Jon Brunberg

Still from animation

124 years (study)

Produced for, 2010
Text for by Jon Brunberg, May 2010


When the leaders of Saudi-Arabia and Iraq decided to change a buffer zone between their countries into a permanent border in 1981 they somehow forgot to notify the UN, and thus the world, with the result that few even knew that the change had occurred. In 1992, after Saddam Hussein had been thrown out of Kuwait the "blunder" was corrected.

I found this little anecdote from the world of borders, that I stumbled upon during the research for 124 years, to be quite illuminating. You would think that national borders are facts that are thoroughly documented, but often they are inexact, neglected, disputed or recognized only by the few.

Even worse. Borders can be handled with arbitrarity and recklessness in a way that affects peoples and communities for a long time. The Berlin Conference of 1884-85 is one abhorrent example. When the colonial powers of Europe decided to split the riches of Africa among themselves they used rulers to divide the enormous continent into spheres of interest. Straight lines through deserts, savannahs and forests. Straight lines trough existing kingdoms, nations and other political entities. The conference was the beginning of the scramble for Africa. Twenty years later, only two independent countries remained on the whole continent.

The Berlin Conference is the starting point for my animation 124 years, which shows all border changes from 1884 until the year 2008. It describes, in a sense, a cycle that starts and ends in the Balkans. It describes the dissolution of empires, the many phases of the Arab-Israeli conflict and many other events. All these changes flickers by in merely five seconds. This rapidness promotes overview rather than a focus on details, while the patterns that are created forms a narrative about the historical events that these changes represent.

It should be noted that this animation is an incomplete and inexact study, or a sketch, for a bigger work that will, eventually, include the whole world. This version zooms in on a rectangle with the Balkans, Caucasus, Iran and Libya in its four corners, and with the region that has been the focus of the Documentalities course in the middle.

By Jon Brunberg 2010