Behjat Omar Abdulla working on the 'From a Distance' series

Who Are We?

Tuesday 14th March 2017 - Sunday 19th March 2017
10am -6pm

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A week of participatory installations, conversations and learning labs

Behjat Omer Abdulla working on the ‘From a Distance Series’ with our friends at Valand Academy, Sweden (Photo: Andreas Engman)

Curated by Tate Exchange Associates: Counterpoints Arts, The Open University, University of Warwick and Loughborough University as part of Tate Exchange: 14-19 March 2017

In the nightmare of the dark/All the dogs of Europe bark, / And the living nations wait, / Each sequestered in its hate — W.H. Auden ‘In Memory of W.B. Yeats’ (1940)

Who Are We? is a free 6-day cross-platform event, spanning the visual arts, film, photography, design, architecture, the spoken and written word and live art, which asks who are we? Guided by Auden’s quote and inspired by the open dialogue of the Tate Exchange initiative looking at art and its importance to society, Who Are We? reflects on identity, belonging, migration and citizenship through arts and audience participation. The week of activity has been specifically designed for Tate Exchange and focuses around an ethos of collaboration, innovation, conversation, exchange and learning.

Auden’s homage to Yeats conjures an uncannily resonant image of contemporary Europe, a Europe increasingly divided, fending and fastening its borders against real and imagined ‘others’. The populist discourse raging across Europe today betrays fear. Europe seems ‘frightened’, asking ‘who are we?’

Artists and practitioners from countries including England, Scotland, Poland, Finland, Iraq, Italy, Germany, Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, Slovenia, Romania, Greece, Spain, Israel, USA and South Africa contribute to the debate through a week long public programme of activities, installations and events to which the public are invited to engage and participate. The work centres on these questions:

  • What is becoming of Europe and the UK?
  • What are we forgetting, and with what consequences?
  • How does our colonial past connect to today’s migratory movements?
  • Can the creative uses of media, technologies, logistics, visual art and performances show us a glimpse of another Europe, another ‘We’?

Artists include:

Alia Syed (www.aliasyed.net.uk): On a Wing and a Prayer is a film inspired by the story of Abdul Rahman Haroun, who walked through the channel tunnel on 17th August 2015. Mr Haroun was held on remand for 5 months at Elmley Prison. He has since been released and granted Asylum but has a criminal record for illegal entry into the United Kingdom. Syed says: The film is an imaginative response to Mr Haroun’s journey achieved through filming my own walk through the surreal subterranean world of the Rotherhithe Tunnel.

Alketa Xhafa Mripa (http://www.tracesproject.org/alketa-xhafa-mripa/): Refugees Welcome is a dynamic mobile installation inside a Luton tail lift van – a symbol representing refugees crossing across borders. Kosovo-born, Alketa, seeks to recreate the welcoming feeling she experienced when she was new to the UK. Alketa’s previous work – Thinking of you – turned a football pitch in Kosovo into a giant art installation, with thousands of dresses hung on washing lines in a powerful and poignant tribute to survivors of sexual violence. The exact location of the van will be announced shortly.

Ania Bas & Season Butler (http://aniabas.blogspot.co.uk/)(http://seasonbutler.com/): Weight invites participants to write about 24 brands ranging from cheese and sausage to TV and online platforms, which according to research undertaken by Campaign into the top 10 brands favoured by Remainers and Brexiters, define the divided nation.(http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/brexit-latest-leave-remain-vote-instagram-spotify-airbnb-virgin-itv-a7182531.html.

Behjat Omer Abdulla (http://behjaturl.tumblr.com/): From a Distance enquires what it would mean to experience our own privileged lives as inextricably tied up with the exposed lives of less fortunate others elsewhere in the world? Under the fear of war, as thousands of families fled their homelands, a mother of twin infants started her journey to seek a safer place. During the journey, a tragedy occurred. Behjat explores these events through a series of drawings in order to reflect on their meaning and make connections to a wider audience. Behjat’s residency at ‘Who Are We’ at Tate Exchange is kindly supported by the Swedish Embassy London.

