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2016-2017 - Borders: Tension/Possibility

Syrian clarinetist and composer Kinan Azmeh in Home Within


Borders are places of contact. Different cultures, ecologies, belief systems, lived experiences, practices, languages, and goals come face to face. Implicit in this meeting of polarities is tension. Tension, inherently neither good nor bad, always leads away from stasis and toward change.

When people migrate across political borders, when natural catastrophes alter geographical borders, when technology modifies anatomical borders, when law and justice clash, when art imitates life or infiltrates war zones, when spiritual commitment encounters economic limitation, when moral imperative brushes up against mortality – in all of these instances of border crossing, tension gives birth to questions, and with them the potential for growth.

Globally, we are currently witnessing extraordinary instances – and powerful consequences – of the breakdown of national and regional boundaries. Within the United States, polarizing issues such as border security and immigration, racism and law enforcement, and the fraught divide between economic classes, political parties, and ideological camps have become constant sources of conflict. And within the academy, borders are in flux both between and within disciplines. These changes are extending our definitions of the way we understand the arts and the sciences. We are witnessing, for example, the breakdown and re-conception of borders between the narrative, the abstract and the conceptual; between natural and artificial; between human and synthetic; between real and virtual; between singular and homogeneous and pluralistic and global; between the analytic and the intuitive. Conversations about tradition, innovation, and collaboration become increasingly vital even as they disrupt our assumptions and illuminate conflict.

We believe the theme of border crossing will provide us a fruitful and dynamic broad frame for ATB’s explorations this year.