This is a brief introduction to the exhibition we are preparing at Rice and Beans. The contested territorial claims, national fictions and aesthetic gestures of micronations will form the background of a speculation on notions of autonomy in micronations and artist-run centres. What inequalities are carried through the notion of scale in reaction to state-sponsored institutions? What territories share a subversion, in themselves, of ideological state apparatuses? What are there limits in speculating on the scales of sovereignty? In addressing these questions, the exhibition space with its reading room and screening programme, will become a kind of embassy lounge for its own ‘known unknowns’.
The web component of the project will be an updated blog here.
Often dismissed and relegated to the terrain of fetishists, megalomaniacs and misanthropes alike, micronations (also referred to as new country projects and model countries) have often been established by individuals seeking out the ultimate achievement of autonomy and individual sovereignty. Staking claims and conceptualising new nations in an attempt to decipher ways to constitute new and alternative forms of living, individuals from bedrooms to squats have devised ways to reimagine their relation to diplomatically-recognised states, employing modes of resistance to renegotiate or re-appropriate the mechanisms of state apparatus.
The rise in micronations during the last century speaks to claims of citizenship and definitions of nationalism that resonate with the history of nation-building as well as the nuances of colonial expansion. Indeed, the act of staking territorial claims over seemingly uninhabited land deemed terra nullius, and proclaiming ownership by the right of occupation, is taken for granted in the history of most recognised states. As micronations are barely recognised, they often take on an air of seemingly fictitious conjecture and speculation, but it is the persistence by which the individuals or groups stake claims that creates and maintains the very concept of micronations.
The Internet has further provided a cyber space by which a multitude of alternatives are possible. With the creation of D.I.Y. micronations within the cyber world, claims to sovereignty have become multiplied as aesthetic acts or simply dubious online representations. Are micronations too easily construed as the overtly political, territorial incarnations of personal online spaces? Or rather, are the latter too easily given the sovereignty of a separate ‘social space’?
Furthermore, in recent years the platforms of major political parties in the US and UK have increasingly tended towards a colonization of the everyday, harnessing personal fears and anxieties to catalyse campaign rallying points. As these platforms, aligned with neoliberal imperatives, tend ever more visibly towards the minutiae of a politics of the self and the endless consumerist everyday, a growing number of contested spaces have also emerged through both privatisation and occupation, addressing the very radicalisation of sovereignty which the claims of micronations speak to.
Do micronations then form an opportunity to question, or simply re-appropriate -in a paradoxically democratised proliferation- institutional hierarchies or the repression of state organs? Is the proliferation of micronations a symptom of the desire for total branding, promoting the speed of a life-sized politics rather than criticality towards repressive state measures? The complexities of territorial claims, modes of subversion and branding as queried by the existence of micronations will form the background of a speculation -through the exhibition- on the relations between micronations and artist-run centres. What territories are shared by cultural production and political ideology? Opening these fields to issues of autonomy, privatisation and resistance, many of the questions raised by micronations will be addressed directly through the space of Rice and Beans, its reading room and screening programme, as well as a website to be updated throughout the exhibition.