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Social Interaction through Installations OUTSIDE THE WHITE CUBE


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Social Interaction through Installations OUTSIDE THE WHITE CUBE

Supervisors: Prof. Andreas Muxel (Interface Design) Prof. Dr. LOU Yongqi (External: Tongji University) MA Thesis in Integrated Design Kรถln International School of Design University of Applied Sciences Cologne


Examiner Prof. Philipp Heidkamp (Interface Design)


Declaration of Authorship This is to declare that I wrote this thesis by myself and that I used only those quotes, sources and aids indicated in my thesis. All quotations used by me are explicitly marked.

Date: Signature:












Key-words: Exhibition design, White Cube, Social catalyst, Participatory, Refugees

This research explores the social catalyst potential of the exhibitions. The experiments pointed that social interaction and participation enhances the visitor experience for a deeper reflection about the content and connection to the local community. As a medium for messages, exhibitive spaces achieve it by using sensorial elements and symbols, while play with them iWn a specific time and space to communicate an intended content. Nonetheless, in the global village context, it is arguable whether different cultures are equally represented there. This research arguments that display is provide voices to ideologies. Hence, the exhibitions can bridge cultures, and as a consequence, shape a more diverse cultural production in the context of the postcolonial and globalized world. This argument question the ideology of the “White Cube” as neutral space, conceptualized by Brian O’Doherty, which is still the mainstream approach for an exhibitive space: introspective,

top-down, institutionalized, elitist. As a way to subvert this structure, this research proposes that the role of the curator, exhibition designer and installation artist to be blended. As a consequence, it fosters social innovation and intercultural exchange, not only through design of participation, but also through participatory design. The participatory method served as the access to a minority group in Cologne: the Syrian & Kurd refugees. They were approached through Workshops and a Toolkit, exploring their Identity and Feeling of belonging. It intended to understand the group, build a community and curate the content through dialog. As a final experiment, the exhibition “Where is home?” was designed and curated for the TH Köln celebration of the World Refugee Day, a date established by the UNHCR to foster discussion around the world. As a result, seven installations were developed, inspired by relational art:

Tree of Wishes, In/Outside of the box, Invented borders, Papyrus, Postcard, Music, Around the table.

































01. Introduction

01. Introduction



I n t r o d t

u i


c n


01. Introduction

It is evident that social responsibility should no longer be the agenda of a specific field of design, so all designers should commit with the tripod of the Sustainable Development - environment, society and economy. However, in the context of the Exhibition Design, previous studies have given insufficient attention to the value as a social space with privileges in the society. In addition to the existing works concerned more about sustainable materials and the product-servicesystems involved, this study was designed to remedy the weakness of studies about the exhibit design as a social catalyst. Physical, social and mental (Lefebvre, 1974) spaces are important for encounters, where new connections in the society’s web can take place and be strengthened. In this sense, Galleries and Museums have a tacit capacity to enhance local community ties because of its social, cultural, emotional and educative nature.


There are thousands of social possibilities behind the cultural meeting there, but how does exhibition intermediate relations and, at the same time, merge experience and representation? Are the actual interactive exhibitions favoring social relations or over mediating them? Even though a meaningful experience can be argued to be a subjective concept, it was demonstrated in this research

that social interaction and participation enhances the visitor experience for a deeper reflection about the content and connection to the local community. It should be pointed that these contexts which things are displayed nowadays is inseparable from the modern art history. In 1976, the concept of “White Cube” was firstly introduced to the artworld lexicon as a way to describe the standard environment the visitor will find in the Galleries and Museum until today. Coined by Brian O’Doherty in a threepart essay published by Artforum, the ideology of exhibitive spaces consists of a utopic neutral spaces, which attempt to be almost like a sacred environment, and has specific codes of behavior. It treats art as something not supposed to be touched and the spectators as invisible eyes without body presence The limitation of this approach is not to favor people’s interactions, and much less inclusive for audiences that are less familiar with the art world language. Moreover, when observing the current exhibitions, the social articulation is not specifically addressed in the contrary to the individual experience. As a consequence, it can be pointed difficulties, not only the encouragement of regular visits or attraction of audience with a variation in the range of age, but also to dialog with other diverse groups of the society. Certainly, there is a long way for

a democratic exhibitive scene which represents more different voices. As a micro space of cultural representativeness, it has been served as clear expression of the top-down power distribution. If displaying is giving voices to ideologies, who is shaping the cultural production of exhibitions in the social and political globalization process?

It should be mentioned that creative industry tends to convert all experiences in consumption. Thus, the social interactions in these spaces can be easily lost in the cultural industry. More relevant than innovative technologies development to amuse people, it is to have a critical view about how these interactions can shape the cultural production.

In order to outperform the “white cube” ideal envisioning a long-term meaningful transformation in the social entanglements, the research question was:

Exhibitions play an important whole in the creative economy sector. In fact, Museums and Galleries, run an economy sector that cannot be ignored. Museum sector includes several huge institutions that move representative investments, being managed by private,





01. Introduction

public and mixed sources. When it is for the public interest, there are equivocal choices of priorities in relation to their financial accounts and profit, having its visitors frequently treated as costumers. My approach in this research is aiming for an inversion of this process. What if the exhibitions could shape the cultural production, and provoke social changes as a consequence? In order to do that, it is proposed hear that the people involved in the topic should feel part of that space, be part of that narrative and should feel represented. From that point to the macro perspective, when talking about the global village context it is inserted, it is arguable whether different cultures are even equally rated and displayed. Minorities are victim of uncountable social injustice, being the lack of voice one of them.


For this reason, this research provoked the reflection about “Where is home?” in the context of the Refugees living in Cologne since more than half year but less than three years, as a way to bridge the local intercultural relationships. The Refugee crises received even more attention from the media after the huge

amount of Syrian refugees seeking for asylum in 2015 became topic of warm discussions in Europe. This group of people that came in that year is in an important period of adaptation, which opportunities for improving the language and new social bounds are crucial. As the Museums and Galleries play a role in the cultural production, this thesis arguments that it can support the deconstruction of the idea of the refugees as “other”. This deconstruction avoids the ignorance that provokes attitudes of prejudice, stereotypes and discrimination. For this reason, this work aims for a better understanding about how the perception of boundaries with the others is affected by these immersive and performative spaces. To do so, it takes advantage of participatory activities and installations in the “Where is home?” exhibition, developed in this research to facilitate encounters. As result, the social catalyst model developed under the tripod of participation, provocation and relational, proved to be a positive approach. All in all, the approach is characterized by two assumptions: that participatory

design can be part of the curation process of an exhibition, and that, in the exhibition design, the boundaries

In conclusion, the intention is to argument about how it can contribute to a social innovation. In order to do that, visitors

of the roles between the designer, the artist and the curator can be blurred. As a consequence, it creates messages with more cohesion, which in this case means a more bottom-up and participatory experience.

should be included in the process, whether it is previously, by co-creating the content locally with the community through participatory workshops, or during the event, through participatory spaces of relational installations.


02. Methods




Me t h o d s

M t d


e h

o s

WHAT IS THE METHODOLOGICAL APPROACH? This thesis is result of an action

02 Methods

research, with a solid theoretical foundation. Thus, it was divided between the argumentation through theoretical foundation and observations, followed by punctual experiments designed to fulfill the existing gaps, take insights about the possibilities behind the methods and prove the assumptions. In the end, a final more complex experiment was conducted to sustain and coordinate all the previous findings with facts. In the chapter 02, it was presented argumentations about the relevance of social interactions in exhibitions, and its potential for social innovation, through a theoretical basis from design, sociology and art. Moreover, in the chapter 03 the reader will find the contextual local demand from the refugee’s community. Empirical evidences from observations and experiments presented enough bases to the main argumentation line.


02. Methods

THEORETICAL APPROACH “Only through investigating and comparing different research approaches and the various methods used are we enabled to make an informed decision about how to proceed.” (Gray and Malins, 2014, p.17) In the process of connecting the different topics from the literature, my own assumptions and observations related to “The White Cube”, exhibition design, social catalysts, sense of belonging, migration, I used affinity diagrams and mind map. Generally used for design thinking, there were useful for a visually description the insights, identify groups of sense, find correlations.

PRACTICAL APPROACH: RESEARCH BY DOING The instances approached here through practice were divided in three parts:



2. CURATION: Participatory research & Community building through Social engagement, Networking, Workshops, Toolkit

3. COORDINATION & ORGANIZATION: World Refugee Day event “Where is home?”


APPROACH TO EXHIBITION It is important to point that this research is the result of the whole process: theory review, observation, action research and experiments described here, and not only about the exhibition. Although some might argument about the empirical research in the design field, that a final product should “speak for itself”, the exhibition was a mean to test aspects of the exhibition as media, but not an attempt to communicate this thesis as the content. That is to say that there could have a misunderstanding about the concept of this exhibition as a way to showcase the work from the designer. “The concept of ‘exhibition’ carries with it much baggage! Historically, the model has involved the artist/designer (usually an artist, as single author) displaying a body of work for public appreciation and consumption (by an audience and market), and for professional evaluation (by critics). Although the work may be obviously thematic and have accompanying catalogues with critical writings, usually we are not fully aware of the artist/designer’s intentions for the work, and we are not obliged to evaluate it against their specific criteria. We will make of the work whatever we like and apply, usually in a very unconscious way, our own implicit criteria for judging the quality of what we see. For most of us, the experience of viewing the work might be a purely visual and aesthetic one, possibly even mystical”. (Gray & Malins, 2004, p.169) If the case was using exhibit as a media to communicate key points of a good research like accessibility, transparency and transferability, then this research would have been only well

communicated through an ‘exposition’1, but this was anyhow the intentions. In opposition to that, the exhibition developed and analyzed here had a more subjective and artistic approach to the content, so it did not intend to offer a clear clarification or visualization of this research. The exhibition part of the “Where is home?” project, was an experiment intending, on the other hand, to test: •

Participatory design methods of curating specific types of content that provides voices to a sector of the local community which do not take advantage of privileged spaces of the mainstream culture;

Methods of participation and connections between the audience by fostering social interaction2;


See Gray and Malins, p. 169.


See Social Catalysts, chapter 03.

Fig. 1 >> Visualizing connections in the theory through affinity diagram and mind mapping.


02. Methods

Design of participatory installations through relational aesthetics, as method to provoke critical reflections, discussion and empathy towards a polemic topic.

The content for that was developed through participatory research with groups of refugees, and the aim was research the exhibition content and community building to an exhibition. The method contemplated the following characteristics of a participatory research: •

The point of departure is that macrolevel social forces provides strong context to social events;

Social processes and structures are understood within a historical context;

Theory and practice are integrated, thus, research and action become a single process:

The subject-object relationship is transformed into a subject-subject relationship through dialogue;

Social transformation is produced through critical knowledge by the community and researcher together

The results of the research are immediately applied to a concrete

situation. (Schutter & Yopo, 1981, quoted by Gary, 2005) 3

As the process to develop a co-created exhibition has a lot of specific variables, it was not possible to copy an existing methodology to this project needs, but rather develop a specific format inspired by other methods. 3  A. Schutter and B. Yopo (1981), described in “Participatory research: A methodological option for adult education” (translation) p.68 from CREFAL, quoted by Herr and Anderson (2005), p. 15-16. 20

It consisted of two Workshops together with the “Über den Tellerrand Project”, one dedicated final workshop and a Toolkit, which was inspired by the “Cultural Probe” method. However, this is an adapted format that was named here as “Toolkit”, aiming for a tangible material which they explored their meaning of home and establish this conversation, rather than the original definition of the Cultural Probe. Cultural probe, by definition, is a design research tool to get qualitative data directly from the user, by giving materials like disposable cameras, maps, etc, and asking the participants to work on them and return later. As user-centered design tool, the goal of it is to have a better understanding about the user behavior when they are in their own environment. It is rooted on ethnographic research methods, with an expected qualitative data related to the specific context of the investigation In the article “Cultural Probes and the Value of Uncertainty”, Gaver et al.4 pointed a relevant quality of this method that sum up why it was valuable in this research: “the Probes embodied an approach to design that recognizes and embraces the notion that knowledge has limits. It’s an approach that values uncertainty, play, exploration, and subjective interpretation as ways of dealing with those limits.” In other words, a strict framework would not allow the necessary openness in the result, which was necessary for creating a qualitative exhibition.

4  Gaver, W., Boucher, A., Pennington, S. and Walker, B. “Cultural probes and the value of uncertainty.” February 2004. Interactions - Funology, 11(5), pp. 53-56, accessed January 07, 2017,

Experience Desgin

Graphic Design

Installation Art

Curation Interior Design


Event Management

Fig. 2 >> Different skills and roles played.

After the participatory research, the content was curated so the art installations / design could be developed through research of references, sketches, digital drawings and rough prototyping.

