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Experimental geopolitics: Wafaa Bilal's

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Interest in alternative forms of geopolitics is growing. Frustrated with the apparent limitations of existing critical approaches, geographers are exploring new epistemologies and seeking to forge more practical, constructive and transformative modes of geopolitical intervention. In this article I argue that experimental tactics adopted by contemporary artists open up geopolitics for reflexive interrogation and creative refashioning in ways that are suggestive for alternative geopolitical projects. Particularly suggestive in this regard is Wafaa Bilal's 2007 work Domestic tension, in which the artist lived more or less continuously for a month in front of a webcam and paintball gun that could be controlled remotely via the internet. Domestic tension is illustrative of four components I identify in experimental geopolitics: the staging of geopolitics via the assemblage of a variety of elements; in allowing for these elements to play dynamically; in modulation of the course of the experiment; and in eliciting emergent effects. While the experimental assemblage of Domestic tension readily elicited orientalist violence, diverse practices of critique and solidarity also emerged as people sought to contest this violence. Playing with the fabric of geopolitical space, Domestic tension tested the extent to which another geopolitics might be possible.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: UCL Department of Geography, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT.

Publication date: 2012-06-01

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