Traversing Boundaries: An Interview with Joe Bigley

Artist Joe Bigley talks with 10 Years + Counting about his travelling performance piece, Traversing a Foreign Border Domestically

1. Please describe your project. What inspired you to tackle this issue?

On May 12, 2011 Traversing a Foreign Border Domestically (TFBD)began by bicycling the length and shape of the border of Afghanistan within the United States. Beginning and ending at Ground Zero in NYC, the route extended further west of Indianapolis and further south of Atlanta. Taking 69 days to complete, TFBD totaled 3,730 milesl, exceeding the actual length of the Afghani border. This long term public performance project was intended to set up chance interactions to engage in a dialogue with a wider public to archive a slice of public perception regarding the war in Afghanistan.

The arbitrary nature of political boundaries and specifically the border of Afghanistan seemed to be a potent topic to explore. By superimposing the Afghani border onto the US road system and travelling its length and shape garnered voluntary sacrifice by a civilian during a time of war. Sacrifice which the wider media does not emphasize as it promotes going on with business as usual. The timing of the project is to reference the 10th anniversary of both 9/11 and the subsequent war while ending up back at Ground Zero in July was to mark the proposed scale down date of the U.S. troop surge in Afghanistan.

Domestically (TFBD)began by bicycling the length and shape of the border of Afghanistan within the United States. Beginning and ending at Ground Zero in NYC, the route extended further west of Indianapolis and further south of Atlanta. Taking 69 days to complete, TFBD totaled 3,730 milesl, exceeding the actual length of the Afghani border. This long term public performance project was intended to set up chance interactions to engage in a dialogue with a wider public to archive a slice of public perception regarding the war in Afghanistan.

The arbitrary nature of political boundaries and specifically the border of Afghanistan seemed to be a potent topic to explore. By superimposing the Afghani border onto the US road system and travelling its length and shape garnered voluntary sacrifice by a civilian during a time of war. Sacrifice which the wider media does not emphasize as it promotes going on with business as usual. The timing of the project is to reference the 10th anniversary of both 9/11 and the subsequent war while ending up back at Ground Zero in July was to mark the proposed scale down date of the U.S. troop surge in Afghanistan.

2.What have you learned from this project? Were there any surprising outcomes?

TFBD offered a wealth of insight to how the wider public views the war in Afghanistan as well as the idea of war in general and its effects on domestic issues. In general the individuals who I had the good fortune to speak with were skeptical of the war at best. The length of the conflict was taking a visible toll on people as their patience is running thin. A common viewpoint was the concern over no clear finish line; when do we know when it is over? When will be be able to say that the job is done? What is the job in the first place? Many people were skeptical about the support of Karzi and where all of the lost funds that go towards Afghanistan are now and what they are being used for. There was a consensus that it may be more effective to stop the war, not necessarily because of the conflict itself but because there are so many problems within the U.S. border that people view as more pressing to their daily lives. One thing that was easy to notice early on in the project was how easy it is to find people in smaller communities who are directly effected by the war. By having served personally or by having a loved one who served, is serving or has been killed in conflict, the smaller communities in the U.S. are exponentially harder hit by the costs of war from my findings.
Other than the inevitable surprising issues that arise on a bicycle trek of this length, it was always surprising to hear the very uncommon sentiment that we should have hit the region harder so that we could have withdrawn our troops from the ground over there sooner. It was also surprising to meet young men and women who were still considering to join the military. As one young man stated, he wanted to be “the guy to kick the doors in over there”. Being committed to maintaining neutrality within the context of this project, hearing statements such as this made the maintenance more challenging.

3. How do you wage peace each day? Any pointers for the rest of us?

I am a firm believer in voting with the dollar. By making a sustained effort to be informed on which corporations are benefiting, supporting or funding the war effort I avoid buying the projects that they produce whenever possible. In addition I try to treat others with the dignity and respect that everyone is entitled to.

4. If applicable, how can people get involved in your project?

By visiting www.travfbd.com people are invited to comment on the Discussion forum to add to the bank of opinions regarding the war in Afghanistan.

5. Anything else you’d like to share with us?

“Democracy does not work unless you participate.”
-Frank Zappa

Joe Bigley

North Carolina based artist Joe Bigley received a MFA degree from Alfred University in 2008. His work has been exhibited across the United States and internationally including  China, Norway and Spain. Currently he is working on several bodies of work and is adjunct faculty at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s