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I took part yesterday in an event co-hosted in Paris by the ever-wonderful Kadist Foundation and the Evens Foundation. This was the first in a series of symposia in association with artist/filmaker/curators Ruti Sela and Mayaan Amir’s project ‘Exterritory‘. Starting in 2009 in Israel (where both are based), Exterritory was intially set up to explore the possibility of using spaces not formally part of any territorial states to debate issues affecting states and peoples (specifically the ongoing problems between Palestine and Israel). All sorts of ‘happenings’ have been used in their efforts to question established spatialities, including projecting images onto the sails of yachts in international waters off the Israeli coast and, more recently, using electromagnetic pulses to manipulate the bodies of (willing) people from the ‘outside’. In light of the many ‘interventions’ carried out by states and their military and medical establishments into peoples’ bodies (for good or ill, usually ill), the latter project – of which we were shown a rather ‘comical’  (at first sight) film of four volunteers having various parts of their bodies ‘twitched’ by medical technicians using strange looking machines –  seems more and more effective, and more chilling, the more I think about it.

Exterritory Symposium May 2 2012

Last evening’s symposium explored various aspects of exterritorial and extraterritorial space (the distinction between the two being far more meaningful in French), including (fellow non-geographer) Stuart Elden’s thought-provoking analysis of the construction of ‘exile’ in Shakespeare’s plays, Laurent Jeanpierre‘s examination of theoretical and juridical notions  and exterritoriality. The second session consisted of my own rambling thoughts inspired by events of 2008 – ‘Where has all the (xeno)money gone?‘ – and Dana Diminescu‘s fascinating exploration of the complex and emergent spatialities of migration. All four papers were skilfully brought together by the contribution of Anat Ben David, one of Ruti and Mayaan’s regular collaborators on Exterritory.

My contribution consisted of a reflection on the peculiar spatialities of money, inspired by the banking crisis of 2008 and the ‘flash-crash’ ot 2010, in which $US billions somehow ‘disappeared’.  Of course, the money never really existed, but the question of where it might have gone begged a whole series of questions about where we thought money might have been in the first place.  From this, I explored the strange materialities and mobilities of money as it has evolved through its many different forms from gold to quantum entities locked up in algorithms and high-speed computers.

Between us we did not in any sense resolve the many ambiguities and problems around the idea of extraterritoriality, but that was not really the point. Rather, the session very effectively opened up both the wide array of possible and actual extraterritorial spaces that are created and lived, as well aspointing out some of the constraints they bring with them. Just because we can identify a ‘strange space’ (a xenospace) beyond the state, does not mean that it is necessarily positive, anti-state (most are creatures of the state) or in any sense emancipatory. Above all what came through for me, was the utter normality of extraterritorial spaces, even if many remain either invisible or misrecognised.

The various contributions will now be written up for a forthcoming publication in 2013, which will bring together the papers from yesterday with others from future symposia.