Transbordering Laboratory: Researching European cities divided by borders
Transbordering Laboratory is a research on and between European cities that are divided by borders, which will address the potentiality of forming a new reality in European double cities, hence divided by borders. Hard borders became an issue again with the rise of nationalism and the pandemic, especially for citizens in the border territories. Many of the 36 border cities started to forge a common life since 1990 and reinvented themselves as unified towns. The aim of the lab is to gradually form a network of these double towns for sharing experiences, creativity, and also through connecting artists and activists in a practical laboratory for helping to develop a Europe with common trans bordering regions. Transbordering Laboratory received a fund from the Culture of Solidarity to realize participatory processes in the civil society of the double towns network. The outcome will be a multimedia exhibition and a conference, enlarging our network.
Słubfurt is the first city to be situated half in Poland and half in Germany. It was founded in 1999 and entered into the register of European cities in 2000. Since 2010, Słubfurt has been the capital of the so-called region Nova America. The city consists of two districts, Słub and Furt, situated on the right and left bank of the Oder river, which, together with the surrounding meadows and wild beaches, is the most beautiful river in Europe. The unique intercultural atmosphere in Słubfurt, where people communicate in German, Polish, English and, of course, in Słubfurtish, makes this place an attractive center for the development of the solar economy, garden figures and tourists from all over the world. (from www.slubfurt.net)
We have interviewed Michael, regarding the research project ‘Transbordering Laboratory’ who explains what the organization entails and envisions to achieve.
Since 1999 Michael develops Słubfurt as the new kind of interpretation of the double town of Frankfurt (Oder)-Słubice at the Polish-German border. His proposal was to show how Słubfurt can develop this project for all spaces that are located in between countries as the real spaces of the future. Michael stresses the distinction between present and past, where now everybody is crossing the borders without reflecting that back in the day queuing and crossing borders was very difficult. The birth of the idea lies in the desire to overcome the regional idea of the German-Polish border, while the laboratory of the future is the border region inside of Europe. Słubfurt being the Avant-garde of Europe, with daily cultural activities hosting events of different cultures, envisions to create this kind of European wide networks of double towns. This is just a small step on a long line, though people engaged in border regions can make a big impact even in European politics to further develop the border regions. The long-term goal is to enhance intercultural understanding in double towns through sharing cultural elements and experiences, cooperation and a common sense of belonging.
Covid pandemic and Putin’s invasion on Ukraine
According to Michael, the biggest challenge is to move from an egoistic stepping back to the national state, which will not bring our societies any further, to a humanistic perspective. Since the Cold War, the border between Germany and Poland has made huge developments compared to other regions, but still, there are many growing stereotypes against different nationalities or religions. For example, on the German side there was a growing belief against Polish people who were coming to steal, whereas now they are more focused on Muslim refugees who are considered terrorists. The ‘we’ versus ‘the other’ is growing. There is a sudden growth of donations organization towards Ukrainian refugees. Michael states that there is a conflict in volunteers that don’t want to give donations to non-Ukrainian refugees, though, Słubfurt sees no difference between Ukrainians, Cameroonians, Muslims, or Polish and supports them all regardless. Everyone is welcome in Słubfurt and the project team deals with this distinction as part of its continuous development by setting as the only requirement the respect to all differences and trying to integrate everyone into the intercultural community. Słubfurt supports Ukranian refugees among others, but Transbordering Laboratory mainly tries to make an artistic research on double towns, creates an art installation about it and tries to build up a network of transbordering people. Michael states that in the long run, people, and their societies need to face the climate change and other pressing matters. These problems cannot be solved by egoistic national states, but all people need to collectively act on a local and global scale to help each other and thing of how we want to live together.
Słubfurt is acting as a local, regional and a global player. It’s doing so by looking at the practical matters, not only providing identity cards to Cameroonians that move to Słubfurt but also by assisting them with finding lawyers, church asylums and finding solutions to their problems. Such processes are important to bring together art, creativity, and people together in participatory projects. Michael doesn’t like the term integration, this is a transcultural body where people are allowed to stay themselves and by understanding, touching and getting closer to each other, we see the richness of our diverse cultures. “Słubfurt is a project of being in between to make us and the other, a common we and It’s always open to everybody, and they can come with their ideas.”
There is a difference between European sentiments and sentiments from people who are not Europeans but come to Europe. “Many western countries have colonized Asia, Africa, southern America, northern America etc. There is a responsibility growing out of this, though there are still structures which are colonizing. African countries still paying high taxes to export things into Europe whereas Europe nearly pays no taxes. If Europe wants to be a humanistic, common place, we should follow this idea of humanism and change by not only picking the best for us but take responsibility for our actions. These issues can be solved as a common Europe, as a common body, as a very big step forward. A body for democracy will be born if we create a European social union, with same levels of healthcare, salaries, unemployment benefits and direct voting in Europe which refrains the European Council from deciding upon everything. This is a way to overcoming the illness of national states and the otherness will slowly disappear. There is a common European sentiment which stems from our rich and diverse cultures residing in Europe, which we have to celebrate.” Michael has lived in many European countries and has learned to see the world through the eyes of the people, despite the big discrepancies between the East and the West.
The Laboratory – Bridge Square is practicing another kind of democracy in a small scale of about 100 people. People involved in the meetings in the Bridge Square get keys and access to the buildings without the need to prove anything, unlike the political processes. “This social participation creates trust, responsibility, cooperation, and confidence. There is a great relation to the Ancient Greek Agora, where people would meet to discuss, connect, help each other and decide upon things all together. This is real democracy, a platform to experiment creativity and build trust, such things cannot be achieved only through voting.”
The long-term goal of the laboratory is that all European border regions will be like Nova America. The focus will not be on the European politics which is a central element of national bodies, to the contrary, looking at the periphery through developing cross border thinking, home, souls, language, identity and culture, we will get solutions for climate change and all the other crucial challenges of our era. “As many languages as you know, as many you have souls” says Michael, who envisions a Europe with common transbordering regions.
Granted: 59595 euros