'Why is a piece of paper the only proof?'- Dreaming Of a Transnational Union of Nations


Photo Credit: Melina Jana Harzer

Diana Figueroa for Shifted News

The basis of his ongoing project is straightforward, and in his perspective, easy if you erase hard enough: rubbing away the emblems of one’s passport, as a means to forge a global identity, a tighter community, and hopefully, in the future, a common European passport for anyone who doesn’t identify as what a booklet, one they didn’t get to choose, tells them.

“I think Brexit was the instigator for this,” artist and educator David Blackmore says about the referendum in which UK citizens voted to withdraw from the European Union in 2016 and how it was one of the precursors to his website europeanpa55port.com.  

The workshop behind his website was not only made more public and regular due to Brexit alone, but due to his feelings toward his dual citizenship. Blackmore’s mother is Irish, while his father is British. “I’ve spent half my life in two different countries that have a long and turbulent history with each other.”, he says to the workshop attendees around him, all curious of what to expect, though most had already been briefed that bringing their own passport for the session would be beneficial.  

“I identify as European, not as Irish or British, which is why I wrote the Commission and asked them to provide me with European citizenship and a European passport”, Blackmore continues, showing them the letter that the Commission sent him in return, stating that it wasn’t possible. Blackmore isn’t naive, however, knowing that a European passport doesn’t exist. His reasoning for the letter was only to elicit a response. Yet, his sentiment remained: anger. Having been politicised about what identity and nationality meant at a young age, Blackmore shares that he was always intrigued about what makes up one's identity and how to urge people to think critically about a piece of paper; that a passport shouldn’t be the sole defining factor to oneself. “The concept of a passport is less than 100 years old. It’s beyond that. It’s more a conversation about national identity versus transnational identity”, he says.

The attendees at the workshop at this year’s re:publica agree. One in particular, Neda Laura, a native German currently living and studying in the UK, cites the difficulty of having more than one identity. “It’s super important with work like this to be able to question these kinds of national ideas and talk about alternatives. ‘Why is a piece of paper the only proof?’ Asking that question is important to challenge the assumption that a passport is the only thing needed to identify yourself”, she says. Neda Laura has two passports - German and Iranian - and identifies with both.

The main takeaway that Blackmore wants people to leave his session with is that a mental discussion of what it means to be a community needs to take place. “I want people to probe their understanding and what their allegiance to a nation actually is and what it provides for them. It’s worth having a go and seeing if a transnational union of nations can be more peaceful and can work for the world as well as its citizens.”