There were strong echoes of Stefano Harney’s recent seminar at the Exterritory event in Paris this week. Exterritory is a project initiated by Israeli artists, filmmakers and curators Ruti Sela and Mayaan Amir in 2009, to explore some of the many contradictions produced by the struggle over land in the Palestine/Israel conflict. Because both sides lay claim in various ways to ‘territory’ (conceived in multiple ways), Ruti and Mayaan wanted to explore the possibility of stepping outside territory altogether to innovate modes of resistance and to highlight the absurdities of the battle over land. This has involved many different events over the years, most strikingly their projection of images of the region and its many people onto the sails of yachts at night in international waters off the Israeli coast.
The event in Paris – co-hosted by the Kadist and Evens Foundations – was the first of a number of planned symposia bringing together artists, curators, academics and other oddments to consider what ‘exterritory’ might mean in practice. The Paris symposium explored various aspects of exterritorial and extraterritorial space (the distinction between the two being far more meaningful in French). The first session included (defiantly non-) geographer Stuart Elden’s thought-provoking analysis of the construction of ‘exile’ in Shakespeare’s plays and Laurent Jeanpierre‘s examination of theoretical and juridical notions of exterritoriality. The second session consisted of my own rambling thoughts inspired by events of 2008 and the ‘flash-crash’ – ‘Where has all the (xeno)money gone?‘ – and Dana Diminescu‘s fascinating exploration of the complex and emergent spatialities of migration. All four papers were skilfully brought together by the contribution of Anat Ben David, one of Ruti and Mayaan’s regular collaborators on Exterritory.
All sorts of cross-cutting themes and resonances emerged from the papers and subsequent discussion that I won’t rehearse here (the event was filmed and will eventually appear on-line) but for me the most striking aspect was the ubiquity of social, economic, political, individual, collective, planned and spontaneous ‘spaces’ that do not conform to the established norms of legally-defined and reproduced ‘territoriality’. Indeed, by the time we’d worked through the ambiguous spatialities of exile, xenomoney, migration, cyberspace, exception, and many others, territory itself was beginning to look like the minority sport. Which, of course, makes it all the more interesting that so much of our legal, institutional, police, military and political activity should be devoted to what emerges as a very narrow and privileged mode of living in and thinking about the world.