This talk considers the airport as an international border area. Its analysis is based on three linked premises: (1) in airports, legal and political practices of sovereignty, jurisdiction, and control become disaggregated; (2) borders between territories do not represent the edges of Euclidean geopolitical planes but ought, rather, to be considered as a three-dimensional volumes; and (3) the airport exemplifies and dramatizes a broader historical trend in which the space of the border has proliferated and become distended, appearing not merely at the edges of territories but within and throughout. Though its premises are rooted in social scientific research, the talk considers three main examples. First up is the defection scene in the opening chapter of Rudolf Nureyev's autobiography, Nureyev (1963), in which the great Bashkiri dancer stages his “leap to freedom” in a Paris airport. Second and third are two works by the British artist Mark Wallinger: his Turner Prize-winning installation, State Britain (2007), and Threshold to the Kingdom (2000), a video installation from which the talk takes its title and inspiration.
Matthew Hart teaches in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. His book, Nations of Nothing But Poetry, was published by Oxford UP in 2010. He is founding co-editor of the Columbia UP book series, Literature Now, and associate editor of Contemporary Literature. He is currently Past President of ASAP: the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present.