Image by Tom Thistlethwaite

Understanding Territoriality: Identity, Place and Possession concerns how tensions between the personal, the local and the general (which are at the crux of the debate about our cultural identity) are threatening the sustainability of our nation states and the European Union.

Understanding Territoriality asks: How can we better understand these tensions, open up the debate beyond politicians and academics and move our societies forward in ways that enable our individuality and local distinctiveness to flourish, whilst minimising confrontation and maximising co-operation?

We are convinced that better knowledge of our territorial nature in the modern world is essential to understanding these tensions and is a pre-requisite to developing methodologies that support national unity and closer ties within the EU and the wider European neighbourhood.

Territoriality is an anthropological concept derived from the observation of animal behaviours, and is concerned with how animals (including humans) demonstrate ownership or occupancy of areas and possessions. Humankind extrapolates this behaviour into the complex social structures of nation states and agglomerated territories, such as the EU. Trust is the key social skill that has been developed in order to achieve this.

Understanding Territoriality will create an artistic programme that will further the understanding of ‘territoriality’ for diverse audiences and provide a platform to debate its importance to Europe. Once explained, territoriality is a concept that is easily understood by teenagers and adults alike. As a theme it evokes personal, historical and political references, which is essential as our intention is to engage audiences who are not normally involved (or interested) in discussing the politics of the nation state or the EU.

Why we think this project is important

Euroscepticism and the increase in popularity of the far right agenda are evidence of a decline in trust at the national and international level and are a classic display of territoriality. Our partnership spans the UK, Macedonia, Italy and Belgium and our countries are experiencing this situation, though in differing ways.

Our cultural identity is expressed in our urban planning, architecture and the objects we make. Aside from personal and domestic space our locality is the territory we feel most emotionally connected to. This connection is often exploited by Eurosceptic and nationalist arguments but often neglected as a subject for discussion by Europhiles.

The forces of identity-building consumerism, the super-connectivity of social media, the speed and certainty of geographical mobility (whether by choice or force) are constantly challenging our sense of self, place and where we belong.

The rationale for the creation of the EU (ie peace) is slipping out of human memory and the quality of debate about its value to the individual citizen is poor outside of Eurocratic circles.

These influences affect us profoundly as individuals and societies but they are complex to articulate. However there is a clear imperative to do so, and to open up the debate beyond politicians and academics. Artists can do this.

Project Themes

As territoriality is a broad subject that covers animal behaviour in the natural world, interpersonal relationships, personal, local, national and pan-national identity and also relationships to other, abstract territories, the partners of the Understanding Territoriality project will develop their research and activities around two sub-themes. Each draws in how territoriality plays a role in the personal, local and general:

Home Range: will investigate personal and domestic space as an expression of needs and identity. It concerns: inter-personal encounters; identity-building consumerism and the assertion of our personality through our homes and possessions; the cultural representation of social groups and neighbourhoods; urbanism and the affect of dislocation.

Power and Boundaries: will examine the politics of public space, how power and division is represented, how boundaries are perceived, challenged and reconfigured. It concerns the position and roles of artists and the art institution and the representation of ‘communities’ including the use of social media as a tool for cultivating common values between individuals across national boundaries.

Who We Are

We are established, independent visual arts and design organisations with a track record in producing high quality work and engaging audiences for our programmes. We already work internationally and in partnership to commission, exhibit and debate visual art and design and its relationship to the socio-political context in which we operate.

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