Bern O’Donoghue (www.bernodonoghue.com) Dead Reckoning is an ever-developing project, an installation formed of thousands of tiny, hand-marbled paper boats, each marked with a relationship to another person, bearing witness to the thousands of migrants and refugees who have died and continue to die whilst attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

Elena Bukovala (https://www.linkedin.com/in/elena-dina-boukouvala-2bb05045) Dialogues across borders questions and explores who are we to each other as the ‘refugee crisis’ unfolds. In this workshop methodologies of trans-border networking and the cultural alliances developed through shared play and co-creation will be explored. Elena Bukovala is a performance and drama therapist. Dialogues Across Borders is produced by Dr. Marie Gillespie, Professor of Sociology at The Open University and the acclaimed Norwegian photographer, Knut Bry. The team came together while working at the Pikpa refugee camp on Lesvos.

Eva Sajovic (www.evasajovic.co.uk): UnLearning the Role of the Artist is a Learning Lab where artists can reflect on their role in situations of displacement. Artists have the means to move, look, collect and display stories, metaphors and visuals. Yet, are these stories the ones vulnerable subjects wants to tell? To whom and why are these stories told and what can they achieve in a world over-saturated with imagery?

Gil Mualem Doron (www.a4community.com) The New Union Flag is a proposal for an alternative flag for the UK by the artist Gil Mualem-Doron. The Union Jack has never been officially adopted as the emblem of the United Kingdom but has just ‘fallen into use’. The New Union Flag is a modified version of the Union Jack, which includes designs of former colonized communities and of various ethnic and national groups that live in the UK today.

JC Niala, Yvette Hutchison & Tim White’s Who You Think We Are is a conversational performance with audience participation, around language, the words we use, how we talk. Language reveals the markers of identity – objects, dialect, race, gender, ability. Are we able to define who we think we are, and how we became us? JC Niala is a stage, screenwriter and poet. Dr Yvette Hutchison is Associate Professor of Theatre and Performance and Dr Tim White, Principal Teaching Fellow in Theatre and Performance Studies, Warwick University.

Laura Malacart (www.lauramalacart.info): Robert is a participatory installation about brands, economics and tea is in the form of a language class. Malacart’s work is concerned with the role of language and the process of subjectivisation driven by global economics. Robert Fortune was a botanist employed by the East India Company to steal tea plants: the 20,000 plants he sent to Darjeeling were the basis of the great ‘British’ tea industry. Fortune pretended to be Chinese to gain access to the tea. People are invited to a complementary Chinese language class with a carefully considered syllabus.

Lucia Scazzocchio (www.socialbroadcasts.co.uk): Beyond The Babble is an interactive and participatory audio-focused installation, exploring questions of identity and belonging. Participants are invited to record personal thoughts, stories and experiences around questions of individual and collective identity. Who are we? Who am I? Over the course of the week each recording is integrated into a living and growing sound installation

Laura Sorvala (Laura Sorvala): In Outside the Box  Laura collects and draws acts of solidarity and kindness that individuals have experienced in their everyday life, be it in the local neighbourhood, school, workplace or on public transport. She asks individuals to share their stories by collecting responses on social media and by building these stories into a colourful cardboard box sculpture, reminds us of empathy that crosses borders and of the power of small, positive actions. Laura will be working on the artwork during the installation with an opportunity for people to see the work in progress and contribute to it. If you would like to contribute to the artwork, find out more on Laura’s blog.

Juan delGado (https://talkingsyria.com/)Workshop with Juan delGado and contributors to  the Qisetna: Talking Syria storytelling platform. Qisetna: Talking Syria is an online platform to preserve the Oral Heritage of Syrians displaced inside their country, on the move crossing borders, and resettling across Europe. Through this project currently developed by Syrians themselves, we aim for an inclusive space in which Syrians share their stories and narratives with us. Qisetna: Talking Syria was initiated by delGado in 2013.

Natasha Davis (www.natashaproductions.com):50 Rooms is part of a series of furniture pieces whose static quality is intertwined with personal histories to comment on crossing borders and the transitory nature of lives. The installation is linked to ideas of home, belonging and in-between spaces, using memories of distant events, magic realism, stem cells and martial arts. Natasha’s installation work is often derived from and related to her live performance work.