RESULTS ASSESSMENT Measuring tools were necessary to analyze the results according to the expectations. During the research, the main criteria for the social catalyst aspect and participatory exhibition were evaluated and proposed in the final experiment, the “Where is home?” event. Thus, the result was measured through the visitor’s participation. It should be taken in consideration that, although stories and feedback are less systematic in terms of assessment, they fit well in the current a practitioner culture of an oral craft tradition. (Herr and Anderson, 2005, p. 63)

GOAL evaluate social interaction and “whitecube factors”.

METHODS: DIRECT OBSERVATION DOCUMENTATION - Action camera Video and Photography (2 photographers) INTERVIEWS RECORD - Volunteers, collaborators and visitors were asked their general opinion about the exhibition, if that fostered any discussion and how did it happen, and about the interaction with the installations, whether it was individual or social: Volunteers K., 24, South Africa, KISD MA Student M., 21, Portugal, KISD BA Student M. 27, Lebanon, KISD MA Student Collaborator F., 27, Brazil, KISD MA Student Visitors M., 27, Bulgaria, Webdesigner L., 24, KISD BA Student S., KISD MA Student C., 30, Brazil, Service Designer M., 24, Germany, Photographer A., 29, Syria, CICS student O., 31, Syria


02. Methods



HOW TO USE THIS THESIS? In order to locate the reader in the chapters, an overview about them will be here presented: After the introduction, you will find in the second chapter, “Exhibit as a Medium”, the conceptual framework. It describes the design field here explored, what was learned from previous studies and the approach chosen. Through theoretical research and literature review, this section indicates where in the discussion about the “White Cube” this research is situated and why the social and relational aspect of the installations was chosen as the approach.


In order to support the argumentation about the existing gaps, the method used was also observations of actual exhibitive spaces in different urban contexts – Shanghai Museum, Ludwig Museum, Bröham Museum. Moreover, semi-structured qualitative interviews with specialists were conducted.


In sequence, the third chapter Social context: Cologne and Migration draw the context which the content of the final experiment was related, the relevant discussions and approaches of narratives to provoke them. It explains why this is an important issue to be discussed in an exhibition, and why it contributes to the goals of including visitors from social groups that are not generally in the process neither are strongly represented in the spaces so called “White Cube”. In the chapter four, the experiments conducted are documented, explained and analyzed. Firstly, the failure evidences are briefly showed as a way to expose that good research is fruit of many trials and errors. For this reason, it is important to show the first experiments and explain that the choices were made based by previous findings. Secondly, the project “Where is home” is described in its different dimensions. As the exhibition design is multidisciplinary field, the process was divided into Design, Curation and Organization. Although organization


s t a g e s o f r e s e a r c h m e t h o d s

and project management is part of the process and the only way to arrive in the goals, as mentioned, the relevance of this chapter of the research relies on the result of participatory research approach and creative process of installations.

In the final chapter you will find the summarization of the main findings, the questions that will stay open and the future implications. They are based on the analysis of the exhibition result from the previous chapter, which will be explained bellow.

WHAT WILL YOU NOT FIND IN HERE? This research avoid reducing the subject as an “object” of study by pointing where the problem is and affirm how to solve it as an outsider. The approach of this research does not intend to be utilitarian anyhow. Thus, it is not focusing on a practical solution of an existing market problem. On the contrary, it intends to take advantage of the experimental space of the university to focus on other layers of the exhibit design field, the social aspects, as an opportunity for a design process driven, instead of client driven. Moreover, it does not try to point the right answer for the scientific research question. Instead of establishing a universal answer, the empirical and humble design methods developed here intend to, hopefully, increase debate around the social possibilities of the exhibition design and art installations field, whether by agreements or disagreements. This “how” research question was intentionally posed as proposal for experimentation. The reader will find many titles in the form of questions, which arouse from the previous question, and so on. It is a way to present the same questioning path experience from the investigation process. With these questions, it is proposed here that the design field should always be open to many other possibilities, so it should be clear that this is just one possibility of exploration.


02. Methods


r o

c e











The process that lasted one year will be here described. This is a way to provide the reader and designers an understanding about how much time is needed for using each step.




Thesis Proposal

Literature: Researching arguments from authors

Writing theory: I started writing my theory about

to the hypothesis, this period were the intensive

the hypothesis in this phase and had this routine

but this had to be done during the whole process,

during the whole process, which was important

following the demand of the findings.

to keep the fresh insights. Moreover, writing

Summary of content: The content list and approach were already defined, and it was filled during the following months. On-site Observations: Observation of aspects of “White Cube” and “Social catalysts” in Exhibitions. I visited Shanghai Museum, Ludwig Museum, Bröham Museum and Le Belgique Tour.

was important method to develop deeper the connection of different points of the literature review. Experiment 01: For the practical research, the first experiment was the installation “The Dark Side of Cologne”, which I did and analyzed the social interactions through observations. Colloquium: In this phase, it was important to exchange and discuss the design of the experiment to validate of the hypothesis with other students and professors. During the colloquium, I presented the topic and main questions I was researching in this part of the process, which was: Who do not go to galleries or museums? Why would they benefit from it? Which exhisting intercultural boundaries of the social relations in Cologne are relevant for a thesis of exhibition design? Where and who? Interview to specialists: In this period, I conducted interviews with tree artists – MA Student Luiz G. Zanotello (Digital Media), Dr. Tania Fraga (Computer Arts and Exhibition Design) and Dr. Laura González (Perfomance and Dance), a scholar - Prof. Dr. Martin Großman (Museology and White Cube), two designers Jennifer Schubert (Participatory Design) and Aleksandra Marjanovic (Spatial Design) and curator, Heike Ander.


Experiment 02: “Intercultural Santa”





Design of Participatory

Workshop 01: In this meeting, I gave a ten

connections: I attended


minutes presentation of the project, followed

in many discussion

Establishment of

by the Workshop, and handled the Toolkit after

groups, cultural

collaboration with

introducing it. In this first approach, I had the

activities and volunteer

“Über den Tellerrand”

support of an Arabic speaker.

work in the local


community that deals

Definition of scope,

with Refugee topic.

methods and design

First exhibition concept: After a curatorial research, the first draft of the exhibition content defined how the topic of migration would be framed.

of the Toolkit and

Toolkit: I received after 8 days the toolkit back during a one-to-one interview about their results.

Workshops. Initially,

Collaboration with TH Köln: The contact to the

the format of the

vice-president of the University was made

event was “Pop Up

through the Equal Opportunities Office and KISD

Museum”, which was


transformed during the process.

Format of exhibition event: The format of the exhibition was defined as the celebration of

It defined the non-

Definition of place: It

the “World Refugee Day”, and the collaboration

territorial approach to

was defined that the

was established with stakeholders from the

the identity and the

exhibition would be


researched group as

in the educational

the Refugees living in

environment of KISD,

Creative process: Through sketches and research


and the focus group

of references, I developed the first ideas and

of visitors would be

discussed with other designers.

mainly refugees and design students, as a way to bridge exchange between them.


02. Methods



Workshop 02: For the second Workshop I was

Connection to SLZ: A presentation for two

already familiar with the environment and used

groups of students (refugees) from the Learning

the insights from the first one to improve it.

Language Center (Sprachlernzentrum / SLZ)

Installations: The proposal of the installations seven interactive installations were defined

Final Workshop 03: The third workshop intended

discussed with the stakeholders.

to be a dedicated activity only for the project.

Exhibition design: The concept of the experience

Experiment 03: “Bring an object” activity were

and content were also defined and shared with

proposed for a meeting from “Über den


Tellerrand” Community.

Budget deduction: Materials and services for the

Materials: Purchase for materials for installation

event were priced, as part of the event proposal to the University presidency. Collaborators for last workshop: Through networking meetings about social initiatives in the local community, I established the contact for the place - Aktionsraum Deutz, and community


from the TH Köln.

Final exhibition layout: The final layout of the furniture and visual communication were designed. TH Köln support: The support from TH Köln presidency was confirmed.

of participants to the third workshop (Ceno e.V.,

Finishing writing of all theoretical part and

SLZ, etc).

analysis of participatory research.



Activity in SLZ: A participatory activity was

Prepare and Analyze

conducted to the Refugees.

data from the

Call for volunteers: I posted in different media from KISD a call for volunteers to support

exhibition: select, edit, reflect about

the exhibition event. Moreover, I gave two

Visualization and

presentations to the Master students and

writing about the

International AG.

iresults and insights.

Coordination of stakeholders: Food (cooking group), Press (KISD, TH Köln, Local groups for Refugees). Doing: Graphic design Building Setting Printing “Where is home?” Event: KISD and SLZ students (Volunteers) orientation, Feedback collection, Documentation.


03. Exhibition as Medium

03 03. Exhibition as Medium 28

Exhibition a


M e d i u m


03. Exhibition as Medium

THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE In the modern western world the space occupied by art is intrinsically attached to the culture of display. Certainly, exhibitions has been an important media for communicating objects, cultures, politics, etc. “(...) the ways in which art is talked about, understood and debated are largely determined through the medium of exhibitions through the exhibition as a complex representation of institutional, social and, paradoxically, often personal values, simultaneously. And the exhibition’s representivity then is an exemplary identification of the direct political tendencies (democratic, nationalistic, feminist, regionalist, postcolonial or whatever) on offer.” (Ferguson; Reese; Sandy, 1996)


creative thought processes as they might appear in computer designs. What we are considering here, however, are the psychic and social consequences of the designs or patterns as they amplify or accelerate existing processes.” In another words, technologies are medium that extend human external body capabilities, or even in inner consciousness level. However, since medium is a message, which intermediate the communication process through its own language, the excessive use of these extensions offer the danger to over intermediate people’s relations. In that sense, instead of helping to build collective global consciousness it amputate human’s capacity to relate with each other.

As the remarkable statement of Marshall McLuhan (1964) “The medium is the message”, the exhibition design as medium is a relevant tool to transform, and even subvert the message. Architectural elements, visual communication, scenography are elements to transform the visitor’s experience towards specific aims. As a consequence it has a clear potential as a medium for messages, as well as for social exchanges to happen.

One relevant concern about some medium is that it can be a source of readymade thoughts. When technology as a medium started to run a cyclical process of over intermediate the people’s relationships, the process transforms until the point that people accommodate with this intermediator and stop evolving its own. This brings on a narcotic relationship with medium, which sold after the industrialization the idea of a high technological intermediated world in detriment of qualitative social relations.

For McLuhan (1964) there is a direct causal correlation between nonverbal thoughts and its medium language, like the content of a speech or an image. Thus, the existing nonverbal processes happening in the society are completely defined by the media through it is communicated: “An abstract painting represents direct manifestation of

In the context of the exhibition, the use of different media technologies has been the dominant language when the vocabulary is about interactive experience. Different types and levels of interaction are indeed indispensable and the user-experience demands a special attention from the designers of our times as a strategy to involve the

visitors.. However, user-experience and interactivity in an exhibition can also be provided by the actual environment configuration and communication (interior design, visual communication and architecture), in combination with facilitators like passive objects, proposed activities or other people.

INSTALLATION ART OR EXHIBITION DESIGN? This work intends to question the blended lines that separate the roles that define the exhibition designer and the installation artist. Firstly, it is important to define what is ‘Installation art’. According to Bishop, 2005, the term has been very generically used. “Installation art” is a term that loosely refers to the type of art into which the viewer physically enters, and which is often described as ‘theatrical’, ‘immersive’ or ‘experiential’. However, the sheer diversity in terms of appearance, content scope of the work produced today under the name, and the freedom with which the term is used, almost preclude it from having any meaning. The word ‘installation’ has now expanded to describe any arrangement of objects in any given space, to the point where it can happily be applied even to a conventional display of paintings on a wall”. From this perspective, the arrangement of objects in a given space could also be called exhibition design. Alternatively, Pam Locker, 2010, described the comparative difference between the two concepts as:

“At first glance, installation art has many similarities with exhibition design. It is site specific, usually interior and three-dimensional, and it involves the transformation of the perception of space. Installations can be found in a range of public and private spaces including museums, art galleries and expos. They can also potentially share a wide variety of exhibition media including film, sound and light. Both disciplines have concerns for time and space, the sensory experiences of the audience and the idea of art as theatre. Designers and artists often work together to form very successful collaborations. The work of artists often adds variety and challenges the visitors, extending their cultural experience.” (Locker, 2010) Another relevant argumentation for the author supports that, while the exhibition designer mainly deals with ‘explicit’ messages, with a clear and closed idea about it, the installation artistic deals with more “implicit messages”, which are more subjective and, as a consequence, open to interpretation. Although they are good definitions, these roles can be easily interchanged because they are not precise enough, so in the end they would make sense for both. All in all, this is not intended to discuss the differences between art and design, but instead, point why the installation art is a relevant to this exhibition design research, which regards to “the active nature of the viewer’s role alternatively to the “pacifying effects” of massmedia.” (Bishop, 2005, p.32)


03. Exhibition as Medium

Furthermore, the physical presence of the visitor provides the context as much as a context-dependency. “Installation art therefore differs from traditional media (sculpture, painting, photography, video) in that it addresses the viewer directly as a literal presence in the space. Rather than imagining the viewer as a pair of disembodied eyes that survey the work from a distance, installation art presupposes an embodied viewer whose senses of touch, smell and sound are as heightened as their sense of vision. This insistence on the literal presence of the viewer is arguably the key characteristic of the installation art.� (Bishop, 2015, p.6) Thus, the difficult to keep the meaning when not experienced in the right context creates a certain distance from the logic of the market, favoring other priorities, like the social aspect.

