem of the flattening into the politics of the sharing.

These images are made as salt prints to reflect the minimal resources available to photographers in many parts of the world. The large format negatives are developed in a Rodinal substitute made from paracetamol tablets and lye – again to demonstrate the gap between the resources available where supply lines are more constant distinct from areas where life is more uncertain. Peeling a piece of fruit with the intention of preserving the skin in a single piece cannot realistically proceed without intention but even so there are still surprises when the skin is flattened. Thus far I should rather focus on the texture of the inner skin and the surprise of the outline generated.

The initial images are shot life size on 10x8 film; it is accepted that large format film is not itself cheap but it seems important to carry the integrity of the record forward. The one to one ratio of the image retains the documentary nature of the torn skin. Initially, a contact print was made where the peel out line was overlaid with a map projection. Maps are themselves political objects and will identify some feature that the map designer particularly wishes to stress or at the least to preserve during the transformation.

Recently I have been enabled to draw maps and trace out texts on the surface of the piece of fruit and thus explore the modified geographies directly. Making these divisions, we can begin to revisit the arbitrariness with which the European powers divided Africa up for their colonial exploitation and abuse at the Berlin Congress in 1885.

Four minute film peeling and discussion
Photo booth movie