Jillian Edelstein (www.jillianedelstein.co.uk): Searching for Great Aunt Minna was inspired by a photograph and a commissioned photo essay for the London Sunday Times Magazine about the Sangoma, the traditional healers, (shamans) who are called by their ancestors to heal. For Who Are We? Jillian will be in conversation with Liz Jobey, an associate editor of the FT Weekend Magazine. Her story takes in the history of Eastern Europe and the solid immigration drive to Southern Africa from Eastern Europe. Photography, film interviews and diary pieces are used to illustrate Jillian’s family’s search for stability due to forced removal. This story echoes the lives of everyday migrants and asylum seekers today coming to Europe from the challenged parts of Africa and the conflict zones of the Middle East.

Peirene Press: breach and The Cut (http://www.peirenepress.com/books/peirene_now): Join us for a conversation between Samantha Schnee, Chair of Words Without Borders, and Peirene Press publisher, Meike Ziervogel and writers, Olumide Popoola and Annie Holmes, to explore the unique commissioning approach of Peirene Press. Ziervogel works closely with writers, commissioning Popoola and Holmes to go to Calais in 2015 to produce the collection of short stories, breach (2016). Peirene’s collaborative/commissioning approach with writers (and readers) continues with the forthcoming Brexit novel, The Cut, in collaboration with writer, Anthony Cartwright.

Stuart Hall Foundation (http://stuarthallfoundation.org/): Who do you think you are? Culture, identity and the contemporary art museum. In collaboration with the Stuart Hall Foundation and chaired by Gilane Tawadros (Vice Chair of the Stuart Hall Foundation), a special event Who do you think you are? Culture, identity and the contemporary art museum will take place on Friday 17 March 2017. The event brings together directors of major contemporary art museums in Europe to discuss how contemporary art institutions shape our sense of identity and belonging at a time of political and social turbulence. Speakers include: Okwui Enwezor (Director, Haus der Kunst, Munich) Marta Gili (Director, Jeu de Paume) and Francesco Manacorda, Director, Tate Liverpool.

Dana Olărescu and Bojana Janković (www.therethere.eu). Trigger Warning is a participatory installation that merges traditional games from English village fêtes with the xenophobia of the media’s anti-immigrant, and specifically anti-Eastern European rhetoric. Visitors to the space are invited to experience the life of a typical immigrant as imagined by the British media over the last decade: the job-stealing, benefits-scrounging, non-integrated Eastern European. Devised by There There, a 50% Serbian, 50% Romanian performance duo, Trigger Warning is invigilated by a group of Eastern Europeans of different professional, economic and generational experiences.

Richard Dedomenichi (www.dedomenici.com): Shed Your Fears is a booth in which two people get to confess their fears to each other. In the context of recent sociopolitical upheavals, participants would be encouraged to share their innermost fears, and by sharing them, hopefully shedding them, and transcending them. Depending on how the conversation goes, participants can choose to exit through the separate doors through which they entered, or meet through a third connecting door that they both have to unlock from each side.

Nele Vos (www.vos-org.com): Citizenshop/ship is an interactive travelling installation, which incorporates an online web shop where questions about data collection by policy makers and sociologists are raised and an assemblage of personal voices talking about citizenship is presented. The visitor experiences the government’s point of view alongside her/his own multidimensional needs, moving from being a spectator to becoming a co-author of the installation. The installation interrogates emerging questions surrounding citizenship, such as the economic privatisation of the nation state, the worldwide increase in migration, cross-border interlinked technologies, and the disadvantages faced by the majority of people under these new international circumstances.

How do we know who we are? We increasingly know ourselves and others through data. From digital data generated by governments on births, incomes, and travel to that compiled by social media and apps, who we are is increasingly mediated and registered through our relations to digital technologies. In this installation, people are invited to interactively explore their relations to digital data by experimenting with alternative ways of imagining and visualizing themselves and the relations of which they are a part. By troubling static concepts of Europe as a collection of nations, the installation renders it as a dynamic composition of the movements, flows and exchanges between people and places. How do we know who we are? is a collaboration between Dawid Górny, a programmer and interaction designer, and Evelyn Ruppert,  Principle Investigator of a European Research Council funded project, ARITHMUS (Peopling Europe: How data make a people: http://arithmus.eu/) Goldsmiths, University of London. And Górny: http://dawidgorny.com/

