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Santiago Mostyn, Citizen, 2015 - 2017, two channel HD video installation, 4:12:00 min, film stills. Courtesy: Santiago Mostyn
SANTIAGO MOSTYN (b. 1981) makes films, installations and performances that test and show the divide between disparate cultural spheres, employing an intuitive process to engage with a knowledge and history grounded equally in the body and the rational mind. He is based in Sweden but maintains strong ties to Zimbabwe, Trinidad & Tobago, the countries of his upbringing.
Don’t Look Back or the Horizon is an Imagined Countryby
“When is it time to dream of another country or to embrace other strangers as allies or to make an opening, an overture, where there is none? When is it clear that the old life is over, a new one has begun and there is no looking back?” 
— Saidiya Hartman
It is the crossing that forces history to change throughout time; the old that is left behind would never be the same place, the one who leaves would never be the same person. The horizon is an imagined country. So potent with dreams, traumas, conflicts and small or big victories. The sea embodies them all while creating miracles of passage or burying bodies over invisible borders. Stories of crossing—despite being idiosyncratic— resonate with each other over imperialist and colonialist regimes of violence in order to build “the new”.
Santiago Mostyn’s multidisciplinary practice is infatuated with the road itself and the temporalities of crossing. He builds constellations around bodies and subjectivities that come together, transform or break apart at the intersections of crossing. His installations desire to record those illegible moments and instances at stake of being erased by stereotypical history writing. Mostyn often creates situations where certain public contracts are negotiated through and around his body, in which crossing as a method takes place over fragile social spaces. Speaking of his methodological inspirations in a studio visit interview with Studio Museum Harlem, the artist points out Italo Calvino’s book Six Memos for the Next Millennium , for shaping a delicate touch as the most productive way of facing severe, heavy questions of race, belonging, sexuality.
Citizen (2015–2017)—which echoes Claudia Rankine’s powerful book of poetry Citizen: An American Lyric  – is the outcome of his solitary crossing action in the Aegean Sea with a simple boat between Dilek Peninsula of the Turkish side towards Samos of the Greek side, in a wide arc of 13 kilometres.
The shortest distance between these two points is the closest meeting point for Turkish and Greek coastlines, and are under constant watch by military bases on both sides. The Aegean Sea Mostyn empowers as a protagonist in his over five hours long, real time visual tale of crossing, is factually described as an elongated embayment of the Mediterrannean Sea located between the Greek and Anatolian peninsulas, between the mainlands of Greece and Turkey from the early twentieth century, and between the European Union and what lies outside of it from the twenty first-century. Formed over the course of more than 20 million years, its distinctive archipelago includes more than 6000 islands and islets, which embroider a space spanning dreams and traumas, life and death. A sea that is the carrier of mythological journeys. A liminal zone of power, authority and governance. An ambivalent border projecting memories of loss, longing and pain for both sides. The short distances in between—such as Dilek Peninsula and Samos, Çeşme and Chios, Assos and Lesvos, Bodrum and Kos—and grey areas around some islets are often instrumentalised as part of the political chessboard between Turkish and Greek governments. Transferred from generation to generation is the trauma of the early 1920s, in which Greeks and Turks found themselves in a bloody confrontation with each other after centuries of living together, and the trauma of forced migration or the so-called “population exchange” from Turkey to Greece and vice versa, in the process of nation state building and defining borders. The physically defined yet psychologically ambivalent borders introduced two different citizenships into the same sea with edges sharpened by the European fortress policies. While daily ferries recently started to take Turkish passengers to the islands with temporary permits, crossing took on a different meaning in 2015 during that long summer of migration, when Mostyn started to work on Citizen, risking his passage from a heavily controlled zone without any legal permit. As the number of the refugees hoping to cross over to Europe using the islands’ closeness to the Turkish coast increased drastically, children watched the departure of migrants in rubber boats chased across the sea by Greek Border Security with binoculars, as if following a computer game.
The metaphorical reconstruction of that gazing distance of life and death in Citizen’s installation takes place through two back-to-back screens respectively showing Mostyn’s departure from Dilek Peninsula and arrival to Samos, evoking many artistic and cinematic instances of departure and arrival. Through back-toback screens, Mostyn empathises with the crossing body trapped in the tense power play between two states. While the departure is framed around close ups from body perspective, the arrival is starker and more imposing with its continuous recording of the crossing from a higher angle on the coast. The timeless space in between, immeasurable by any scientific means, is marked by the two oars the artist used in his crossing. In its subtlety and playfulness, Citizenposes the burning question of power and sovereignty exercised on human life in the loaded histories of discovery, colonisation, slave trade, forced migration, genocide and war.
Unlike Mostyn’s designated place of arrival, in 2020 we are headed towards an uncertain future loaded with a number of forthcoming changes, that foresee a gradual collapse of centuries old dysfunctional thought, behaviour and action models. On the edges of state sovereignty, this crossing looks to be another historical one. This time hopefully to take us towards a prospect Ariella Aisha Azoulay calls “cocitizenship”: “Cocitizenship is not a goal for the future to come but as a set of assumptions and practices shared by different people—including scholars— who oppose imperialism, colonialism, racial capitalism and its institution of citizenship as a set of rights against and at the expense of others.” 
 Saidiya Hartman, Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Trade, New York, Farrar Straus Giroux, 2007.
 Italo Calvino, Sechs Vorschläge für das nächste Jahrtausend, Hanser [dt. 1991]; orig.: Lezioni americane. Sei proposte per il prossimo millennio, Vorlesungen von 1985, erstmals auf Englisch publiziert 1988.
 Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric, Minneapolis, Graywolf Press, 2014.
 Ariella Aisha Azoulay, Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism, London, Verso Books, 2019.