Bettina Pousttchi | Germany / Iran

Line, 2005

Video and Barriers
2:43 min.

Courtesy of the artist

Every line divides space and permits two operations: following the line, remaining “in line” as a formation, accepting the line as a boundary; or deviating from the line, dissolving the formation, violating the boundary. Whether a line of fire or a traffic line, the issue is always what side of the line one is on.

The area beyond the line entails risks. The line—as Ernst Jnger and Martin Heidegger agree in their respective essays called “ber die Linie” (About/Across the line)—opens up a “critical zone,” that is, an area of risk that forces a person to weigh things up and decide.

The video Line poses this problem as a question of power. In various formations, uniformed police forces pace along a white line that cuts boldly through the lower third of the image frame. It is not clear what roles are played by the line and the policemen, who march along in it both directions beyond the right or left edge of the image.

Occasionally one sees, at the upper edge of the image, elements of a crowd-control barrier. The power of the state is found, typically and here too, this side of the line. Beyond lurks its “other.”

The line does not, however, simply divide space into this side and that but also organizes it. The white line effortlessly brings the movements of the body into a linear form. The forces of order that patrol on the line make it abundantly clear that it is precisely this line that constitutes the order that the stripes serve.

They cannot be overstepped. This line could be anywhere, and the uniforms could bear any symbol.