Crossing Borders / Curriculum Link / Middle and Senior Level Thhinking and Philosophy

Middle and Senior Level Thinking and Philosophy

The questions and activities in this section of the resource have been designed for use in conjunction with Victoria Essential Learning Standards (VELS) Thinking Processes, VCE Philosophy and The Arts section of the Theory of Knowledge component of the International Baccalaureate.

Yee I-Lann, In the palm of Putrajaya 2003, 18" x 72", B/W Digital Print on Kodak Endura Paper

Crossing Borders

  • Listen to the interviews with artists on this site and examine their work. Explain why it could be argued that their work explores the theme of crossing borders .
  • Read the commentaries on this page. They have been written by people from different walks of life who have explored what the concept of crossing borders means to them in their particular profession.
  • Identify and discuss the similar themes and/or concerns which emerge in the commentaries. Suggest reasons for the similarities and differences.
  • Discuss which of the themes raised you believe are pertinent to the times we live in now and which are universal.
  • Are there circumstances in which it is not beneficial to cross borders ? Explain with reference to examples in the world today.
  • Choose one of the commentaries that particularly interests you.
    Describe in your own words the key points you believe the writer is making.
    Explain what issues the commentary has raised for you?
    Are there aspects of it you would challenge? If so explain why.
    What experiences in your own life or the broader world could you relate to the crossings of borders described?
  • Write a short commentary which explains what forms of border crossing you believe are of particular importance in today's globalised world and why.

Crossing Borders Commentaries


  • Collaborating with experts in another discipline or specialty in order to investigate the fruitful areas between established fields, or simply daring to stray outside one's usual comfort zone.
  • International collaborations - this is a business in which we have friends and colleagues all over the world, and it is enormously stimulating to visit and work with them .
  • Truth is paramount in science. A negative sense of boundary crossing would be unacceptable dishonesty or misrepresentation of data.
  • Scientists re-draw the borders by what they discover


At the heart of philosophy are borders . To question, to criticise, to interrogate - these all involve trespassing on someone's ideological turf, sometimes smashing the barriers they've built around their truths. To do philosophy is to cross borders incessantly. But philosophy also produces its own ideas and ideals - it erects new borders , and then these too are torn down by peers or descendants.

Social Scientist

To define itself, each culture creates its borders in the form of rituals, traditions and laws. We are all, in the course of our separate and collective lives, both creators of, and created by, our respective cultures. There has never been a completely bounded culture- some people have always managed to cross over. The greatest strength and beauty in any culture stems from and is yet tested by these crossings.

Sound artist and researcher

Sound bleeds, it moves through continents under the ocean through walls and above the stratosphere. Its essence and evanescence demands openness to difference, and it can trigger the past present and future worlds in an instant. Sound art unites the senses, crossing the borders of the eye and the ear. Auditory environments such as sound installations are places where complete mind body immersion dissolves all borders through moving through sound and sculpture in a revelatory experience. Listening is culturally framed for us all but by spending time with each other's sounding worlds, new knowledges and experiences can be shared. Sound is temporal so one must take risks every moment to capture the passing instant and understand it. By being attentive to the sounds around us, the borders of traditional scribal knowledge are transcended and the experience of being in a sounding world becomes a constant challenge without borders . The job of a sound artist is to creatively frame these elements, juggling sound place time and culture. When collaborating in cross cultural bands such as the Back to Back Zithers, musical elements which could be considered borders often become springboards for new compositions and improvisations providing there is respect for the authentic voices.


Yee I-Lann, Lagenda 2003, 18" x 18", B/W Digital Print on Kodak Endura Paper
At the heart of teaching, what questions are there? What needs? What risks?
What stops us from thinking or doing certain things?
At what point can one stop asking questions and crossing over borders ?
At the heart of learning, where are there limits?
How can a student (of philosophy, let's say) approach the world with openness?
If all is possible, are there borders ?

Investment Banker

Looking for new ways to streamline the business to improve efficiency relative to the competition.
Breaking into new markets to expand client bases, selling financial products to everyone from cotton farmers in South America to Governments in Africa.
Creating innovative new products across a variety of asset classes that have application in the market and are lucrative to trade.

Professor of Law

While it may once have been true that nations' legal systems were more or less insulated from one another, it is no longer the case.
Since the Second World War, the world has witnessed the inexorable rise of international law. And this law, crossing the borders of all nations, is making its impact on very many aspects of our government and our society.
Think, for example, of the law of international trade, which is now regulated internationally by the World Trade Organization and bilaterally in a host of free-trade agreements. And, just as importantly, think of the international law of human rights. The principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are now embedded to a greater or lesser extent in the legal systems of almost every country on the globe. These borders are well and truly crossed. There is no going back.

Architecture Student

For an architect, a line on a page may signify a route of passage, the beginning of a shadow or the end of a wall, as in a model, a piece of material may signify a partition, structural beam or facade. As architects, we are obliged to cross the borders between these signifiers, or modes of representation, and in doing so we begin to understand their unique qualities and the way in which they give an understanding of the project in conception. For example, a specific relationship between two objects, which may be invisible on the page, may be highly obvious when represented in a model. A more complete project begins to emerge when the exploration of and transition between these modes of representation becomes more fluid.