Tracing and Citizen Sensing Laboratory: How might we understand movement and migration as a human and nonhuman activity? Are there new borders that emerge when nonhumans are taken into account? This interactive installation is the result of collaboration between Jennifer Gabrys, Director of the Citizen Sense research project at Goldsmiths College, and Finnish artist, Antti Tenetz, whose work captures the movements of animals in the Arctic. Citizen Sense explores this question through creatively interpreting movement data from humans and nonhumans. Citizen Sense is a five-year-long study funded by the European Research Council that investigates how environmental sensors and environmental data might help us to ‘tune in‘ to new environmental sensibilities. Tracing 2.0 moves from the Arctic to London to capture, represent and recreate movements and movement data across humans and nonhumans as they respond to their environments. More information is available at citizensense.net and www.tenetz.com/JALESTAA/index_eng.html.

Award winning architecture and interior design practice, Universal Design Studio, form part of the collaborative team of Who Are We? They are working with the artists to produce niche installation and site-specific objects, plus designing the aesthetic flow and overarching identity of the programme.

London-based design consultancy, Graphic Thought Facility, are also contributing to the Who Are We? programme.

NOTES TO EDITORS

Counterpoints Arts support, produce and promote the arts by and about migrants and refugees. Their work is done in collaboration and through co-productions – with artists, arts, cultural and educational organizations and civil society activists working with refugees and migrants. Central to their mission is a belief in the ability of the arts to inspire social change.

The Open University is a pioneer in scholarship on migration, citizenship and belonging; creative and participatory research methods; and digital engagement.

Loughborough University is an institution driven by the ambition to deliver impactful world-class research across all disciplines. It contributes a distinctive commitment to both the research of arts and culture and to the training of new generations of artists and designers.

The University of Warwick brings a commitment to learning with others through engaged social science research on migration, belonging and activism which contributes to understanding and change in everyday lives.

Universal Design Studio is an award winning Architecture and Interior practice based in London. It works internationally on commissions including hotels and restaurants, retail spaces, galleries and renowned cultural institutions. Universal uses a bespoke approach for each client, rich in intellectual rigour and creativity, to create inspiring places with a powerful visual impact.

www.universaldesignstudio.com @universaldesignstudio

Tate Exchange Associates

Tate Exchange allows other organisations and members of the public to participate in Tate’s creative process. Organisations from a wide range of fields well beyond the gallery’s normal reach have become Associates of Tate Exchange. This group will help to programme and run new dedicated spaces. Working in a spirit of generosity, openness and trust, the Associates will collaborate with one another around an annual theme inspired by the art on display. Tate Exchange will in time expand its group of Associates to include more partners from the UK and abroad, while consistently seeking to engage audiences, which are new to the museum. For the full list of Associates and more information please visit tate.org.uk/tateexchange.

Tate Exchange is generously supported by:

Freelands Foundation was set up in 2015 by Elisabeth Murdoch. The Foundation’s mission is to support artists and cultural institutions to broaden audiences for the visual arts and to enable all young people to engage actively with the creation and enjoyment of art.

Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2015 and 2018, we plan to invest £1.1 billion of public money from government and an estimated £700 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country. www.artscouncil.org.uk

Paul Hamlyn Foundation was established by Paul Hamlyn in 1987. Upon his death in 2001, he left most of his estate to the Foundation, creating one of the largest independent grant-making foundations in the UK. Our mission is to help people overcome disadvantage and lack of opportunity, so that they can realise their potential and enjoy fulfilling and creative lives. We have a particular interest in supporting young people and a strong belief in the importance of the arts. www.phf.org.uk

Red Hat is the world’s leading provider of open source software solutions, using a community-powered approach to provide reliable and high-performing cloud, Linux, middleware, storage and virtualization technologies. Red Hat also offers award-winning support, training, and consulting services. As the connective hub in a global network of enterprises, partners, and open source communities, Red Hat helps create relevant, innovative technologies that liberate resources for growth and prepare customers for the future of IT. Learn more at http://www.redhat.com.

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