Gros traces the symptoms that are embedded in our existence but particularly noticeable in the peculiar strategies (some) humans invented to own the Earth and to quantify human lives: borders, nations, visas, G.D.P. 1, and media attention. The side-effects are indiscriminate, seen far and wide: from a migrant’s interdiction to cross an imaginary line to the common (mis)conceptions of one’s place in the world.
Even with the best intentions in mind, navigating the world and seeking to contribute to it may not go far until we first come to terms with our implicit bias. The projects in Implicit Borders: a cartography of free will specifically seek to fight geographical prejudice and help to better direct our moral compass.
There are exercises, simple in form yet deep in commitment: acknowledging every person we love (The Geography of Love, 2015 – present) and recording every death we learn about (Human Strokes, 2010 – present).
There are casual habits, small in constraint, but pervasive in their effect: calling each country by its proper name, widening crop marks, using area-accurate world maps, and counting human beings rather than G.D.P. (Approximately 199, 2012 – present).
There are mental leaps to stretch our conscience: imagining we were born somewhere else, or speculating on how different the world would be if everyone (you, me, us, them, teachers, students, politicians, taxpayers, producers, consumers, writers, readers…) envisioned that they cared about someone in every corner of the Earth. Why don’t we, and could we just dream we do so in order to concretely start caring? And how would that change what we say, do, read or buy; where we go and don’t go?
There are straightforward questions with not-so-straightforward answers: such as how many countries are in the world?
195 according to the U.S. Department of State but 193 when counting United Nations member states. 201 if adding states with partial recognition 2; 207 with de facto sovereign states 3 and over 300 if considering micronations and governments in exile. 196 countries ratified the Geneva Conventions and 197 the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. 124 are parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and 197 4 are parties to the 2015 Paris Agreement. There are currently 211 FIFA5 Associations and there were 206 National Olympic Committees in Rio 2016. The ISO 3166 6 has 249options and there are 259 ccTLDs 7 today. And if one counts passports instead: the number of countries is approximately 199.
There are also not-so-straightforward questions with straightforward answers: what makes a better border? Is it a line, coast, mountain, river, tectonic plate, wall, language, culture…? None, truly: they’re all abstract and fluid. How to comprehend big data ? Try counting it. How can we see through our own prejudice? Please, draw a map.