Borders kill. Tania Bruguera’s Referendum as an artistic strategy of political participation

  • Pierluigi Musarò University of Bologna, Italy
  • Melissa Moralli University of Bologna, Italy
  • Paola Parmiggiani University of Bologna, Italy
Keywords: Border, Imaginary, Citizenship, Art, Political partecipation


Since the rise of modern nation-states, borders have played the important role to order society because they have the power to define territories, not only on the ground, but also on the level of the imaginary by shaping national identities and perceptions of the world. Borders can be intended not as places, rather as processes, as socially constructed and shifting structures of practices and discourses that produce norms of difference and exclusion. Within this context, arts, and particularly performing arts, can play a role in challenging these forms of representation, overturning the spectacle of the border into collective performances. Drawing upon these conceptual premises, the article presents the empirical insights related to Tania Bruguera’s ‘Referendum’. Referendum was intended both as a performance and as a form of political activism, inviting people to vote on the following question: “Borders kill. Should we abolish borders?”. After analysing the collaborative procedure that led to the final results of the performance, we reflect upon the role of arts as pedagogical and political tool capable of changing the existing imagery on borders - and specifically on the Mediterranean Sea - and human mobility, stimulating new forms of debate and responsabilization in terms of co-citizenship.


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