What if all migration was free? A video-based art and science project

What if all migration was free? A video-based art and science project

Jan Oberg

April 30, 2020

Last year, the Danish artist Gudrun Steen-Andersen created a multimedia installation under the theme: “Perpetuum Mobile – What Would Happen If Migration Was Free Worldwide?”

Naturally, it is a thought experiment – not the least in these times of multi-crisis where nationalism, xenophobia, populism and the building of walls seem to have emerged as just another – political – virus way before the Coronavirus.

The Danish-language version was made in 2019 and in March this year, we repeated – more or less, that is – the video lectures in English. It was about the time when the Coronavirus had just begun its race to the top of the global agenda. You’ll find them all the videos here or click on this:

Steen-Andersen’s heuristic intention – somewhat in the tradition of the great future-thinker Robert Jungk’s future workshop – was realized through her own amazing installation and by invitation to a series of scholars whom she invited to giver their 10+ min answers in quite free and pesonal video lectures.

“Perpetuum Mobile” follows an increasingly conspicuous trend in the global art world of exploring more or less realistic futures, letting audiences look into scenarios – Utopias as well as Dystopia. One just has to take last year’s Venice Biennale as an example, the one in 2019 with the theme – “May You Live In Interesting Times.”

I was really happy and proud to be one of the scholars invited by Steen-Andersen to philosophize, hypothesize and imagine some possible response(s) to her thought-provoking question.

I felt it was my job to try to do so in a positive manner. Here is basically what I came up with:

At this moment, the prospects of freeing migration worldwide do not look promising but if humanity wants to live more peacefully in the post-US Empire and Western-dominated world, to engage fully in the emerging future multipolar world and harvest the tremendous potentials we all can bring synergistically together to solve global problems and liver better ever after, then we have to reduce the importance of all kinds of borders – those in our minds in particular.

Further, we shall have to cooperate, take each other into account across present cultural and other borders and we must stop the basically Western empirical and militarist formula of ongoing confrontation, wars and demonisation of imagined enemies – and seek unity in diversity with no country and culture seeking to impose its own values on everybody else.

In summary, we have a choice: To cooperate across borders (and make them softer or disappear) or become irrelevant and go down.

Watch all these very different contributions. Since I am the only one related to TFF and writing this here, I am not humble enough to not point you in the direction of my own two mini-lectures 🤣

In English…
In Danish…

A project such as this cannot but make you reflect on the fact that so much research in this world is oriented towards the past and understanding causes of the malaise – while so relatively little energy is devoted to thinking about the only thing we can shape – namely our future and, thereby, the solutions to the present huge problems.

It’s a bit as if we should be happy with doctors we consult and they are brilliant at diagnosing and prognosticating – “the world is likely to go to hell soon if we continue to…” – but then have not the slightest to say when you, the patient in pain, ask: But what can be done? Is there a chance I can again become healthy and happy?

Who knows, perhaps the art world holds the potential to prepare us considerably better for the future – and certainly for creative thinking about it – than does science in general?

I sense that it could well be so and that, therefore, some of the first borders we should tear down are those between science and art.

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