The English title of the work Liminal Crossing by Ergin Çavuşoğlu sounds tautological. Both of the words used by the artist can be used to indicate movement or transition. However, while "crossing" involves moving through space, including that of a street or road junction, "liminal" is a concept drawn from the field of cultural anthropology. And what is referred to in this case is movement of a different character – not physical, but social and existential. Liminality is a state of transition between phases of human development, during which there is a change in social status, values and norms, identity and self-awareness.
Both terms used in the title are applicable to the scene which the artist recreates in this work. A road crossing is shown on the screen, across which cars and pedestrians are moving. The part of the road shown is that which lies between the two border control points, and the characters moving past are crossing an international border. And they are making a crossing from which they will never return. Having crossed, they will become citizens of a new country, where they will begin a new, not yet fully imagined, life. Using terms taken from anthropologists, we can say that they are making a liminal transition, that they are at this moment in a liminal space, being no longer here and not quite yet there.
To understand the work correctly requires some clarification. It concerns the Bulgarian-Turkish border and a specific historical instant in the late 1980s. Then, as the communist era drew to its close, during a nationalist campaign launched by the Bulgarian authorities, a significant part of the country's Turkish minority was forced to emigrate to Turkey. The family of the artist were part of this emigration, and the scene he recreates on screen – the transportation of a piano across the border – imprinted itself in his memory, there at the most dramatic moment of his youth, during the border crossing. The impression made was so deep that the artist, on returning to the scene, re-staged it and captured it on film.
The piano is a motif referring to the sphere of private life, and moreover a certain kind of life that is well furnished, with pretensions of following the demands of high culture. The decision to bring the piano on the journey to this new life was motivated, apparently, by the desire to find a decent life abroad, to create a new place there. And yet the piano looks comical here on the neutral strip, or, tragicomic rather. The motif is comical because of its cumbersomeness and out-of-place character on the roadway, but at the same time it shows how much power person can give to a hope, and one which may well not be justified.
Born from personal experience, this work addresses many things. Emigration, a change of place, whether voluntary or forced, is the lot in life of millions today. More broadly, it is the destiny of all mankind in our so-called late modernity. All of us are trying to take to a new place the unmanageable burden of the past, a past which is often out of place, or has lost its value and meaning. Putting it another way: all of us, having left an old place, will not find a new one, but are fated to get stuck forever in the liminal zone, in a state of endless transition after transition