SINGLE NARRATIVE X Fig. 3 >> Installation art from Ai Weiwei, Wuzhen International Contemporary Art Exhibition, 2016 (Photo: Author)

PARTICIPATION There is a fundamental contradiction between an artistic and narrative practice. On the contrary of the mentioned art installation, an exhibition can use the resource of storytelling as a way to bring in the content. In another words, a topic can be offered by experiencing an emotional history. If the focus is to learn content, this is a way of offering a more direct, accessible and easy way to grasp it. In spite of it, there a counter


argumentation that storytelling ends up being determined by only one, and

very often dominant perspective. It is interesting to have a clear position, but by affirming one-sided perspective of a story, a controversy is created between storytelling - as an empathy ploy, and ethics / philosophy - as a debate ploy. Additionally, it should be taken into consideration that the literal presentation of content leaves less space for imagination and active creativity, because it provides a ready answer about an issue.

time-space, and mostly important, participation of the visitor. In opposition to the traditional narratives, when the control over the linearity is less emphasized, the interpretation, value and experience should be relying more on the personal choices of the visitors. Ideally the participation would constantly update the face of the story told in the space.

Therefore, it should have caution to not potentially suppress the exercise of own reflection from the visitor, or undermine the formation of free opinion. There is a thin line between a populist story easy to grasp, and a story telling that stimulates curiosity, by leaving open questions to be later investigated.


In opposition to the narrative, installation art provides the message in less direct and more subjective. Although it also uses emotional and cognitive methods to create a remarkable experience, this could also lead to a misunderstanding or complete lack of interpretation of the message, if the visitors are not familiar to the art language used. This can lead to the debate about whether this sort of functionality should be part of the artistic agenda. In that discussion, this work is positioned in favor of the social activism of the artists. In conclusion to that, this work suggests that the quality of narrative environment rely on a multi-dimensional experience that is always in transformation. The combination of objects and space should offer a flexible navigation over

Nowadays many exhibits are focusing on immersive experiences not only into historic and science learning, but also intensively used for commercial intentions like branding or marketing of companies in trade-fairs or corporative museums. Originally they started with the private collections of the elite. “Museums as we recognise them today have their roots in the Renaissance, when the wealthy and powerful gathered together strange, usually natural, objects in special rooms ‘full of wondrous things’, or more commonly, ‘cabinets of curiosities’. Objects from the collections were grouped together into taxonomies, organised according to characteristics that linked them. To begin with this may have been arbitrary, for example, according to their size or even colour.” (Locker, 2010) Paris salons had also great influence in the arrangements of paintings in the wall, which were mostly dense symmetrical compositions from the floor to the top hanged over high wall. 33

03. Exhibition as Medium

They were placed next to the other in order to have a good comparison perspective of movements and style. This was the most common form of displaying art when the first public museums appeared, like the British Museum in 1759, and the Louvre in 1793. The fact that they grew up out of private collections provides an important background about the people involved, the language, ideologies, codes of behavior and the goals initially aimed by these kinds of spaces founded by a wealthy people of the elite, well educated, intellectual. The display language has changed a lot since them, and the context which the objects are exhibited started to receive a lot more attention. “As modernism gets older, context becomes content”, defended Brian O’Doherty in his influential series of articles for Artforum in 1976, collected later in the book “Inside of the White Cube”. In his essays, he pointed out that the history of the modernism was framed by an archetypical image of an ideal neutral space. On the other hand, the real influence that those space’s ideologies have over the displayed message are impossible to be disconnected. Back at that time many artists declared to have concerns about the institutionalization


of art therefore it was a relevant starting point to discuss the conventions of the design of a gallery space. As the sacred art, especially the Christian, played an important role in the Western art history, the entire context through it was displayed carried its ideology. O’Doherty (1976) mentioned that the artwork is placed almost like the sanctity in a medieval church built along rigorous laws. In this space devoted to the technology of the aesthetic, “art exists in a kind of eternity of display (…) there is no time”. This similarity with the medieval church is not a simple coincidence, but result of the history. This attempt to immortalize the art is definitely aligned with the history of the arts as a way to represent religious motifs, rituals and documentation.

THE GALLERY IDEOLOGY The Gallery in this work is referred here as a conceptual space, rather than its manifestation in Museums or Gallery spaces with white walls. It concerns to the act of exhibiting and its actors: the exhibited thing and the visitors, and as part of economic system, the interests that it represents.

As Henri Lefebvre (1974) questioned:

“What is an ideology without a space to which it refers, a space which it describes, whose vocabulary and links it makes use of, and whose code it embodies? What would remain of a religious ideology – the JudaeoChristian one, say - if it were not based on places and their names: church, confessional, altar, sanctuary, tabernacle? (…) More generally speaking, what we call ideology only achieves consistency by intervening in a social space and in its production, and by thus taking on body therein. Ideology per se might well be said to consist primarily in a discourse upon social space.”

In another words, the creation of ‘representational spaces’5 implies ideologies.


All in all even though many Galleries are still aiming at the ideology of the White Cube, as the author exposed, it is extremely questionable that they could ever become “a neutral container”. That is to say that this kind of environment itself was historically shaped by an aesthetic framework, so this influences and provides a strong context the objects exhibited. Following its history of the representing a minority that could collect precious objects, the Gallery ideology still preserve part of the original aesthetic vocabulary.

In his classic work, O’Doherty observed that there was an attempt to create a utopic neutral container, which would allow the object to express by exclusively itself. “The ideal gallery subtracts from the artwork all cues that interfere with the fact that it is ‘art.’ The work is isolated from everything that would detract from its own evaluation of itself. This gives the space a presence possessed by other spaces where conventions are preserved through the repetition of a closed system of values.” (O’Doherty, 1976)



Henri Lefebvre (1974), p.39, defined the representational space as “space as directly lived through its associated images and symbols, and hence the space of 'inhabitants' and 'users', but also of some artists and perhaps of those, such as a few writers and philosophers, who describe and aspire to do no more than describe. This is the dominated - and hence passively experienced - space which the imagination seeks to change and appropriate. It overlays physical space, making symbolic use of its objects. Thus representational spaces may be said, though again with certain exceptions, to tend towards more or less coherent systems of non-verbal symbols and signs.”


03. Exhibition as Medium

The art object is determined by the classifications of the art institutions where it is created and through which it is exhibited. This utopic neutrality hides an existing framework, so all objects placed in this context are believed to be an art piece.

“Once the wall became an esthetic force, it modified anything shown on it. The wall, the context of the art, had become rich in a content it subtly donated to the art. It is now impossible to paint up an exhibition without surveying the space like a health inspector, taking into account the esthetics of the wall which will inevitably “artify” the work in a way that frequently diffuses its intentions.“ (O`Doherty, 1976) Fig. 4 >> White Cube approach in Wuzhen International Contemporary Art Exhibition, 2016 (Photo: Author)

As a consequence, this “holy” environment for an exhibited content resonates in an estrangement of people that are not familiar with that world, which in another words, means exclusion. This is extremely problematic when considering the Galleries are transmitting certain values of a cultural elitism, which do not fit in the context of a globalized world, with plenty of diversity. In the contemporary virtualization process, the question is whether the White Cube Paradigm will rather even exist in the future. So if the Galleries


were already criticized on 70’s, what makes it still prominent? The fact is that they actually add important values to the art world, and to the society. The Galleries in transformation can still offer a context to art that differs from the business value it has in art fairs because of the possibility to be appreciated and to affect. Although many art dealers are ignoring this aspect, the essential reason why artworks exist and it is part of culture production is: the audience. “Great art needs audience” is the title of the article in “The Art Newspaper”. The critic arguments that he concerns that fairs are having a detrimental effect on the gallery network, and is against this trend for exclusivity. According to Gopnik, for a piece of art to truly be valuable it needs to correspond with what the culture deems to be of value. An artwork needs both to be seen by the greatest amount of people and claim a prestigious provenance – and not just from collectors. Gopnik emphasizes the crucial role that galleries play in the art world, and the significant fact that their exhibitions are free: “I’m sorry for […] dealers who can’t see how running a gallery still makes good sense. But I’ll feel more sorry for art lovers, and for art itself, if art becomes merely about private exchange.” (Gopnik, 2014) 6 In conclusion, it is possible to recognize in the contemporary

6  Gopnik, B., “Great art needs an audience”, February 13th, 2014, Accessed January 02nd, 2017, from The Art Newspaper, Issue 254: http://old. Great-art-needs-an-audience/31726

art the phenomenon which the commercialization of aesthetics converges into the aestheticization of commerce. Slowinska (2014) affirmed that “Contemporary developments in the art world indicate that Adorno and Horkheimer’s fears of the subjection of art to instrumental reason in the form of market rationality have not been unfounded.” In these circumstances, the culture of display turned out to blend the concept of visual merchandising (which showcases consumer goods) in a common aesthetics experience of the space of art.

PLEASE, DON’T TOUCH THE ART. As the White Cube enlarged the distinction between art and everyday life, the spaces like Museums and Galleries acquired a specific a behavior code. In order to navigate in this space, visitors that are not aware of those rules often make the others uncomfortable and do not recognize it as belonging to it. As a consequence, this normative space for art perpetrates specific institutional rules that the artists, visitors, curators, collectors and critics have to understand in order to play the game. Once one decides to enter the existing business model for “living of art”, it has to accept to be ruled by the language and guideline that this kind of space can


03. Exhibition as Medium

afford. Thus, as the artistic production is owned by this sacred environment, it is induced to coexist according to its codes. Additionally, when thinking about the division of roles within multidisciplinary exhibition teamwork, the designer also tends to be limited by the other sectors of this organization. As decisions are made by the directors and curators with higher hierarchy, the designer ends up to be a professional that offers a service to the client, this huge institution.

Fig. 5 >> Ludwig Museum signage common in Museums and Galleries: establishing hierarchies between art and visitor. (Photo: Author)


Indeed, the objects there have many layers of importance, for art, history, science etc. Heritage and conservation is itself a relevant and huge issue, which will not be discussed here. But the point is that, in terms of experience, the high economic value of the piece offer over restrictive physical contact (Figure 5), and as a consequence, undermine the active creativity of the visitor towards that. Since everything placed inside is almost “sacred� and the artist is the only responsible for offering the art meaning, this top-down relationship provides a lazy exhibition experience.









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v a t n t







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Observations in exhibitive spaces were done in order to argument against a possible argument that, nowadays the White Cube was left behind and it is site specific, rather than a dominant practices. As way to understand the existing exhibitions approaches, the possible qualities in relation to the “White Cube” aspects in four different completely different urban contexts were observed: Shanghai Museum in Shanghai, Bröham Museum in Berlin, Ludwig Museum, in Cologne.

SHANGHAI MUSEUM Type of collection: Traditional Chinese historical artifacts, 2016 Social Level: 1 from 5 City context: Shanghai; city center; tourism.

Fig. 6 >> Traditional artifacts (Photo: Author)


03. Exhibition as Medium

Phenomenological observations:

Fig. 7 >> Architecture (Photo: Author)

The architecture of the Museum is similar to the shopping malls, with many escalators, rooms with showcases and big TVs for mapping the place. This brings the idea of a consuming the experience, and although it do not remember an “empty cube” and it is not predominantly white, it is still a perfect of the “White Cube” with an aesthetization of the consumption. The exhibition system also looks like a shopping mall. The heritage value of the objects here extremely high and that justify the preoccupation with safety, but it is undeniable that the experience resulted is very passive. Fig. 8 >> Interior design

The only available place for a more social experience is the restaurant, which do not have any special conceptual connection or proposal to the museum topic. It is a generic restaurant inside of the Museum context.


Fig. 9 >> Restaurant / Café (Photo: Author)

Places to rest are generally serving as a discussion moment between visitors. However, this exhibition space offers very few “chilling� possibilities. This communicates that this is not a space for chilling and spending some time, but just to join the imposed learning experience about the history of the objects, and after that leave it. Fig. 10 >> Social interactions (Photo: Author)

There are some opportunities of learning through touchscreen interactive games are available but it is limited to an individual experience of activities with low stimulations of critical thoughts.

Fig. 11 >> Exhibition system (Photo: Author)

Fig. 12 >> Scenography (Photo: Author)


03. Exhibition as Medium

LUDWIG MUSEUM Type of collection: Temporary exhibition “We call it Ludwig”, 2016, and permanent collection with artworks like paintings, installations, sculptures, photography, etc, from Classical modernism, Expressionism, Pop Art, Cubism, Russian Avant-Gard, Abstract, Rhineland (Regional born artists), etc. Social Level: 3 from 5 City context: Cologne, city center, tourism.

