First travels Summer 2017:
We started the first phase with ten days of preparation and the first tests of scenography in the Wiesenburghalle in Berlin. The real estate company DEGEWO supported us by lending us modular construction-site fences (good of them).
After that we travelled for 3 weeks by car, with audiovisual equipment, on the border between Macedonia and Greece and on the border between Croatia and Slovenia, taking stock of the presence of fences there.
We started to look systematically for the fences on the Greece-Macedonia border, working our way eastwards from Dolno Dupeni. Where we found them (first sighting around Gevgelia), we documented their locations and shapes.
That first part of the trip was interesting but rather difficult because of language barriers, the unwillingness of local people to be recorded, difficult terrain and extreme heat, impossibility to access certain areas without official permissions hard to obtain. Still it gave us a good if not exhaustive idea of the situation there and showed that our research is linked to older historical events (notably the history of the Yugoslavia-Greece border after WWII). In a few words, it was a good reconnoissance trip. We abandoned it after 10 days, feeling that we would not make much more progress. We will have to go back there better equipped with official documents and a local collaborators/translators.
We then moved on to the second part of the trip (Slovenia-Croatia), which was more productive. We reiterated our time consuming systematic search for the fence. Along the way, we gathered about a dozen testimonies of local people based on the following list of questions:
– Since when are you aware of the presence of the fence?
– How close to the fence do you live? How close to the fence do you work?
– What influence does the fence have on your life?
– How does the presence of the fence influence your relations to your neighbours, to the people living on the other side of the border, to foreigners in general?
– How does the presence of the fence influence wildlife in the area?
– Who installed the fence?
– Who payed for it?
– How long do you think the fence will stay?
What comes out of most of the interviews reveals a complex picture. Most of the interviewees deplore the presence of the fence. A very strong feeling of absurdity is always present. The fence highlights and materializes a border that – for most – already feels very artificial since the explosion of Yugoslavia. Many anecdotes about the fence come out: the bears come to drink on the beaches of the river Drava (where the openings of the fence are), camping places use the border fence to secure their perimeters (lots of local negotiations regarding the position of the fence seem to have happened), in touristic places, the concertina wires have been replaced a few month after their installation by a more tourist friendly green fence etc.
If people are mostly against the local presence of the fence, some express their understanding for the fence in other places, namely the big crossing points of migrants (for instance close to Samobor).
None of the interviewees is really sure of how the fence was financed.
Most of them think that it is here for ever, or at least for long.
On the Slovenia-Croatia border it seems as well that to thoroughly research the fence, we will need a co-operation with the authorities.