About 'Accustoming Canadians to Sublimation'

Initial Proposal

UpgradeMTL presents: Accustoming Canadians to Sublimation

by the Imaginary Border Academy (IBA)

Although Canada officially established diplomatic relations with the Republic of Macedonia in 1996, following an audit that was conducted at the Canadian embassy in Skopje in 2002, it was decided that the Canadian Mission in Skopje would cease to operate as of 2004 and representation of Canada within the country was reverted back to using Belgrade as a hub.

Upgrade Montreal and the Imaginary Border Academy propose to further dismantle the former Canadian embassy in Skopje for UI08 (Upgrade International Gathering 2008), Chain Reaction.

In 2001, a group of sans-papiers fighting for status in Belgium occupied the abandoned building of the Somalian embassy in Brussels. This place, abandoned because of the civil war in Somalia, property of a vanished state, became the Universal Embassy. Inhabited by so-called illegals, the Universal Embassy is a space where they can undertake various administrative tasks and mainly get support; it is an embassy for people without embassies. One of the particularities of embassies is the immunity they enjoy: embassies are located within nation-states but national laws do not apply to the embassy and its representatives. This is what we call ‘diplomatic immunity’, which was agreed under international law at the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations in 1961.

Thus the removal of a physical embassy for us begs the question: What is the relationship between the embassy and the 'collective'? Or how does the absence of a physical embassy affect the 'collective'? If one moves away from the idea of (top-down) community, does one need an embassy, and if so, what services can or should it offer? What is an embassy, and how can its absence nourish the emergence of a new and ‘special embassy’?

Building on the absence of the Canadian embassy in Skopje, the IBA wishes to tackle the various issues raised by international diplomacy today. Focusing on the potentiality provided by the absence of a physical embassy, we ask: what, then, justifies the presence of embassies; what are the negative impacts and the positive opportunities of their physical absence; and what could this potentiality create and perpetuate as a chain reaction. Starting from the understanding that borders and nations are constructs, we wish to reveal the virtual aspects that modulate the embassy into an actual entity. We furthermore wish to focus on the elements of "play" and "magic" in international diplomatic relations, which constitute a large part of the existence of embassies, that is, as made up of networks of human and non-human actors.

''Accustoming Canadians to Sublimation'' will consist of the creation of a ‘special embassy’ based on a workshop series, which will address the above questions, that is: diplomatic immunity, representation, international relations as performance, and the virtual and actual facets of national borders, within a context of transnational movement and constructions of the 'collective'. The workshop will serve to discuss what sort of services this particular ‘special embassy’ would offer. In order to work with and from the absence of a physical embassy, this ‘special embassy’ will be thought of as a mobile and autonomous architecture that could ideally be shared, replicated and distributed: a pocket ‘special embassy’ that takes the form of a wiki, a wireless access point, a liveCD, a memory stick, or… which will then be released in copyleft for others to build their own ‘special embassy’. Workshops include diverse parallel events with Skopje in Budapest, Warsaw and Berlin, which will be shared via a collaboration with ''Mobicases'' (Upgrade Berlin).

The content produced in of the workshop will be linked to a real time installation and interactive access point, which will be featured in the UI08 exhibition. The installation will be a fictive reconstruction of the now defunct Canadian embassy and artefacts that constitute the performative side of international diplomacy. Operating as a pastiche of the ready-made, the installation will serve as a reminder of the absence of the Canadian embassy, of its removal from the public realm and its utilitarian function. Still following the tropes of the ready-made, the embassy’s presentation as museum artefact, and its consequent change of function within the exhibition space, will enable us to introduce a broader debate that questions the very definition and roles of embassies, opening up the space for the potential proliferation of a new and ‘special embassy’.

A publication/reader will accompany this project in the form of a collection of critical essays and original works regarding diplomacy, international relations, visa systems and borders in general.

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