Phenomenological observations: The imposing architecture makes you feel small. The interior and exhibition system is a standard White Cube in the permanent collection: large rooms, white walls, paintings hanging or static artworks displayed in an empty space. In general, people’s interaction happens while chilling in the banches, in the Restaurant or Hall, or punctually during the exhibition by commenting some artwork with a friend.


Fig. 13 >> Architecture (Photo: Author)

Fig. 14 >> Paintings and Installations (Photo: Author)

Fig. 15 >> Exhibition system and Interior Design (Photo: Author)

Fig. 16 >> Restaurant / CafĂŠ (Photo: Author)


03. Exhibition as Medium

It was noticed that the Museums venture more out of the “White Cube” in the temporary exhibitions. The one visited in this occasion was anniversary group exhibition with participation of twenty-five international artists. This work had a strong activism; although it was not physically engaging.


Participatory installation 01: This exhibition was also part of the temporary exhibition and had a very interesting approach. They build a huge and colorful tent inside of the room. At some point visitor discover that it is possible to enter. Inside it was possible to see a lot of drawings that resulted from a previous activity there. Additionally, they offered pens and paper in playful and chill environment for participation.

Fig. 17 >> Temporary exhibition – Politically engaged artwork (Photo: Author) Fig. 18 >> Fig. 19 >> Temporary exhibition – Participatory artwork in 44

Ludwig Museum (Photo: Author)

Fig. 20 >> Fig. 21 >> Participatory LAB to support the permanent collection of Expressionism. (Photo: Author)

Participatory installation 02: ART LAB “Express Yourself!” This room is a playful approach to learn about Expressionism, and it is connected to the collection of Expressionist art. It is a great example about how to create a playful experience: “The word ‘expressio’ is latin for expression. The expressionists decided to use colours to express themselves. Thus their paintings do not resemble reality: a pig might be blue, a street green or the sky yellow. Also, many things in the pictures are outlined with a black line. Under the slogan Express yourself! you are warmly invited to conduct your own experiments. Allow yourself to become inspired by the works you see in the exhibition upstairs!”7 Their approach of creating a LAB inside of the Museum is an interesting way to create a learning environment with participation. 7  Description from the Ludwig Museum website, accessed January 26th, 2017, http:// program-for-children-and-young-people/ art-lab.html


03. Exhibition as Medium


Fig. 22 >> Temporary exhibition “DIY” design (Photo: Author)

Type of collection: Temporary exhibition “Do it yourself!” and permanent collection of Fine arts and design artifacts. (The last was not analyzed in this research), 2016. Social Level: 2 from 5 City context: Berlin; culture active region with other places to visit nearby.

Phenomenological observations: The Interior design/ /Architecture in the Figure 22 is standard of a White Cube. Although the wooden floor provides a Fig. 23 >> Exhibition system (Photo: Author)


more warm environment, the lights and white walls, with static objects being displayed contributed to that. The scenography was interesting in some parts of the exhibition, although they were also very static and not supposed to be touch.


Fig. 26 >> Scenography (Photo: Author)

Participatory installation: Workshops about DIY in a Wood workshop Inside of the exhibition, they had one room transformed in a wood workshop. It was a very good example about how to transform the Museum environment in a more participatory and active. They were offering several DIY workshops in this room, in order to provide the community a deeper learning about it. The idea of transforming the exhibition space in a LAB, which was also seen in the Ludwig Museum, can be pointed as a valuable trend identified in this research. This is a direction through which the exhibitions can go to achieve social innovation.

Fig. 27 >> Fig. 28 >> Wood workshop inside of the exhibition “Do it yourself!� with activities (Photo: Author)

The exhibition system was standard, with small stages and objects over it. However, two installations made the experience a lot more participatory. Firstly, it was this participatory art installation, which the visitor could create the installation in the shape they want with this colorful wooden sticks. That was very dynamic and created a lot interaction between the people. Fig. 24 >> Fig. 25 >> Participatory installation fostering social interactions (Photo: Author)


03. Exhibition as Medium

WHITE CUBE THE ERA OF PARTICIPATORY CULTURE The environment and the art itself changed a lot since the White Cube paradigm was firstly discussed. “We can observe a deconstruction of modernist myths by avant-garde movements in regard to spaces of presentation, to the object and experience of art, and to the artist persona. When Minimalism turned the white cube from a neutral backdrop into part of the experience of the work, and when Land Art and various site-specific practices later moved out of the white cube and into public space, the white cube was undermined as a neutral space, selfeffacing, autonomous space, and thus turned into a specific, situated place.” (Slowinska M. A., 2014, p. 267) The old way of displaying match even less the society in the Digital revolution era, which need interactivity for assimilation of informations. Additionally, in this context, the rise of independent artist, bottom-up initiatives, selfpublished works, the use of Internet space and the occupation of the public spaces are changing the exhibition platforms to a more accessible direction. Nonetheless, the Museums and Galleries as cultural space still matters. They should not be left behind, but instead, improve their engagement with more diverse groups:


“Over the last twenty years, audiences for museums, galleries, and performing arts institutions have decreased, and the audiences that remain are older and whiter than the overall population.

Cultural institutions argue that their programs provide unique cultural and civic value, but increasingly people have turned to other sources for entertainment, learning, and dialogue. They share their artwork, music, and stories with each other on the Web. They participate in politics and volunteer in record numbers. They even read more. But they don’t attend museum exhibits and performances like they used to.” (Simon, N. 2010) This argument is potential evidence that these non-traditional models are shifting the White Cube paradigm away, transforming the artists and curators role drastically. Therefore, in the contemporaneous art practice, there is demand for alternative models of exhibition practices that assimilate the artist and designers as intermediators of cultural and political changes through the aesthetics of the activism.

SOCIAL PRACTICES: ENGAGEMENT AND PARTICIPATORY DESIGN Centralized and hierarchical relations has been increasingly being substituted to collaborative and networked structured relationships and is important to bring for discussion what implications it brings to the structures of the design. For sure, the one of the most important answer is related to a design more focused on engagement and participation.


“Every museum is different, but all can find ways of maximizing their social impact. “Sustainability is a global concern and the responsibility of all participants in the exhibition design process. Whether it is the environmental strategies of large companies or museums, or the personal ethos of designers and their practice, environmental issues need to be addressed. These ideas go beyond the well-recognized mantra of ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’. Just as access issues have become a necessary legal and ethical requirement, sustainability is becoming embedded in all areas of working practice, from communication and interpretation, to social responsibility, and the cultural impact and influence of exhibitions. These ideas require ambitious ideals, but will be reinforced as new ‘green’ design chains become established.” (Pam Locker, 2010, p. 138) Social transformation trend for exhibits has been largely discussed. The research and discussion project “Museums Change Lives”8 from the Museum’s association has been claimed a democratic accessibility since 1990’s, envisioning the social impact of Museums along with the engagement of their audiences, communities, funders and policy makers. The main principles are:


Everyone has the right to

meaningful participation in the life and work of museums.


Audiences are creators as

well as consumers of knowledge; their insights and expertise enrich and transform the museum experience for others.

4. 5.

Active public participation

changes museums for the better. Museums foster

questioning, debate and critical thinking.


Good museums offer

excellent experiences that meet public needs.

7. 8. 9. 10.

Effective museums engage

with contemporary issues. Social justice is at the

heart of the impact of museums. Museums are not

neutral spaces. 8  Museums Association, “Museums Changes Lives: The MA’s Vision for the Impact of Museums”, July, 2013, London, accessed May 13th 2017, Https://

Museums are rooted

in places and contribute to local distinctiveness. ”


03. Exhibition as Medium






Behind the design agenda, there are other demands than selling products, so approaches that transgress market rules and business strategies deserves attention. That is the reason why many forms of design has been developed out of the mainstream scope, which includes participatory design, codesign, design activism, feminist design, and more recently, socially responsive and transition design. (Malpass, 2017)

Although the traditional view of an exhibit is related to a contemplative observation of a magnificent art piece, thus, to dig deep into a completely solitary subjective experience, many Museums and Galleries already noticed that the changes in the media for communication, learning methods and social interactions are not completely fulfilled only by these kinds of experience anymore. For this reason, in 2015, Tate Modern spent £260m to change the concept of a meander and silent experience of a gallery into a space built for socializing. In fact, this change was a necessary. After researching about the people’s expectations, they found out that 47% of the people who goes to Tate Modern look for a “space for encounters”, which proves that the social aspect is extremely relevant. In interview for the Telegraph9, Sir Nicholas Serota, director of Tate, said “Art itself has changed, and we need to find a new way of showing the collection,” he said. The new way will be offering the visitors the possibility of using the galleries as a “social and recreational space”. In order to achieve this change, they planned more open spaces, rooms for debate and discussion, in addition to huge seating areas,


9  Hannah Furness, “Tate Modern to become social space as it unveils £260m revamp”, The Telegraph, September 22th, 2015, accessed March 12th, 2017, http:// howaboutthat/11883206/Tate-Modernto-become-social-space-as-it-unveils260m-revamp.html

As this demands has been acknowledged by critical design, as an intellectual engaged practice to criticize the problematic issues of design, like the over consumption and non-sustainable practices. In that part of the design history, the design activism was already approached from Italians in 1970 decade, in the concept of radical design and anti-design. The architecture collective Superstudio, which contributed with films, collages, exhibitions, etc, with to a new anti-design culture. In his book “Critical design in context”, Malpass described them: “While linked to academia, the Italian critical designers sought to engage more broadly than the academy, aiming to engage the professional and commercial context of design and the design culture of the day.

The collectives established explicit ideological and intellectual positions, where protest was seen as essential and the work was grounded in direct political action. Rather than design positioned as being in service to problems, design was used to facilitate active participation through happenings, interventions, exhibitions, and publications.� (Malpass, 2017)

that communicates with different groups that are non-familiar with the conceptual and introverted installation art world. All in all, it is encouraged a wider participation and provided space for the different voices to receive attention.

The methods used to this type of practice are the Associative Design, Speculative Design Supported by that, this work approaches the social activism of the exhibitions as a tool for creating involvement and participation of people in issues of the society. Nonetheless, there is a point that should be carefully addressed, which regards to the fact that the critical practice can be over self-reflexive and introverted, when sustained, exchanged or practiced in a closed community. (Malpass, 2017) In other words, if the discussion does not reverberate outside of the academics of the design field, it loses a lot of its argumentation reasoning. In order to avoid it, the method chosen here included participatory practices to the topic related to the feeling of belonging of the Refugees. That was support the development an exhibition


03. Exhibition as Medium

SOCIAL CATALYSTS Social catalysts are means through which strangers feel comfortable to engage in conversations with each other. These facilitations platforms were initially casual and accidental situations of the environment, but the acknowledgement of them is relevant for creating intentional arrangements. The factors that provoke a certain situation, object or dynamic a social catalyst rely on different cultural factors. In collectivistic societies, which the collective values tends to be more representative in the culture, the social

Fig. 29 >> Fig. 30 >> Fig. 31 >> Spontaneous board games, forms of displaying traditional culture or a sound system with music for dancing are social catalysts in the streets of Shanghai. (Photo: Author)


interaction with strangers through a social catalyst are more likely to happen than in more individualistic societies, like Germany or the US. In the individualist societies, the interaction in the public spaces happens in a less interpersonal level. These encounters work through triangulation, when a third element that intermediate them. In regards to that,

Whyte (1980)10 asserted that:

“A sign of a great place is triangulation. This is the process by which some external stimulus provides a linkage between people and prompts strangers to talk to each other as if they were not.” This third intermediation is culturally defined by food, music, creeds, games, festivities, etc. Combinations of spatial conditions to elements that spark the initiation of conversation are the crucial point to transform spaces into places, or in another works, favor place making.

As much likely a person feels comfortable to start a conversation to a random stranger, more the feeling of belong to it will be catalyzed. This can be triggered by an object like a sculpture or a table game, which works as an icebreaker and lowers the barriers the “other”. During the research period in China, it was possible to observe in the streets that the culture is formed by a more collective society. Chinese culture has many examples of rich and diverse spontaneous social events in the public space, reason why it has a great potential for investment in social capital.

10  For further informations, see William H. Whyte (1980), “The Social Life of Small Urban Space”, Video, accessed December 13th, 2016. SmallUrbanSpaces


03. Exhibition as Medium


Fig. 32 >> Giant Billiard, New York Museum of Contemporary Crafts by Haus-Rucker (Photo:

A couple of decades ago, this aspect have started to receive attention through the relational aesthetic. Influential installations artists have been diving into this paradigm to discuss the importance to develop spaces that are conducive for social interaction, engaging with specific social circumstances to make a critical intervention with participatory strategies. Nicolas Bourriaud, cofounder of Palais de Tokyo in Paris, wrote about the “Relational Aesthetics” (1998) as a theory of form considering that the exchanges between people in the gallery or museum space became a raw matter for an artistic work. He defined it as:

“a set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space”. This art concept can be taken as a set of tools for a design measured by the level of exchanges between the visitors. In 1970, Haus-Rucker were already breaking the rule of “Do not touch art”. He claimed participation in art with the Giant Billiard, New York Museum of Contemporary Crafts (1970), where he invited people to play giant balls


together over a giant ludic installation. In addition to that, active participation was claimed by Lygia Clark as essential for a relational object. In the artwork “Rede de elasticos” (Elastic band), 1974, the participants are understood as essential for an art piece. People gather in a circle and connect, knit and interlink elastic bands, negotiating the stretching, compressing, expansion of the networked structure textile built by body gestures. They are able to define a new space; therefore the uncertainty of the installation is either for the author or for them an open multisensorial environment resultant of people’s encounters and different forms of communication. At the time when art were considered better contemplated hung on a wall, Lygia Clark along with other Brazilian artistits like Lygia Pape and Hélio Oiticica included participation as part of the Neoconcretism Art Manifest. In their works, viewers of the work became part of the explanation of it through the participation, awaking their power of action and change. Lygia Pape with the “Divisor” left an important legacy for relational art, showing how art can actively connect people and occupy public spaces.

