Beyond Borders

Timefold, 2015, by Petroc Sesti

The meaning of ‘borders’

In this exhibition 37 European and Arabic artists are presenting their own view on the concept of ‘borders‘. They all raise questions about the meaning and consequences of borders. Usually the inhabitants of a country have no influence at all on the decisions made by politicians about borders and migration. But it’s these people who suffer the most from the consequences of the decisions. We don’t have to look very far to find examples: people dying on the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach Europe, Mexican children being kept in prison on the border with the USA or the many conflicts in Gaza.

The artists are showing us different types of borders. There are natural borders created by mountains, rivers or the desert. A lot of the current borders of countries worldwide are originated by simply following these natural borders. But there are also a lot of artificial borders, splitting regions into different countries. This redrawing of border lines by politicians is always combined with conflicts and war.

The curators wanted to create a dialogue between the different artists, but I didn’t always see the connection between them. Sometimes the link between the artwork and the theme seems a bit far-fetched. I am very glad to have discovered new artists and there were a few strong pieces of art that I will remember. Personally I find that the work of famous artists like Anish Kapoor and Jan Fabre is unnecessary in this exhibition. The other art is strong enough to stand on its own. Keep reading to see my favorite artworks.

Petroc Sesti

The artwork by Petroc Sesti that you see in the header image is actually a permanent installation that isn’t part of the current exhibition Beyond Borders. But I do see a link. Sesti is fascinated by science and his work often refers to a concept called ‘the void‘. When you stare into the large transparant glass bulb, you see a sort of liquid swirle. You can’t see where it begins or where it ends. You can see reflections of the room you are standing in, but the room is turned upside down. I think the artist is referring to outer space: Where is the border between Earth and the Universe?

Nasr-eddine Bennacer

Keeping Afloat, 2016, by Nasr-eddine Bennacer

The subject of this elegant sculpture by the Algerien artist Nasr-eddine Bennacer is quite obvious. We see a life jacket made in marble. This banal plastic object is honored by the luxurious material it is made of. And it should be! Because although it might seem banal, it is the most important object for migrants who are trying to reach Europe oversea. Without this, they are lost. Bennacers art is about the ambiguous relations between people. He addresses the fact that human interaction often leads to conflicts, manipulation and exploitation.

Jaume Plensa

Untitled, 1996, by Jaume Plensa

We see a big black shiny box made out of bricks, painted on rice paper. Jaume Plensa is a Spanish artist whose art is about the borders of the human mind. He made lots of public statues of people sitting all alone in a landscape, reflecting as if they are locked in their own head. The statues are often made out of transparant materials, as if they are almost invisible. We can lock people up physically, by building a wall around them. But even people who are free to move wherever they want can feel isolated and locked up. When standing in front of this painting, you see yourself reflected in the black wall. It makes you question the borders of your own mind.

Tony Cragg

Articulated Column, 1997, by Tony Cragg

I like this sculpture simply for aesthetic reasons. Tony Cragg, a British artist, makes sculptures out of different materials that are very pleasing to see. This bronze statue looks like an abstract swirl. It would have swirled all over the place if the artist wouldn’t have frozen it in time. That’s how it looks to me. I am not sure how this relates to the theme of the exhibition. Next to this work by Tony Cragg we see a sculpture made by the Greek artist Jannis Kounellis. Both the artists often work with special materials: Kounellis worked with found materials (Arte Povera) and Cragg with everyday materials like plastic. Maybe that’s why they are part of this exhibition: they cross the border between art and everyday life. I am just guessing here…

Taysir Batniji

Miradors, 2008, by Taysir Batniji

You might have seen this series of photographs before. Make no mistake though, these are not the water towers by Bernd and Hilla Becher. If you look closely, you see something else. Mirador, as the title says, means ‘lookout’. The Palestinian artist Taysir Batniji photographed watchtowers used by the Israeli army to spy on Palestinian citizens. Batniji currently lives in France, but his heart is also still in Gaza. His pictures, sculptures, drawings, paintings, video’s and installations are often about his own personal history and the history of his country. He plays with themes like ‘between-ness‘, exile and displacement.


Be sure to check out the websites of the artist mentioned in this blog post. You can visit the exhibition until 24/02/2019.

Museum website

*Free entrance if you own the Museum Pass.



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