Landscape, Projects

Broader than a border: questioning notions of British territory in Cypriot land

All images from Defining Lines © Nikolas Ventourakis

Nikolas Ventourakis considers the abstract concept of borders by tracing the invisible perimeter around a British-controlled military site in Cyprus

Nikolas Ventourakis hit on the idea for Defining Lines while shooting in Cyprus, not far from the Akrotiri and Dhekelia Sovereign Base Areas, two military sites under British jurisdiction. He’d taken a few shots on his iPhone and, when he uploaded them on to his laptop, discovered that some of the images had been geotagged United Kingdom and others Republic of Cyprus, despite being shot metres apart. It got him thinking about the notions of territory and borderlines.

“I’m attracted to the abstract concept of a border, which is arbitrary in every sense,” he says. “There are no border barriers or custom posts between the SBA lands and the Republic. Normal civilian day-to-day life takes place along the peninsula, right next to and inside the border. It is hard to tell if you have crossed into UK land. [But] using devices such as iPhones and services like Google Maps, the border becomes apparent and real.”

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Ventourakis shot for about a month in August 2014 but spent two years before that planning and researching the area. Using Google Maps to navigate, he explored the borderline between Cyprus and the SBA of Akrotiri, taking photographs of the landscape. The final project brings these together with screen shots from Google Maps showing the borderline.

 

 

 

“I decided early on that I did not want to include topographical data with the images as I am not a documentary photographer, despite being inspired by the documentary tradition,” says Ventourakis. “Rather, I am focusing on creating a visual world that aims to intrigue the viewer… The apparent serenity of the landscape is important to me as it contradicts with the tension of the [physical] existence of the invisible borders and the fact that these are active military areas.

 

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“First and foremost, I decided to make the work in order to better understand the duality of the experience of physically tracing a non-visible border, revealed to me [through] contemporary technology,” he adds. “It changed the way I was looking at the space around me, merging the real with the virtual.”

 

 

 

Find more of Nikolas’ work here.

First published in the November 2015 issue of British Journal of Photography. Buy the issue in the BJP Shop.

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