Fig. 33 >> Rede de Elásticos, Lygia Clark, 1974. (Photo:

Fig. 34 >> Divisor, Lygia Pape, 1968 (Photo:


03. Exhibition as Medium

EXHIBITION AS SOCIAL EVENT Exhibitions became a place that can facilitate encounters, when it is transformed in a space for social networking. Many examples of relational arts and participatory design are based in events. Social interaction in this context is indeed intrinsically related to the events like workshops, parties, dinners, and that is why Vernissages are successful in attracting social activity. Many of the installations mentioned by Bourriaud (1998) as example of the relational aesthetics were related to events: “A metal gondola encloses a gas ring that is lit, keeping a large bowl of water on the boil. Camping gears is scattered around the gondola in no particular order. Stacked against the wall are cardboard boxes, most of them open, containing dehydrated Chinese soups which visitors are free to add the boiling water to and eat. This piece, by Rirkrit Tiravanija, produced for the Aperto 93 at the Venice Biennial, remains around the edge of any definition: is it a sculpture? an installation? a performance? an example of social activism?” Another example of the social relationships framed as performance is the “ACTING THINGS I”11. By attracting them with a type of social event, the artist and designer Judith Seng applied the performance of visitor’s participation as a raw matter for creative collective results. She provided a scenario with woods and tools for people of different


11  Performance in video. accessed February 25th, 2016,

ages in order to collaboratively design and build their meal environment. As documentation outcome, she filmed the gathering moment, while participants did the assemblage of the tables and chairs, followed by the joy of eating.

PARTICIPATORY ART AGENDA The participatory art is a range of socially engaged post-studio art practices that, since the early 1990s, are interested in collaboration and participation, like experimental communities, community-based art, collaborative art, contextual art, social practice. It was theoretically and historically approached by Claire Bishop in the influential work Artificial Hell (2012). The name definition refers to the involvement of many people, in opposition to the one-to-one relationship of “interactivity”. Through the participatory art the exhibition is seen as a place for production, rather than for display or consumption. In another work, Bishop (2016) mentioned the participatory art agendas as recurrently following three agendas. Firstly she mentioned an active subject, “one who will be empowered by the experience of physical or symbolic participation. (…) An aesthetic of participation therefore derives legitimacy from a (desired) causal relationship between the experience of a work of art and individual/collective agency.” (Bishop, 2006) This way, audience is able to shape their own social and political reality through that participation.

Secondly the Bishop’s agenda for the participatory art concern to the authorship. “The gesture of ceding some or all authorial control is conventionally regarded as more egalitarian and democratic than the creation of a work by a single artist, while shared production is also seen to entail the aesthetic benefits of greater risk and unpredictability. Collaborative creativity is therefore understood both to emerge from, and to produce, a more positive and non-hierarchical social model.” The idea of the emergence, at the same time as building a bottomup social model, have been receiving increasingly notoriety by the design through the concepts of co-design. Further following in the third and last participatory art agenda, Bishop’s argument about a perceived crisis in community and collective responsibility. “This concern has become more acute since the fall of Communism, although it takes its lead from a tradition of Marxist thought that indicts the alienating and isolating effects of capitalism. One of the main impetuses behind participatory art has therefore been a

Fig. 35 >> Fig. 36 >> Judith Seng’s performance “ACTING THINGS I” (Photo: Frame of video and Seng J.)

restoration of the social bond through a collective elaboration of meaning.” Thus the medium through which art is presented should also serve to create empathy between the visitors towards collective interests of the community. In this perspective the authorial presence value of an art performer was shifted in the last decade from the live presence and immediacy of the artist’s own body to the collective body of a social group. (Bishop. 2012, p. 219)


03. Exhibition as Medium

PARTICIPATION X SPECTATORSHIP Exhibition as an entertainment can enter the creative industry as a Wumer good, so the social interactions in these spaces can be emptied of meaning inside the cultural industry. More important than innovative technologies development to amuse people is how it can contribute raise debate and critical thinking. In this sense, Bishop (2012, p. 26) asserted about the aesthetic regime of participatory art: “one of the biggest problems in the discussion around socially engaged

Fig. 37 >> Monalisa spectators in the Louvre Museum, the busiest art museum in the world. (Photo: the busiest art museum of the world. Photo:

art is its disavowed relationship to the aesthetic. By this I do not mean that the work does not fit established notions of the attractive or the beautiful, even though this is often the case; many social projects photograph very badly, and these images convey very little of the contextual information so crucial to understanding the work. More significant is the tendency for advocates of socially collaborative art to view the aesthetic as (at best) merely visual and (at worst) an elitist realm of unbridled seduction complicit with spectacle.” An important contribution that the social practices bring to art is the “making


things”. Although “imagining things” were mostly the basis for the artistic works, bring art to a practical level of the society can change it into an instrument for democracy, citizenship and ethics. The blurred line between art and entertainment is strongly rooted on the display culture. This duality between the participatory practices and the spectacle should be challenged.

“This new proximity between spectacle and participation underlines the necessity of sustaining a tension between artistic and social critiques. The most striking projects that constitute the history of participatory art unseat all of the polarities on which this discourse is founded (individual/ collective, author/ spectator, active/ passive, real life/ art) but not with the goal of collapsing them.” (BISHOP, 2012) All in all the intention behind the participation agenda here proposed is that, when someone finds a shared purpose and is part of a community of interests, they feel they are alive. When they somehow learn or share some skills, the act of making things brings meaning to life.


04. Social context

04. Social context



S o c i a l c o n t e x t Refugees &Cologne


04. Social context

WHY THIS TOPIC? An author comment. It is important to clarify the context which this research took place. Even with all the effort to have a neutral perspective over a scientific research, this work would miss a relevant part of its human studies quality by denying the personal experience of the researcher as an observer over the reality here presented. In many levels, the social context and the problematic pointed here is derived from my personal experience. Firstly, my interest in relation to racial justice, social inclusion and post colonialism are issues that did not arise only through books, but by observing it in the daily basis around my home country, Brazil. Secondly, it would be impossible to separate my observations and perspectives from my existence in a multiethnic body, considering I am Brazilian with half Japanese origin. During the course of the theoretical and observational part of the research, I was intrigued by experiencing myself two extremely multicultural cities like Cologne and Shanghai, in addition to where I came from, one of the most multiethnic and multicultural cities since foundation, São Paulo. After my first experiences of an immigrant life in Germany, I discovered that, in the context of this country, I am considered “something Asian”, no matter where I was born. In another words, that they would likely stamp on me the “immigrant label” than my own country. That was definitely not a traumatic experience anyhow, as these were mostly stereotypical classifications but with a neutral connotation. My half-Japanese appearance is not the main target in terms of discrimination, because they are framed as the “minority model” and it is a developed country. It was, though, a challenging question in terms of what forms my cultural identity, because, even though I knew I have an Asian appearance, I was never doubted to be “a Brazilian” before.


WHAT IS POINTED AS THE POSTCOLONIAL CHALLENGE? This triggered the reflection about the interference of the ethnic appearance in the social relations. In fact, the population formation in Germany is historically totally different from the countries located where the European colonizers coined “The New World” in the end of the XV century. In those countries of the American continent, the major population is formed by the immigration that happened since the end of the XIX century. Thus, countries like Brazil has a nationality law jus soli , which means that the nationality criterion is based on where you born to favor the new immigrant population – mostly Europeans. On the contrary to the countries of intense immigration, the Germany the nationality law has been for a long time jus sanguinis* - based on the nationality of the parents. Although they adapted in 2000 for a mix of jus soli and jus sanguinis nationality law, the cultural understanding of nationality still did not change. Many European countries emigrated in the past two centuries, but have jus soli polices disfavoring new residents, not only in regards to the citizen rights, but through the citizen identity in the social life. It is interesting to notice that this historical, legislative and structural aspect of the

country has such an impact in the maps of affective relationships that forms the belonging feeling. In opposition the globalization discourse, citizen perception of home and identity is conditioned by names of countries in passports and colors of skins. In contrast to this experience, this work is also result of the unusual perspective of living in an Asian country like China, as a completely western person, but presented in the neutrality of an Asian body in an Asian society. That is intriguing because the privilege did not necessary works in the other way round. In China, as a foreigner, it could be perceived that western “expats” had usually advantage by being considered better. White people are believed to bring lucky, be better professionals and be more beautiful. Many times, it is possible to see white people being asked to be taken picture with, but rather than the “odd” or “human zoo” idea that this society of spectacle symptom might sound like, the treatment is more like celebrities. All in all, the global reality to the “non-white body” reinforces the postcolonial challenge. The need to reframe the idea of the “immigrant”, the “foreigner”, or “the stranger” is not a quality of Germany, China or Brazil. There is a long way to re-signify the non-white body seen as threatens, and design should be part of it.


04. Social context

GLOBALIZATION AND THE POSTCOLONIAL CONTEXT As an electrical nervous system, the “Global Village” of McLuhan (McLuhan and Powers, 1989)12 was already predicting back that time we would all be interconnected. In this globalized world, the social relations developed an intense despatialization. As a consequence, events in one side of the planet could be interconnected to another on the other side At same time that the theorizers of media studies have, for many times, positively described the process of development of complex systems and networks triggered by the internet, many people in other parts of the globe were still struggling to have electric energy at home.

“Indeed, one of the major divides in studies of globalization today is whether increased international trade is imposing cultural homogenization or, in fact, working to enrich and preserve culture through expanded access to the Internet and increased cross-cultural contact” (Karen Fiss, 2009)13 Thus, at the same time that the discourse about globalization is committed to unite the nations, and improve the dialog, on the practical level, that still needs uncountable improvements in order to actually achieve it.

There is no doubt that the web and new technologies were a one way journey to net forms of connecting, but they were designed to rely on and be controlled by a certain infrastructure that keep favoring developed countries – America and the West, and homogenizing the culture in the world.


12  See McLuhan, M., & Powers, B. R. (1989). The global village: Transformations in world life and media in the 21st century, New York: Oxford University Press.

13  Karen Fiss, Design in a Global Context: Envisioning Postcolonial and Transnational Possibilities, MIT Press Journals, Design Issues: Volume 25, Number 3, Summer 2009, Retrieved in December 15, 2016, pdf/10.1162/desi.2009.25.3.3

“Globalization can be seen as the accelerated spread of a free-market–based, capitalist style of production over an increasing swath of nations on this planet, especially over the past three decades. The entry of previously closed or inward-looking economies like China and India (together constituting almost 40 percent of the world’s total population of 6 billion), as well as that of the communist bloc of countries in Eastern Europe, into the world market means that capitalism and the ideology of free markets reign over a greater part of the world than ever before. (...) This expansion in trade and mobility of capital is further underlain by phenomenal increases in the speed of communications and transportation that have literally shrunk the world. (...) The impact of such time–space compression exceeds just the economic realm: there are profound changes in the way people in different parts of the world view themselves, their futures, and the ways in which they are, in turn, impacted by developments in distant places as a result of such a compression.” (Krishna, 2009, p. 2-3)14 This author explains that this study disagree to the idea of a neoliberal globalization that the free-market is beneficial for all, because it considers that the capitalism is historically unequal, producing asymmetrical prosperity only for a few particular nations across the globe. All in all, it considers that this claim is made under political interests, and contests the logic that the markets should dictate policies and economy. Especially if considering the many forms of maintenance of the previous colonial power, the extensive

use of military coercion over weaker nations highlight the illusion about the free-market. “Postcolonialism can be provisionally defined as the perspective or worldview of those who believe that it is possible to understand today’s world only by foregrounding the history of colonialism—defined in a very preliminary way as the domination of certain societies and peoples by others— over the past five centuries. It commences by noting that capitalist development and colonial conquest

14  Sankaran Krishna (2009),“Globalization and Postcolonialism: Hegemony and Resistance in the Twenty-first Century”, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.