Curator of Contemporary Art

borders enclose spaces, circumscribe ideas, define certain practices and often restrict movement. For me, as a curator, the idea of crossing borders means looking at the ways in which artists' works alert us to the extraordinary world, and to aspects of ourselves that we didn't know. The present is dominated by various submissions or resistances to the homogenising power of globalisation. Artists are responding to the crises of social and environmental instability by using their radically disparate cultural and political contexts to remind us of the necessity of difference and alternative visions and lifestyles. Crossing borders means taking us out of our comfort zones. For me, crossing borders means resisting global conservatism, but it also means maintaining certain ethical codes in a world in which ethics and morality are so easily subverted through abuses of power. Artists who cross the conventional borders of aesthetics, disciplines, practices, theories, emotion, identity proscription, subject matter, modes of representation, and the private-public divide, enter into unknown territory in their work. In doing so artists remind all of us that we will do well to keep our eyes and our minds open.


Who places borders - arbitrary lines drawn by a political or economic situation or legislator distant from ordinary people, their lives and their situations? People from outside, immigrants, have to experience a series of unpleasant conditions, numbers, interminable queues, to obtain a new life far from their place of origin. Any sense of belonging is illusive. Undesirable work is their reward. We do not integrate with them because we are so locked into our own lives, in what we believe to be better or more important. We differentiate between those from there and those from here, we distrust that which we do not know.
But we forget that these people are in exile. If they were happy in their country they would not leave, to be nobody in a country that is not theirs. We must respect and learn to coexist, and try to understand what is unfamiliar to us. We should imagine what it means to leave your family, food, scents and music only to be greeted with arrogant glances because they are outsiders and we are from here.


There are many different kinds of borders. These can be political, religious, geographic, psychological, cultural, moral etc. Some borders are constructed (and formalised in law) with the aim of preventing transgression, while others are devised to encourage crossings. borders in the Arts need to be crossed and destroyed in order to expand human consciousness while borders in law need to be respected for the health of human beings.

Lecturer in Australian Art History

What's a border for? Keeping things out, keeping them in? Letting you know where not to go? Sometimes the lines are there to be seen; a clear demarcation exists. Other times, it's not that simple. My favourite borders are those invisible, shifting ones. They force you to think - to work things out or work them through. These borders produce creative collaboration, producing things and moving on.

Art today - the big questions and ideas

Discuss the following questions with reference to the interviews with the artists, and their biographies on this site, and the artworks on this page.

  • What, in your opinion, should be the role of art today and has that role changed in recent years?
  • Why does the work of so many international contemporary artists engage with key global issues?
  • Discuss whether there is ever an argument for the censorship of art?
  • In your opinion does the notion of Australian art exist any more or has it been subsumed into international art? Discuss with reference to examples of Australian contemporary art
  • What do you believe are the ramifications of a more globalized and possibly less culturally specific style of art ?
  • How do we define beauty in art? Discuss if it is specific to the individual or to a culture or can it be universal? Some philosophers argue that beauty is truth - explain why you agree or disagree with this.
  • To what extend is beauty is necessary in contemporary art? To engage wiht a wide audience, what key qualities should contemporary art contain?
  • What is the value of art to the observer and to the artist?
  • How does knowledge about the artist and the artwork gained from reading or listening to an expert speaker alter and/or deepen your appreciation of the artwork?
  • Discuss whether a work of art should be able to 'speak for itself' without an explanatory text.
  • What impact has technology had on contemporary international art?
  • Do you believe technology is the way forward in art or is there still a place for conventional materials and traditional painting, drawing and printing techniques?
  • How would you address the argument that art galleries are visited by a relatively small number of people and therefore might not be the best medium for communicating important global issues?

Study the artwork from Reconstruction, 2003 by Bani Abidi

from Reconstruction, 2003, colour DVD, sound, 1:24
Collection of the artist © Bani Abidi
  • What kind of knowledge is expressed in this work? How does this knowledge compare with other types of knowledge?
  • In your opinion, is video art the most effective way of communicating the artist's message. Are there other forms of the Arts such as literature and music which could have conveyed the idea more effectively? Discuss.
  • Will this artwork still be relevant to viewers in two hundred years time? Explain why or why not you believe this.

Study the artwork, Reverend on ice, 2005, by Yinka Shonibare

Reverend on Ice, 2005, Yinka Shonibare
Fibreglass, cotton,
(Dutch wax), leather , wood and steel
National Gallery of Victoria
  • What criteria would you use to determine 'good' art? Explain whether or not this artwork fits that criteria.
  • How do you respond to this work eg emotionally, analytically? Do you believe too much analysis of an artwork can spoil its essence? Discuss.

Study the artwork Hunter-gatherer, 2004-05 by Lorraine Connelly-Northey

Hunter-gatherer 2004-05 (detail)
wire, wire mesh, feathers
installation variable
Collection of the artist
© Lorraine Connelly-Northey
  • Would this artwork be regarded as art if it were viewed in a different context eg in a hard rubbish collection or makeshift house? Explain why or why not.
  • Explain in what ways an indigenous and non-indigenous person would view this work differently.
  • Discuss whether or not viewing this artwork has changed your original perception of what is beautiful in our environment.

Study the artwork Layang layang putus tali from the Horizon series, 2003 by Yee I-Lann

Yee I-Lann, Layang Layang Putus Tali,
2003, 18" x 18", B/W Digital Print on Kodak Endura Paper
  • Does this work express a reality and if so what do you believe is the nature of the reality expressed?
  • Does it matter if the viewers' interpretation of this work is different to the artist's intention? Explain why or why not.

Study the artwork Porno image, 2005 by eX de Medici

Porno image 2005
watercolour and metallic pigment
on paper
100.0 x 114.0 cm (sheet)
Private collection
© eX de Medici
  • To what extent does knowledge of the artist influence your understanding and /or enjoyment of this work?
  • Discuss what the common saying 'Some art amplifies the chatter. Some art creates silence.' means to you. Explain, in your opinion, which category this artwork fits into.