[ISEA2011] Panel: Eden Un­ulata – The Dig­i­tal Tun­nel

Panel Statement

Panel: Short:Circuit:  Cross Border Communications in New Media Between US and Turkey

The ques­tion “What is a bor­der?” might seem sim­ple. Every­one has an idea what the an­swer might be, has had some sort of ex­pe­ri­ence with it, and yet would prob­a­bly have a hard time defin­ing it in sim­ple terms. The sim­plest de­f­i­n­i­tion I have found de­fines a bor­der as an outer part or edge! (merriam-webster.com/dictionary/border) I found a more com­pli­cated de­f­i­n­i­tion at Wikipedia that says bor­ders de­fine ge­o­graphic bound­aries of po­lit­i­cal en­ti­ties or legal ju­ris­dic­tions. If one adds con­text such as, “in the age of mod­ern dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy” – the sim­ple ques­tion of what a bor­der is be­comes a very com­pli­cated one. A po­lit­i­cal en­tity or a legal ju­ris­dic­tion within a bor­der de­fines the rules that peo­ple play by. Peo­ple pay taxes, par­tic­i­pate in pol­i­tics, en­gage in eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity and per­form ser­vice du­ties ac­cord­ing to these rules. Re­ject­ing these rules has con­se­quences of pun­ish­ment or per­haps even ban­ish­ment. Once con­fronted with the con­se­quences, you are no longer part of the sys­tem de­fined by a bor­der; you are no longer one of “them”, but an “other”, the pun­ished, the ban­ished! So what does it mean to be one of “them”? Who de­cides the de­f­i­n­i­tion of “them”? If you have not re­jected the rules, have not gone against the sys­tem yet still feel like not-one-of-them does that mean you should still ac­cept the rules? Still pay taxes, still par­tic­i­pate in pol­i­tics, en­gage in eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity and still per­form ser­vice du­ties? What hap­pens if you are now out­side of the bor­der, not by pun­ish­ment or ban­ish­ment but by choice and you are play­ing by an­other set of rules?  Yet, what does it mean if you can still en­gage peo­ple within the bor­ders you left with­out an­swer­ing to the sys­tem? What if you were to be pun­ished and ban­ished yet still be pre­sent within the bor­der? Phys­i­cally out of their reach, yet dig­i­tally pre­sent. I am an Amer­i­can by birth. I was born in Florida. I now live in Chicago. I pay taxes. I vote, do busi­ness and per­form the du­ties ex­pected of me. I am also Turk­ish and British by birth. I grew up in Turkey, and lived there for many years. I still hold a Turk­ish cit­i­zen­ship. Yet I never felt as if I was part of their sys­tem – at least as they de­fine cit­i­zen­ship. My non-Turk­ish side was al­ways high­lighted, and in many cases, I was con­sid­ered not Turk­ish enough! I have heard the term ‘gavur’ ut­tered at me so many times it no longer means much any­more. Add to the fact I haven’t paid taxes in Turkey for a decade and a half, I haven’t par­tic­i­pated in pol­i­tics, nor en­gaged in eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity. In that con­text I have de­cided that I will ex­pand my act by re­fus­ing to per­form du­ties also known as mil­i­tary ser­vice. Why hold to the no­tion of hav­ing to do my du­ties for a place I have very dis­tant sense of be­long­ing? How­ever, this re­fusal has con­se­quences! I will lose my cit­i­zen­ship and will be pro­hib­ited from en­ter­ing the coun­try. As I no longer live there, the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment will not be able to pun­ish me phys­i­cally or mon­e­tar­ily, so they will sim­ply ban­ish me! But do I re­ally need to be phys­i­cally there in order to be pre­sent? I will be able to be pre­sent through dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy, I will still be able to re­ceive news from friends, stay in touch, main­tain en­gage­ment through email, Face­book, Linked-In etc. So ef­fec­tively I will be tun­nel­ing under the bor­der with dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy, be pre­sent to the ex­tent I choose to do so and yet re­main out of reach. Out of the con­trol of the po­lit­i­cal en­tity or ju­ris­dic­tion of any Turk­ish legal body. In ef­fect I will be ren­der­ing the en­tity and the ju­ris­dic­tion just a lit­tle more hol­low. So in the age of dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy what is the de­f­i­n­i­tion of a bor­der? And re­ally, how rel­e­vant is it?

  • Eden Un­ulata’s works in­ves­ti­gate the for­ma­tion of cul­tural iden­tity and how a so­ci­ety draws con­clu­sions from shared ex­pe­ri­ences. My in­tent is to un­der­stand the me­chan­ics of cul­tural iden­tity, high­light prob­lems that evolve from its for­ma­tion, and stim­u­late a de­bate on how to bet­ter man­age these prob­lems. When the iden­tity of a cul­ture and how it op­er­ates is ex­plored in-depth, so­lu­tions may re­veal them­selves.  BID, METU (Turkey); MFA, Graphic De­sign, Bilkent Uni­ver­sity (Turkey);  MA, De­part­ment of In­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary Arts, Co­lum­bia Col­lege Chicago. I have worked and ex­hib­ited in Chicago, IL., Ankara (Turkey), Adana (Turkey), Is­tan­bul (Turkey), Paris (France), and Ober­lin OH. I cur­rently live and work in Chicago, US.