04. Social context

or domination were coeval historical processes that were and are intimately related.” (Krishna, 2009, p. 3) 14 Especially when the argumentation relies on the resonance of the military coercion, the refugee’s crises can be pointed as a good example of this problematic. When thinking about why they are being forced, both topics strongly attached. “Just as Western countries (their media and many politicians) fail to connect the geopolitics of war and displacement to their own foreign policies, so they fail to see that the gap in living standards between Europe and other countries is not a natural gap.” (Gurminder, 2015)15 In this point, Germany is positioned as a country that benefited from Colonialism. In fact, it was not a European country that had the most intensive exploration activity as Colonizers, like Britain, France, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain. However, even though it was the first country to be Postcolonial, it cannot escape of the cultural context and historical moment. For this reason, the rich European countries cannot ignore that their wealthy position today is not an occasional fact, but it is resulted from a strong and unfair exploitation history of many colognes. This colonial history cannot be


15  Bhambra K. Gurminder, “The Refugee Crisis and Our Connected Histories of Colonialism and Empire.”, 2015, Accessed April 20th, 2017

semantically and factually disconnected to the fact of the intense social inequality and desperate need for migration, asylum seeking and refuge from citizens of colonized countries to Europe. For example, probably one of the most harmful imperialist impositions that happened from those European/white nations to the African and American continents was: The Alphabet and the Territorial Divisions. The imposition of the written language automatically imposed that all the existing oral history transferred between the generations had less value, and everybody should learn the Latin script as the best way of knowledge production. “Closely bound up with Western ‘culture’, this ideology stresses speech, and overemphasizes the written word, to the detriment of a social practice which it is indeed designed to conceal. The fetishism of the spoken word, or ideology of speech, is reinforced by the fetishism and ideology of writing.” (Lefebvre, 1974) That is to say that the social practices are less rated then the written practices, so when group of people has less knowledge about the local language, they are also underrated, and that is what happens to an immigrant.

WHY MIGRATION SHOULD NOT BE AVOIDED? Migration plays also an important role in the balance of population in the world. “International migration contributes significantly to population growth in many parts of the world, and reverses negative growth in some countries or areas. (…) In Europe, the size of the population would have declined during the period 2000-2015 in the absence of positive net migration, whereas in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean, negative net migration contributed marginally to slowing the pace of population growth.” (ONU , 2015) As a matter of fact, an immigrant is twice likely to stablish a new business, because they are people willing to restart, but are less likely to be accepted in a foreigner stablished marked than a local person. Additionally, although the trend of oldage dependency ratio is irreversible, the

international migration offers significant contribution to decrease that number. “Migration can contribute to reducing slowing the long-term trend towards population ageing. (…) In many parts of the world, the old-age dependency ratio would be even higher in the absence of net migration. Assuming zero migration, the old-age dependency ratio of Europe in 2050 would rise to 51 persons age 65 or over per 100 persons of working age, compared to 48 per 100 assuming a continuation of current migration patterns” (ONU , 2015)16

16  ONU. International Migration Report 2015, 2016.


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Germany was the second country to host most of the international migrants in 2015, as pointed in the following Fgure.

Simply because migration has always been part of the human’s history, and globalization has increased the possibilities of the flux. According to the International Migration Report from ONU, 2015, 3.15 % of the world’s population is living outside of the country they born. In that context,

That also reflects how the German population is composed. The same reported shows that from the 81,644,454 citizens, 13.18% (10,758,061 in total) are immigrants, mostly from Turkey, Italy, Poland, Greece, Croatia, Russian Red., Austria, Bosnia And Herzegovina, Netherlands and Ukraine, respectively.

Fig. 38 >> Comparison of twenty countries hosting the largest numbers of international migrants in 2000 and 2015. (Source: International Migration Report / ONU , 2015, p. 7)


It has to be pointed that there different reasons for migration, and the need from an immigrant escaping economic crisis is totally different from one immigrant escaping a war and violence, for example. In this case, according to the article 14 of The Universal Declaration of Human “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” Under that rule, the migration of the Syrians escaping the war could never have been stopped without disrespecting human rights For sure, people did not choose to leave their homes and affective relations, but the violence forced 945,099 of the 22,198,110 Syria’s population emigrant to Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, USA, Germany, Palestine, Libya, Canada, Sweden and France, respectively. (ONU, 2016)

IS THERE DISCRIMINATION IN GERMANY? That is probably a possible question from a White local person in Germany. Privilege can be invisible to those who own it. There are enough factual evidences which can tell the shades of privilege to people that is other than white, man, heterosexual. Even to those who acknowledge it, it is hard for a person which is part of a privilege group to grasp the difference of experience that unprivileged minorities has to go through.


04. Social context

In the New York Times 17, Isaiah Lopez told some of his experiences as a black American living in Berlin. He told that, when he was DJ in a club, “One night a man was angry that Mr. Lopaz didn’t have music by the singer Grace Jones and told him, “You should have it because you’re black.” The argument escalated, and Mr. Lopaz complained to his supervisor. But the supervisor was not sympathetic — instead, he told him that racism against blacks didn’t really exist.”

Fig. 39 >> Fig. 40 >> Fig. 41 >> Fig. 42 >> Fig. 43 >> Isaiah Lopaz, addressed his experience suffering racism through design, by critically writting the comments he received on T-shirts. (Source: NY Times17)

The same supervisor also said later, “Black people are always talking about racism. Jews are always talking about anti-Semitism. There are lots of other people who are having problems, too.” And additionally, said: “The N-word isn’t the only bad word. The N-word is the same as a Nazi.” But he found a way to communicate his criticism through fashion. In this example, the used his own body to display a criticism, against a criticism people have against his body. Later in the “Where is home?” exhibition, this was a narrative reference about how to create empathy against stereotypes for the “In/Outside of the box” installation. In Germany, there is still a lot to be improved. For instance, people with migration background pay generally more for rent a similar quality of room a typical German, as they are biased with their names independently from language knowledge, income or education 17  Image and article source: New York Times, Hanna Ingber, “Confronting Racism in Berlin, One Offensive T-Shirt at a Time”, from November 6th, 2016 Accessed November 20th, 2016. https://www. berlin-racism-isaiah-lopaz.html?_r=1


Fur sure, discrimination and racism has changed a lot the last 30 years. Different from the past, nowadays it is considered morally and legally wrong to do so. Nonetheless, it is still present, entangled in the social relations, reinforced by the unequal economic distribution between different nations and ethnical groups.

huge topic on itself, but what is need to be mentioned here is that, in order to deal with wicked problems like this, it is important to attempt to the identify the new circumstances of the contemporary world and adopt the solutions. It could be inspired by the past, but the old problems that were never solved demand disruptive solutions.

Thus, it is hard to talk about German society, without situating it in the world political scenario. The year of 2017 is known by a huge global trend towards racialized nationalism and new populism. Political events like Brexit in the UK and Donald Trump election in the US arouse debates about how is the world going to deal with the normalization of xenophobia.


Racism and nationalism, in times of globalization should sound like an out of date idea. Nevertheless, when facing trouble, the human history tends to answer with the same behavior pattern. Even when it was, actually, never beneficial to all parts, there is a nostalgia that attempts to recover the past that was left behind. In principle, this historic review could be logic way of thinking. However, it is necessary to understand really well the cause of the problems, before remedying the symptoms in the same way. In fact, the cause is rooted in an ailing democratic system and capitalism crises. It is impossible to talk about the cause, without mentioning the financial exploitation by the wealthy. This is a

OPPRESSION After mentioning the global cause, let´s talk about consequences. First of all, there is a western illusion of cultural homogeneity represented by what is considered neutral or the standard. A person with a different ethnicity other than “white” necessarily carries in its body the non-neutrality, which is translated as being the “other”, the “immigrant” or the one that is not part of this locality. It should be pointed that all the mainstream scientific knowledge and culture that was imposed to the global world is based on certain values that the white and Christian European colonizer established as the truth. For example, in many contexts, it is even hard to racialize the “white” color, because this is considered the standard, or the normal being. In general, referring to race is to refer to the “other”, which means an Asian or Black, or in another level of otherness like the religions, about Muslim Arabic.


04. Social context


needed when there is a need for a product from an external group.

Another example of the imposed ideology and oppression can be described in the display of the South African Sarah Baartman’s body, known as “Hottentot Venus”, during life and the after deceased body. By carrying a non-European classic body, she was displayed in freak shows as a grotesque, non-official ‘low culture’ or carnivalesque object on the XIX century. That is a typical oppressive behavior is the “other” by the exoticism of the alien, part of a colonial history.

For this reason, Wolff explains that for Simmer “The stranger is by nature no ‘owner of soil’ -- soil not only in the physical, but also in the vurative sense of a life-substance which is fixed, if not in a point in space, at least in an ideal point of the social environment.”. He explains that the position of the stranger is formally in the mobility, which determines the nearness with the distance of a non-organic connection established by the occupation.

Additionally, that is also a symbolism about the way the colonial science and history has been portrayed the “other” in Museums. The body of Baartman was dissected and displayed in a Museum, and the negotiation to send it back to Africa happened only in this century: In the Colonial times, her different black female anatomy were portrayed through a scientific racism as a medical disorder, and she was considered a “savage woman”, in opposition to a “civilized female” from Europe. This has a strong symbolism about how Museums helps to establish social constructions of racist visual imagery.

This supports the fact that people believe that their identity, as nonstrangers, should be connected to a specific territorial boarder. But how could this logic will be sustained in the context of the global migration?


“In Germany, the refugee population has increased significantly over the past few years, reaching 478,600 people by mid2016. This compared with 316,100 at the beginning of the year – an increase of over 50 per cent in just six months and more than double the number at the end of 2014 (217,000). The majority of refugees in Germany are Syrian (246,300), highlighting the impact of



Wolff wrote in “The Sociology of George Simmer” about how Simmer framed “the stranger” in Sociology. He explains the phenomenon of the “stranger” as a common point through the history. It appeared initially as the trader, that is, a person that is only

REFUGEES CRISES In the year of 2015, more than a million refugees crossed the boarders looking for safety in Europe, creating a crises among the countries that could not cope with influx. That arouse intensive debate about the best way to deal with resettling people, creating opinion divisions in the EU.

that crisis beyond the immediate region. Another 62,100 are from Iraq.³

SYRIAN CONFLICT The crises results mainly from the civil war situation in Syria, which killed more than 300,000 people. Before the conflict begun six years ago, the first movements started peacefully against the President Bashar al-Asssad complaining about lack of political freedom, repression from the state, corruption and high unemployment rates. Inspired by the Arab spring , the first demonstration’s use of deadly force in Deraa, in the south, fostered protests for the president’s resignation. 18 It should be pointed that there are many outside powers involved in this war, which have also economic reasons to battle against or support Mr. Assad, reason why the war can be long sustained. Not only the secular regional sectarianism of the Sunni majority against the Shia Alawite sect of the president, and Jihadists linked to the Al-Qaeda, but world powers like Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States have done strong interventions (BBC, 2017).

18  BBC, “Why is there war in Syria?”, April 7th, 2017, accessed April 11th, 2017. world-middle-east-35806229

The population suffers a lot, so 6.3 million people are internally displaced inside of Syria. Almost 85 per cent of the Syrians live in poverty, 7 million are food insecure and 1.75 children are out of the school. For this reason, about 10 percent searched safety in Europe. (BBC, 2017) It was pointed by UN Refugee Agency19 that “Syria remained the largest population asking for refugee (…) compared with mid-2013, when some 17 per cent of all refugees were Syrian, by mid-2016 this proportion had nearly doubled to 32 per cent of all refugees. By that point, some 5.3 million Syrians had fled their country.” In the context of Europe, Germany took the most receptive political approach in regards to the refugees. “Continuing a trend from 2015, Germany received the highest number of new asylum applications worldwide during the reporting period with 387,700 asylum applications. This compares to 441,900 asylum applications registered by the German authorities for all of 2015 and 173,100 for 2014. If current trends continue, Germany is very likely this year to significantly surpass its alltime high although the number of applications is expected to significantly decrease in the second half of 2016 given the decrease in the number of new arrivals. “20

19  UNHCR, “Mid-year Trends 2016”, 2017, p. 9-10 20  UNHCR, “Mid-year Trends 2016”, 2017, p. 15


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THE EXPERIENCE OF A SYRIAN REFUGEE During the participatory research, the experience of the refugee relocation was mapped into:

Beautiful country (home)





UNKNOWN (maybe stay)


This work deal with the Refugees in the city of Cologne as local community, contextualized in the year of 2017. For this reason, in this global and local context, the focus was the Cologne Refugees residents that were welcomed between the last 1 to 2 years. In opposition to that, the most representative amount of academic, social and artistic works in the field of Refugee and Migration studies has immediately responded to urgent survival issues like removal from dangerous areas, food, shelter and human security. In fact, it is not surprising that much of the work within the academic field of Refugee and Migration Studies has been preoccupied with notions of immediate survival among refugees. That reflects the problem about how the public policies are mismatching the Refugees realities The politician David Miliband reported for the Fortune + Global Forum in Rome, 2016, that there are three main wrong assumptions about the Refugees: that they live in camps, that they need only support for a short-term until they get home and that the players in Wars are following Geneva conventions about how war should be conducted. The reality is that 59% or the Refugees live in the urban area and only 1% of the Refugees returned home in 2015, according to Miliband. Those facts support the relevance of reframing the discussions about their needs in a long-term. Thus, integration and social acceptance in the context of urban area should receive attention.

