Anna H. Geerdes – Borderline

18-09-2021 - 09-10-2021


Compass Gallery is proud to present a third solo exhibition by the remarkable Anna Geerdes. A powerful and compelling set of paintings created for a solo exhibition which was postponed due to lockdown. The additional year has given Anna time to further develop and complete an even stronger and larger body of work. In her own introduction to this exhibition the artist writes:

Borders and Boundaries always have a visceral, physical reality, but also a deep symbolic meaning. On the one hand they might provide safety, security, a sense of familiarity and home. On the other they can exclude, confine, and distort the way we think of other human beings beyond the divide.

While our world seems to be more interconnected than ever, walls go up faster than ever in our communal history. According to Tim Marshall we are living in an age of walls. “What many people don’t realise is that walls are being built along borders everywhere. It is a worldwide phenomenon in which the cement has been mixed and the concrete laid without most of us even noticing. At least sixty-five countries, more than a third of the world’s nation states, have built barriers along their borders, half of those erected since the WWII sprang up between 2000 and now” (1).

Despite the free flow of trade and money, somehow the freedom of people to cross borders is more and more seen as problematic and dangerous.

As a border-crosser myself, place and belonging have always been a central theme in my work. But this became more urgent after it became clear that new borders were going up between the place I now call home and the place where I was born and grew up. While there always was a sense of shared values and to a certain extend a common, entwined history and future, suddenly the overwhelming feeling was one of questioning, sense of estrangement and of being “the other” whoever that might be.

The concern of out of control emigration is for many people very real and reasonable, but at the same time the question needs to be asked what it means in this day and age to keep building more and more walls, when global cooperation is so necessary. People have always migrated and nation states are relatively recent.

The Covid 19 pandemic only made things worse; more walls everywhere, and even higher. Implored to stay away from friends, family and fellow citizens (to see them as a danger to ourselves) the walls extended deep into our personal lives. While we are slowly weaning ourselves off times of isolation, back to more open relations with each other, it is worth wondering how many of the extra border controls and surveillance structures will still be in place after the pandemic subsides. So often walls and fences are more a question of attitude, translated into political strategies.

The dream I dream often is that of a world without borders, fences, barbed wire, passport control etc. I would be my utopia but as reality it feels unattainable in the world today.

Maybe there is no other possibility at the moment to live with the word “borderline”. According to the Cambridge Dictionary:

“Borderline is the line between two different conditions with the possibility of belonging to either of them”. This with all the uncertainty, unsettledness, and doubt that it entails.

1.Tim Marshall, Divided: Why We’re Living in an Age of Walls, Elliot And Thompson, 2018, p2

Boundaries and Borders

We love boundaries and borders, they define the things around us and keep everything in place.

Every place has its border. Walls make satisfying borders for rooms. Corners make perfect borders for walls. Tables have edges- beyond the edge is the void. Hedges and stone walls are good for gardens and other plots of land. Borders become generally more problematic when things are bigger. Some villages and towns are bordered by moats or stone walls. These are old borders, and don’t count anymore. Human settlements, towns and cities have the tendency to expand and their borders expand with them. When you are not on a main road, warned by a sign, it is hard to tell when you cross the boundary of a city. You might be there, but you might be somewhere else without knowing it.

The same applies to borders between countries. The border is usually invisible (apart from some official border crossings on main roads and motorways, or if your country is an island) although there might be some clues that hint at a border crossing; when walking through fields, the breed of cattle might suddenly change from one area to another; electricity pylons might have a different design; different kinds of bricks are used to build houses and walls, and different tarmac- or none at all- is used for roads.

Borders between countries are often hidden from view and always immeasurable but have an enormous significance. The south of one country, with its ‘southern’ attitude, always borders the north of another country, with its ‘northern’ outlook on life. Although neighbours, people who just live over a national border from each other have a different outlook, a different language, a different cultural rhythm and very different windows in their houses. Borders make people strangers to one another.

The most beautiful border is that of the human body: our skin. It is a sensitive membrane, able to breathe in and out. It touches and can be touched. Maybe that is how all borders ought to be.

Anna H Geerdes