Skeena, Beam Me Up!, Sonny Assu, 2015
Territory can convey belonging, ownership and familiarity; land, zones, expanses and boundaries that delineate, encompass and separate space and place. It can be inclusive or exclusive, public or private. How do we move through a territory - easily and self-assured? Timidly? Dangerously? The notion of territory is at once individual and collective, representing both visible and invisible boundaries weaving throughout our lives. In the context of art, Elizabeth Grosz defines the frame as “what establishes territory out of the chaos that is the earth.” It invokes juxtapositions between the controlled and the chaotic, reigning in the ineffable and quieting the volume of the world. It exists in myriad forms, constructed through connections; minute and macroscopic.
French Philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty argues our notion of humanity is based on the human body, enabling senses to structure perceptions and form relationships with the world. Through the primacy of our bodies, a capacity for bodily knowledge and skills is developed from our very first moments of existence, as different sense perceptions teach us to understand difference. Territory is created, shattered, redrawn and recreated as we grow, develop, move, embody and interact with others and with our surrounding environment. Where do you make your territory?
The commons, a space of inclusivity where the people can converge, is public territory. Spaces in which to gather, rally, riot. Protected spaces can become the remnant of a commons (or represent a restored commons), relating to the agricultural, environmental, personal and physical. Sounds, smells, memories and travelling invoke histories that can collide within territories, creating friction and unease. Whose territory is this?
Territory includes the interstitial spaces, alleyways and right-of-ways; no-person’s-land. The virtual-scape generates a space of no space, while simultaneously creating a metropolis of data, a territory of ones and zeros. Entering new territory can evoke a sense of adventure, exploration, self-awareness, personal development. Territory is uncharted, encroached upon, contested and occupied. They overlap and collide, extending into realms of culture, sexuality, and religion.
Territory are lines drawn on a map, the path of a river, a habitat, a title; a jurisdiction, a political subdivision; a nation, a state, a province. Interference in the environment and our biosphere, the monopolization and capitalization of forests, land, oceans, space, all incur effects with possible threatening consequences. The City of Vancouver takes up and takes over the unceded traditional territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. What does territory mean living on Canada’s West Coast, and elsewhere? In our contemporary moment might it determine Canadian and provincial histories and futures? In what ways can we discuss reconciliation, a home on Native land? What is territory?