At this point, after the war, the hard journey to Germany, the instability about the future, it is left no other option than leave it in the past and re-start. There are many stereotypical ideas that do not contribute in terms of empathy with these life stories, for instance, the idea that now the refugees are having a life analog to a “holiday” time in a rich country with the social assistance of the government. In fact, it is not a simple task to be forced to leave your family without being sure when or if you will be able to see them again. It is not easy to leave in the uncertainty about the future survival of everything that used to be your culture, home and identity. As much as, it is not easy to recover from the emotional losses and traumas of the war. Nevertheless, this restart in another country also reflects people that have a lot of wish to succeed. Start over in this context means that they were not prepared for this “experience abroad”. In the practical sense, it means that they did not know to communicate in the local language. Even though they have a huge preview experience and willingness to work, very often they can’t find a job before they improve the language skills. Furthermore, part of the learnings about the new culture and adaptation is related to the social relationships and friendship circles, which are consistently affected by the language barrier. Although the German government provides them a good financial support, living and language classes, this is delicate process that does not happen overnight. There is a need of early intervention programs during this


04. Social context

Fig. 44 >> Named “The Road of [to] Germany” 1, this map was shared among Syrian refugees through a Message Application for Mobile. The total of the journey would cost 2,400 dolars. (Source: Gillespie, Ampofo, Cheesman, Faith, Iliadou, Osseiran, Skleparis, 2016) 2

1  These are the translations into Arabic of the country and city names on the route: Izmir to Greek Island to Athens to Thessaloniki to Evzonoi [Evzoni] to Macedonia to Gevgelija to Skopje to Lojane to Serbia to Belgrade to Kanjiža to Hungary to Budapest to Germany. 2  Marie Gillespie, Lawrence Ampofo, Margaret Cheesman, Becky Faith, Evgenia Iliadou, Ali Issa, Souad Osseiran, Dimitris Skleparis, “Mapping Refugee Media Journeys Smartphones and Social Media Networks”, Research Report, The Open University / France Médias Monde, May 13, 2016. Accessed March 24, 2017 http:// sites/ ccig/files/Mapping%20 Refugee%20Media%20 Journeys%2016%20 May%20FIN%20MG_0. pdf 76

period that they are not allows them to work, or even make money in any sense. For this reason, this is an opportunity to focus on building up a social capital in the early months. Relational goods are, in this case, an important issue to focus. It is relevant to mention that most of the migrants to foreigners countries, and specifically in the context of Syrian wars, they are people with a, at least, medium class financial background. In order to migrate to countries in Europe like Germany, they need to afford a high amount of money to the do this complicated transfer.


50,000 refugees found work in


Germany between September 2015 and September 2016, and some 30,000

Those newcomers, indeed, need shelter, but they are coming with incredible resources that should not be lost. Refugees are people with diverse skills, and before refugees, they were students, doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs, etc, that wish to succeed. Instead of seeing it as only problems, the forced migration has to be reframed. Every 1 euro invested today in a refugee will duplicate every 5 years, thus they are also part of the solution. 21

earn enough to make them subject to social insurance contributions. Most of the jobs are in logistics, warehousing, and agriculture.” 22

In the end of 2016, DW reported an optimistic view about the issue of high influx of refugees of 2015 as “Refugees found to have better job qualifications than expected”. In the article, they mentioned that “According to the study, to be released on Tuesday by the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) - a part of the government’s Federal Employment Agency (BA) - around

21  Ouisharefast, Panel speakers: Ahmad Sufian Bayram (Arabshare), Stéphane de Freitas (Indigo), Anne Riechert (ReDI School of Digital Innovation),Ben Webster (Jamiya). Moderator: Ezio Manzini (DESIS Network) “Connecting Diversities: Migrants, Social Innovation and Collaborative Inclusion”. Accessed July 1, 2017, watch?v=e6rOI6VnpWo

Chancellor Angela Merkel once said that Germany should be “an open country that is very welcoming to skilled workers”. Putting that into facts, the majority of the refugees welcomed were under 35 years old, which happens to contrast with the German aging workforce. This neoliberal agenda will not be further discussed here, but the idea to be defended is that Germany should be “an open country that welcomes different people” no matter if they lack professional training. We are in the turning point that it is needed to change the culture of labeling people as refugees, and realizing that they are talented people that are not only potential workers, but friends, leaders or any other actor of the urban social space. 22  News article source: Deutsche Welle, “Refugees in Germany ‘better educated than expected’”, 2016. Accessed February, 20th, 2017. refugees-in-germany-better-educated-than-expected/a-36388835


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RECREATING THE NARRATIVE The existing narrative created to portray this specific wave of forced migrants to a country is a factor extremely determinant to how they will be international agreements, the policies, human rights and the general insertion and digestion of this cultural diversity. Not only the mass media plays an important whole in this story telling, but the exhibits can embrace its responsibility as a culture creator.

EXHISTING NARRATIVES AGAINST REFUGEES When talking about the narrative against refugees, there is a massive “picture” of them as a dangerous threatens that is coming to invade and disturb all the established organization of the Western cities. Especially in the case of the Syrian refugees, there was a strong made up populist media story that connected all the majority newcomers, to the dangerous European threaten, the ISIS terrorists. Another example are the strong story from the conservatives against Arab immigrants, connecting all of them to sexual assaults, as a typical face of the “Savage other” of the Orientalism23 from


23  Edward W. Said (1978). Orientalism. New York: Pantheon Books.

Edward Said, relating Arabic people as savages and wild cultures. In Cologne, there was the episode of several sexual assaults in the New Years 2015/2016 festivity that was a largely used to reinforce this discourse in the international media. That happened after city authorities officially checked the ID of people with “conspicuous behavior” and identified that most of them were recently-arrived asylum seekers, although it was not proved whether they were involved or not. 24 Putting it differently, there is a fictional conservative narrative about Europe as a homogenous community of white and Christian people. That is enough to create a populist discourse against diversity. If you look to the reality, the postcolonial Europe is already totally diverse independent of the newcomers and migration is an old well-known issue. For this reason, there is no reason for treating the refugees with differentiation within the existing complex problematic of the diversity.

NARRATIVES PRO-REFUGEES As mentioned begore, most of the “stories” pro-refugees focus in their struggle to scape war. It is undeniable that they need urgent support, but that is not all. When researching the main installations about Syrian refugees, they focused mostly to the part of process

24  News article source: Deutsche Welle, “Asylum seekers among Cologne attacks suspects”, 2016 Accessed Feb, 20th, 2017.

of the acceptance of refugees in Europe. For instance, the installation25 from WeiWei exemplified how art can help could call attention to the refugee crises, which was an important demand. Nevertheless, this representational imagery that is over reproduced turns out to be enter the cycle of urgent demands of the cultural industry. Hence, in a long term, it fails to provide the understanding about them as diverse and complex people, so more than worthy of pity. Daily bombardment of media about dramatic incidents and deaths turns out to summarizing the meaning of those lives in a simplistic way. As the audience gets used to the tragedies and hopeless of changes, the chasm to the activism becomes larger. In opposition to that, some humanized real stories have shown extremely valid to create empathy and move people to actions. There is the story told by the photography of the Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi26, which was found drowned near

25  For more information, see BBC Video“An exclusive tour of Ai Weiwei New Work”, March 17th, 2017, accessed July 3rd, 2017, article/artists-syrian-refugee-crisis and Dominique Bonessi, &“5 times Ai Weiwei’s art has called attention to the refugee crisis”, PBS Newshour, February 19th, 2016, accessed July 3rd, 2017, http://www.pbs. org/newshour/art/5-times-ai-weiweisart-has-called-attention-to-the-refugeecrisis/ 26  For more information see The Guardian, “Shocking image of drowned Syrian boy shows tragic plight of refugees.” Accessed January 15th 2017,


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a Turkey resort, after attempting to scape war with his family. In times which the debate about whether Europe should accept the strong flow of people or not were pending to the, it became a symbol of “the other side of the refugee crises” peak in 2015 and created attention the humanitarian claims. This humanized narrative helps to address an important contribution that design can give to the refugees’ crisis, which is about supporting to create these disruptive narratives, with the proper humanization of that people’s stories and situation. During a talk about “Sharing, Collaborative and Relational Goods”27, the design Prof. Dr. Ezio Manzini mentioned the importance of creating a “disruptive normality”, which are stories that breaks the existing representation of the normative society to be achieved. Those normalities go against the mainstream idea of economy and society, which is envisioned by the 21th century ideal of neoliberal cities. For Manzini, we need to give voices to the existing capability of designing bottom-up and spontaneous communities, and also attempt to improvement of our skills to collaborate. Those narratives should establish different levels of connection to people’s emotions. In this perspective, an interesting narrative approach can


27  Ouisharefest, Ezio Manzini, “Sharing, Collaborative and Relational Goods”, accessed May 04th, 2017, https://www.

relate the history of the refugees with the struggles and histories of many other types of immigrants. This way, there is an empathy feeling when promoting the integration with other people that has migrant background in its history or in the family. Actually, if we take this argument further in history, who do not have migrant background? If any population would recover the history of the families, almost everybody would. All in all, although it is also established a strong welcome culture narrative for the refugees in Europe, the inclusion of them as part of the common good discussions is not reality. Nonetheless, as the period of arrival from many of the Syrian refugees in Germany for asylum seeking is expiring and, hopefully, the residence permits given, it is possible to envision a hope that the imaginary that surrounds this negative narrative could change through the interpersonal level of the relations. In another words, the first person dialog shifts the perspective of the conversation, as they start to be part of the social and economic spaces of the society. That will happen when the society stops talking about refugees, as part of the problem, but instead, talk with the refugees, as part of the solution.

WHAT SHOULD BE DISCUSSED NOW? After one year of the refugee crises’ peak, a critical view about the actual circumstances that this was lead to. There is a different moment of their trajectory that also deserves attention. While many artists, humanitarian organizations and media called attention to this most urgent part of the process, a strong populist rhetoric was built as a standard picture of this problematic. This political positioning of the media imagery sustained a specific narrative, either of victimism or “constant danger”,that should be challenged and worked further. As many works were about showing how hard it was to escape war, they essentially portrayed the drama of the refugee journey or revealed individual personal stories. Indeed, single stories and narratives are undoubtedly effective and affective ways to raise empathy and promote humanitarian actions towards

positive political changes, but they do not need always sustained under dramatic lives seeking assistance. Moreover, the refugee crises were the topic of many huge exhibits in different ways. During the Copenhagen Ultracontemporary Biennale 2017, some questions like “Should Museum welcome refugees?” or “Should we welcome refugees?” were brought into discussed in the exhibition context between people from different social contexts. 28 But it is important to point that this topic acquires a careful approach in order to not reproduce the hierarchical structures existing in all modes of work, so not taking the art world for granted. The idea is that the discussion would be profitable for the refugees and the community, and their participation is not resulted from imposed external interests.

28  For more information, see “Swapping Camp - An ULTRACONTEMPORARY art format: Now, activating the question on coming refugees @Museum Hereford Marta”. Accessed


04. Social context

“(…) a shift from an audience that demands a role (expressed as hostility towards avant-garde artists who keep control of the proscenium), to an audience that enjoys its subordination to strange experiences devised for them by an artist, to an audience that is encouraged to be a coproducer of the work (and who, occasionally, can even get paid for this involvement). This could be seen as a heroic narrative of the increased activation and agency of the audience, but we might also see it as a story of our ever increasing voluntary subordination to the artists’ will, and of the commodification of human bodies in a service economy (since voluntary participation is also unpaid labour).” (BISHOP, 2012) In an article about the exhibition Viva Arte Vida made by the Centre Pompidou’s curator Christine Macel to the Venice Biennale, Ruiz29 wrote an important criticism about the careful way that an artistic should frame refugees into artworks. The former editor questioned about how much the collaboration can be imposed by the artist more like a top-down relationship, considering the clear difference in the power of choices between a famous artist economic demand and a refugee out of his context.

29  Cristina Ruiz, “The road to the Venice Biennale is paved with good intentions: Curator Christine Macel’s worthy aims of saving the planet and helping refugees has seriously backfired”, The Art Newspaper, 16 May, 2017, accessed 19 May, 2017, comment/reviews/the-road-to-the-venice-biennale-is-paved-with-good-intentions/ 82

“Everything about putting refugees on display as exhibits in an art show feels wrong to me. Yes, they are consenting participants. But how many options do they really have? Are they in a position to turn Eliasson’s offer down? Why not organize a project with them off site instead of parading them in front of the public? Let people interested in the project seek it out. Let the others gawp at something else. This is not art in service of migrants but migrants in service of an artistic and curatorial vision.”

