Existing on the margins of the global political scene are countries whose independence has not been recognized by the international community.
Whether the have a national anthem, an official language, a currency or their own government, each of those countries has elements characteristic of a nation state. And yet, institutionally speaking, they are not able to exist as one.
What is it that makes a country exist or not?
While the UNPO (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation), based in Brussels, represents almost forty unrecognized nations, we have endeavored in An Atlas of Countries that “don’t exist” to explore ten of these countries dispersed in various parts of the world.
The project has allowed us to explore five of the ten countries selected so far: Transnistria, Catalonia, the Republic of Artsakh, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, and Western Sahara.
The remaining five countries to explore and photograph in the context of this project are: Taiwan, Somaliland, Greenland, Lakota and Iraqi Kurdistan.
This Atlas centers its research around the physical, historical, cultural and political realities through which these countries and their inhabitants compose their personal and national identities. On the one hand, it investigates the instances that contribute to the formation of personal identity: the place and the way in which we come into the world, the way we are preserved after death, the first and last names that accompany us throughout our life, our family, the celebration of rites of passage. On the other hand, it explores all the elements at the foundation of these countries’ national identities: the local territory, the fauna and flora, the countries’ historical, administrative and cultural sites, and eminent personalities.
In An Atlas of Countries that “don’t exist”, these various geographical contexts and their acts of identity-making are put into conversation. The ambiguity conveyed through the particular visual language (saturated colors, artificial light, unusual composition, long exposures), echoes the limbo that these countries and their people are experiencing.
By exposing this paradox,
the project hopes to challenge the viewer to question the self-evidence of their own nationhoods.
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