7 July 2011

The Doublethink Project

I recommend checking out the great new project from the Doublethink duo, Jakob Ohrt and Christian N. Halsted, titled 'Transnationalism'.

Ohrt and Halsted explore their new theme through public interventions, surveys, droll feats of appropriation and performative gestures. The outcomes include projects like Borders, which constitutes 'placing a tetherball on the tri-border of Slovakia, Austria and Hungary' and 'placing a badminton net at the Wales/England border'; A Global Anthem, a SoundCloud track comprising 'every national anthem in the world, put together in to one global anthem'; and Flag, where Doublethink asked four people of different backgrounds sets of questions (eg. what is your favourite animal?) and designed them personalised flags based on their responses.

At once playful and pointed, Doublethink's practice of examining one theme via varying modes of 'conceptual research' - from public interventions to written essays - is effective in allowing an impression of the theme to emerge whose stance is neither predetermined nor unequivocal. In addition this approach correlates to their ideas about, in this case, transnationalism itself: 'we have tried to depict transnationalism through an approach embracing a kind of playful understanding of borders and not of fear. It’s about national history and the modern challenges thereof. It is, as the word implies, about cultures beyond place and vice versa.'

Doublethink make a clear distinction between their version of transnationalism and the 'multicultural' transnationality proffered by dominant politics, the latter necessarily containing a grain of pejorative 'cultural' determinism. As the duo write, quoting anthropologist Lila Abu-Lughod, 'culture is operating within a discourse where it has come to “enforce separations that inevitably carry a sense of hierarchy”'. Doublethink attempt to interrogate this 'xenophopic' hierarchy which separates, at least in the so-called West, ‘us’ and ‘them’.

As Doublethink (whose name, for those who don't know, is a concept in George Orwell's masterpiece Nineteen Eighty-Four) conclude, we must doublethink all these thoughts: 'What is your role in a transnational environment? What possibilities does such a setting enable? Try to think of the real differences that separate people apart and try to think what actually connects us. Try to think. Doublethink.'


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