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How To Not Built A Nation, 2021-2022


The performative symposium activates the installation How To Not Build A Nation in the exhibition Nation, Narration, Narcosis. The installation formulates modes of resistance against the nationalist formation of states and explores the role of the nation, particularly in the context of Zomia. Zomia is a geographical term for a nearly 2.5 million square kilometre area of mainland in Southeast Asia that stretches from the north-east of India eastwards through Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, the central highlands of Vietnam to Cambodia, encompassing the southern Chinese provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou, and western Guangxi. The political scientist and anthropologist James C. Scott calls it the largest remaining non-state space in the world, because the roughly 100 million people who live there do not belong to any government. The flags of the conference table do not represent nation-states, but rather non-human protagonists such as the Weretiger, the Manananggal (a mythological creature in the Philippines), and surveillance instruments from the American war in Vietnam (1955-–75). These protagonists are closely linked with the violent processes of nation-building and the shifting of transnational alliances from the Cold War (1947–89).


The activation of the work in the form of a performative symposium consists of engagements with the collaborators Dennis Dizon, Jessika Khazrik, Zeke Sales, and Mali Weil to bring to question various modes of the disciplining of knowledge in pursuit of an unpacking of the ideologies underpinning them, and their intersections with imperialist, colonial, and racialised infrastructures.



Featured in the exhibition Nation, Narration, Narcosis at Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin.

Created in collaboration with The Forest Curriculum.

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