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Borderline Offensive: Laughing in the Face of Fear
9th December 2019
borderline offensive

By Tiago Prata

Migrant and local communities laughing together about their problems? That’s just Borderline Offensive! 😉

Borderline Offensive: Laughing in the Face of Fear is a transnational and transdiciplinary artistic platform gathering artists and creators from across Syria to Sweden, working across the migration route and making stops in Turkey, Croatia, and Germany, among other places.

The Borderline Offensive community’s practice involves art and participation to explore – very unapologetically, as its name suggests – a forgotten side of the tragic narrative about the “European migrant crisis”: can humour, playfulness and joy instigate the possibility of dialogue between oldtimers and newcomers in situations of emotionally-charged cultural conflict?

That so-called crisis inside Fortress Europe was not about migration: it is about growing economic inequality and rising populism, imperialist profiteering of proxy wars, and civilizational decay in times of anxiety about the future that exacerbate dormant racism, stoke hatred for “others” and make possible for human beings seeking refuge to be turned into scapegoats for the negative impacts of neoliberalism, plutocracy and globalization.

Pretty bleak, right? Shit. So the set-up is: a group of cultural agents from all over Europe and the Middle East invited by Tandem Shaml to discuss how arts & culture can strengthen democracy, advance human rights and contribute to peace were having dinner in Beirut, in 2015. Sad and hopeless (was the arak to blame?), in need of something to cheer them up, they starting making fun of each other and themselves, about who was most intersectionally screwed: the gay woman, the religious minority in an Arab country, the white male heterosexual with EU passport….

The questions flowed: how can humour alleviate pain? how can satire speak truth to power? and how can sharing the obscenities and absurdities that ruin our days slowly helps us make meaning of and be interested in the live reality of others?

Since then much has happened:

in 2017, a first community gathering at the House of Humour and Satire in Gabrovo, Bulgaria, that resulted in the community’s manifesto 

in 2018, 5 artistic residencies welcomed 19 artists to work with newcomers and oldtimers through participatory work 

in 2019, 4 original #borderlineoffensive works have been touring Europe and inviting more newcomers and oldtimers to be part of them 

in 2020, the current cycle will end with a gathering and festival in June 2020, that opens the community and manifesto to the world and its people. Please follow Borderline Offensive’s social channels to know more and how you can be involved.


But what do meeting a migrant smuggler in the darkness, helping a refugee-terrorist-artist show how racist conspiracy theories are totally true, or precarious collective storytelling by/with/for migrants have in common?

The whole purpose of Borderline Offensive: Laughing in the Face of Fear is to dare.

To dare to see people beyond refugee-victim and host-(white saviour) dychotomies. To dare to demand happiness as a political need when austerity replaces solidarity. To dare to admit none of us are perfect, we are silly, funny sacks of meat who still deserve to live happily together.

And for that purpose we declare war against fear, using humour, art and non-violence as weapons. All are called to bear arms, Borderline Offensive NEEDS YOU.

To laugh in the face of adversity is also an act of resistance and survival. It is a claim to dignity and humanity of all those who seek happier days. For those who try to keep us afraid, divided, sad, powerless, we laugh in their face.

borderline offensive

*Borderline Offensive is supported by Creative Europe, Västra Götaland Region, Slovak Arts Council, Ministry of Culture and Information of Serbia, Plovdiv 2019, City of Zagreb, inter alia.

Managed by TILLT together with Center for Cultural Decontamination (CZKD), Keunstwurk, House of Humour and Satire, Creative Industry Košice, Centre for Peace Studies, Symbiosis and in cooperation with Zoukak Theatre Company, Anadolu Kültür, Ramallah Municipality, Ettijahat Independent Culture, and MitOst eV