WHERE IS HOME? This work intends to focus in the adaptation to the new country, and more specifically, in Cologne. Thus, it touches also the adaptation and resignification of the meaning of “home� from all immigrants. The sense of home is intensive related to the community created, that is, the sense of belonging. Many interviewed people related that their senses of home were related to where their families and best friends were, in addition to the language. With the globalization, the home has less attachment with the political territory of the country but more with the social and cultural binds. Cultural identity is formed by religion, rites of passage, language, dietary habits, leisure activities, etc, and that is part of nonterritorial senses of belonging.


05. “Where is home?” Project





P r o j e c t



W h e r e i


h o m e ? P r o j e c t


05. “Where is home?” Project

MULTIDISCIPLINARY FRAMEWORK As this research aimed for a practical experiment in the field of exhibition design, it is important to point that the multidisciplinary quality of this field demands a differentiation in the layers of understanding the goals, in order to manage its complexity.

g o a l s &

r o l e s

“Where is home?” Project

Coordination World Refugee Day Supporters & Volunteers Buying & Renting

Participatory research Feeling of belonging Representivity Postnational home.

EVENT Organizer Project Manager CONTENT Curator Facilitator

EXHIBITION Designer Artist

Creation and execution “Non-White Cube” Relational art Installations


multi ry disciplina

DESIGN GOAL Firstly, I can point the exhibition design as the broadest goal. It can be described as the general view of this project of design that tackles the problematic of the White Cube paradigm. It changes the focal point to the social catalyst aspect, using the exhibitions as a media and part of the cultural production, to reach the goal of increasing the diversity of voices represented in these spaces.

lacking? In the research journey on the local demands in Cologne, it was found out a gap in regards to the migration topic; specifically the cultural changes demanded after one year of the new arrival of the Syrian refugees. In order to innovate the process of content creation, it was identified the need to include the protagonists of the content in the exploration of the topic. Thus, different co-creation methods were tested: toolkit and different formats of participatory activities.

CONTENT GOAL In a second level, there is the layer that concern to the exhibitions as a communication media: the content. In order to communicate the design goals mentioned previously, a message that addresses a local and relevant need was investigated. The idea of experimenting in the context of Cologne was decisive to the content choices. In order to increase the diversity of voices represented in those spaces, it was necessary to identify: Who are those people that are the misrepresented portion of the society in the exhibitions? What narratives are

EVENT GOAL As a third level, the success of the event had to be considered in relation to the local opportunities. It was necessary to find a format that combine that best opportunities of experimentation and research assessment. It should involve the local community of refugees, in combination with the design goal, content goal, and organizational issues. For this reason, the collaboration with TH KĂśln supported from KISD was established in order to organize an event to the “World Refugee Dayâ€? for the whole university,


05. “Where is home?” Project



The value of a research process is not only recognized by the successful experiments, but also by the sequence of failures that leaded to that. For the design of the final experiment, the research journey passed through different phases while trying to investigate best event format to perform and provoke the desired outcome. It is important to provide context to the choices made for the final installations, in order to state that they were not randomly made but was result of an intense research. For this reason, you will find in this session other experiments done before the exhibition that were forms to test specific strategies about social catalysts installations or activities. While researching about the perfect location for “Non-White Cube” Installations, and the first approach was to be in the Public Space. Public art offers good counter points because it is free of ownership, it has interesting aspects of being temporary, can be part of an activism and transform the art into a real citizen domain. For this approach, it was found one Gallery in Cologne called LABOR that has an interesting interface with the

Fig. 45 >>

Fig. 46 >> . Primary investigations of

location for the exhibition: interface for the Gallery (LABOR) through the public space (Ebertplatz) 88

EXPERIMENT 01: THE DARKSIDE OF COLOGNE In order to investigate social catalysts through forms of triggering feedback and participation from visitors through installations, a practical experiment were

Public Space, because it is located right in the Ebertplatz Train Station, a space known for being intensively used by African immigrants because of some African bars. Through observations, sketches and semi-structured interview with some of the passer-by during the day, I could conclude that there is an interesting opportunity there for connecting this Gallery with the Public Space, creating a more intensive cultural scene there. However, for this specific project it was detected an in impracticability related to the amount of time that would be needed in order to build a community that would create a intercultural scenario there in a way that could be measure in this master research.

made in the context of the KISD exhibition “The Darkside of Design” in the Cologne Museum’s Night (Museumsnacht).

Fig. 47 >> Participatory installation asking the visitors “What is the dark side of Cologne?”

The installation was questioning “What is the dark side of Cologne?”, and offered stickers for people to write what they think. This was relevant to find out that the balance between the social spaces and the introspective ones makes difference in the deepness of the reflection about the topic, and also in the amount of participation. Moreover, this exhibition was important to have a deeper acknowledgement about the specific qualities of the exhibitive spaces from KISD, which was crucial for creating the final exhibition of “Where is home?” Project.


05. “Where is home?” Project

POP MUSEUM Initially, when the first Workshop and Toolkit were created, the format of the exhibition was intended to be a Pop up Museum. After researching forms of creating more bottom-up exhibitions, which the visitor is part of the exhibition content, the proposal was to create a exhibitions with objects brought by the visitors themselves. In the Pop-up-Museum, people are encouraged to create their own event with their community. It was created an interesting toolkit for all citizens creating its own “Pop-up-Museum”30. The interesting part of this approach is the shift from the economic value of the objects inherent in the “White Cube” to the emotional value of that an objects can represent to people.

30  For more information, see Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History: Pop up Museum, accessed December 08th, 2016 http://

Fig. 48 >> Fig. 49 >> Fig. 50 >> Intercultural Santa, Documentation 90

by video: Participants were asked to explained the meaning of the object to home.





In this experiment, a method to create a Pop up Museum was tested. An event was organized for the other Master students as a Christmas gathering, with the idea of being a version of “Secret Santa”, but instead of sharing gifts, they share their feelings about an object, so participants were asked to bring an special object that best represents their home and feeling of belonging.

Similar proposal were given in the “Über den Tellerrand” dinner. They were asked to bring something that reminds of your home or represents it through the event invitation in a social network.

This activity failed because, even after different channels of communication like the event invitation in a social network, not many participants brought an object. In feedback interview, they reported to not understand the value of bringing it or they were intimidated to talk about it in front of the others.

Again the same problem happened. Even though the announcement was made in the regular event communication system, and it was written that this activity would happen so they could bring an object as an icebreaker activity, not many people remember to bring it. Many people improvised with objects they had at that moment. All in all, the two experiments showed that the Pop up Museum format had this complicated variable about depending too much on the participants to bring it, so another alternative for the event format had to be find.

Fig. 51 >> Bring an object activity in “Über den Tellerrand” Community


05. “Where is home?” Project

Fig. 52 >> Toolkit part of the particiipatory research

p a r t i c i p a t o r y r e s e a r c h GOALS COMMUNITY BUILDING An important part of the process was to engage in social groups. I took part in many social meetings of refugees in Cologne, not only to understand who the target group in focus, but to build a network within this social group. This intended to create an event not only about them, but also to them and with them. Moreover, the access to the group data would not be possible if the researcher would be a sudden outsider imposing information’s requests. As further the trust was being gained, the data quality was being improved. These interactions with the target group happened in many levels. The designer was not only in the creative role of thinking about the visitor’s experience design. In order to connect Refugees with the local community, the designer was also a facilitator, engaging them as participants of the design process, and a social activist, as a way to be able to study the social relationships and improve them.


In order to do that, groups in Cologne related to refugees were mapped, the most relevant for the study visited, and one of them were selected to work further together. All in all, the levels of involvement were:


• • • •

AlleWeltsHaus – Café ohne Grenzen [Café without Boarders]: Refugee welcome AlterFeuerWache – Sprachen-Café [Language Café] BurgerZentrum Ehrendfeld – Movie nights and talks Ceno e.V – Sprachen-Café [Language Café] Engagiert euch! – Fair for Volunteering work

EXHIBITION In order to research the content for the exhibition that talk about some refugee`s issues, it was necessary to get to know them closer and get to know about their perspective from the topic. Thus, apart from the personal talks from the social networking with them during participation in the groups, the main source of the participatory research was the development of Workshops and Toolkit.

RESEARCHER: Über den Tellerrand Community


“Where is home?” Workshops in Über den Tellerrand dinners and in Aktionsraum Deutz (Agora Köln)

Exercise in the Sprachlernzentrum (SLZ), TH Köln, to Refugee that are leaning German.


05. “Where is home?” Project







PLANNING GOALS: Workshop scope, which the results should be to get involved with the community, gain trust and get to know their feeling of belonging, identity and stories. CONSTRAINTS: Place, participants from the target group, benefit for them, benefit for the hosting project, material necessary. FORMAT: Topic approach, duration of each activity, expected outcome. QUESTIONS: How to connect with Über den Tellerrand in order to form a group of participants? How many people? How to approach the refugees and show that this topic is valuable?






METHOD FIRST CONTACT: After taking part as participant, the first contact was established to the organizers of the “Über den Tellerrand” Community, with the proposal of doing Workshop. They are a project that consists of a dinner twice per month in order to integrate refugees, it started in Berlin and then it was replicated in many other cities like in Cologne, self-organized by citizens. It is open to everybody to cook and eat together, and takes place in the Familienzentrum, a cultural space with an industrial kitchen and rooms for cultural activities. It was surprising how open the organizers were in relation to the project.

PRESENTATION : Firstly, a presentation to the refugees and other participants of one “Über den Tellerrand” dinner were given explaining about the “Where is home?” Project. Then, Refugees participated in a Workshop about Identity and Home.

ACTIVITY 1: IDENTITY CIRCLES :Ten post-its were given and they had to write a word about their identity. Into a huddle, they chose the most important one and each participant told why it was chosen.

ACTIVITY 2: SHORT STORY: With a chosen identity word from the first activity, they wrote a short story of an experience they had about it that was related to their feeling of home. Each one hung it and told everybody the history.


05. “Where is home?” Project Fig. 53 >> Fig. 54 >> Participants answer about their identity. (Photo: Liwen Zhong)

RESULTS Number of Participants: (8)

IDENTITY CIRCLES Participant 01: This participant was emphatic about his connection to the Kurd culture, specially the culture of dancing. He said he likes to travel, driving car, Kurdish food, nature, worked 5 years in Beton, wanted to see his work in Germany. Participant 02: This participant was German. Thus, the answers were very different: Papa, Strength, Cologne, Friends, Creativity, France, Travel, Design. Participant 03: This participant is an academic that use to be a teacher in the University in Syria and wrote books about politics and economy. He said he is Kurd, politician, economist, and also pointed war, conflict, culture, language, Kurdistan Mountains and how he misses the home land, Kurdistan.


Participant 04: This was the elder, and didn’t speak German at all. His answers were always communicated by his friend, which was writing and talking for him. He said he was a book seller, likes swimming, play football, work.

Participant 05: This was the youngest person (19 years old). Because of that, it was clear that his experience in Germany is completely different from the elders in terms of adaptation. That can be seen through his answers were about Family, Syria, Cologne, Falafel, Rap music, football, friends, travel, sports. His German and English is already very good, even though he is here in the same average of time, and he has the opportunity to finish the High School here, which means that it might less complicated to reach his dreams of working with Informatics. Participant 05: He is an actor from Syria that work here since 20 years and speak very good German. His identity was related to Theater, love, freedom, son, travel, lake and friendship. Participant 06: He spoke very few German and no English, so he did not feel very comfortable to participate. He did some abstract symbols and wrote friendship and lake. Participant 07: This participant asked the Arabic translator to write the answers to him because he could not write using the Latin alphabet. His answers were that he has 7 sisters, miss his Family, and love his mother and the life.


05. “Where is home?” Project

SHORT STORY The actor, which chose “Theater”, told an interesting story about when he was a child, that he did a political protest against the government during a play. “Ich bin seit 30 Jahre mit Theater verbanden. Ich habe in mehrer Theaterstücke teilgenommen und habe ich auch als ‘Rijeserke’ in mehrer workshop Theater und filme teilgenommen. Theater ist meine Leben”

Fig. 55 >> Fig. 56 >> Particpants wrote a short story (Photo: Liwen Zhong)

The “Buchhandler” (book seller) could not speak German. For this reason, his colleague explained that he was the only book seller of the region that would sells books nobody else would have because in Kurdistan many books are prohibited. “Im Kurdistan ich habe auf die strasse Bücher verkauft und auch selber gelesen.” Another participant wrote “Liebe” (Love). He told about his love story about his cousin. They were in love, so he asked her in marriage to her family but they did not allow her to come to Germany to marry him. Thus, unfortunately they had to separate. He could not write with our alphabet so the translator person wrote to him: “There was a woman I


loved, my cousin, and she loved me. After I was with her for 5 years, she wanted to come to Germany for me. I asked for her hand in marriage but her parents didn’t approve. Then our love was lost.”

Fig. 57 >> Participant tells a short story about home. (Photo: Liwen Zhong)

The economy teacher wrote about “ich bin Kurde”, which clearly represents a lot of freedom of speech and about his national identity: “ich bin Kurde aber sagen immer die Leute in Syrien dass ich Syrien Arabe bin. Aber nein, ich bin Kurde und diese Worte oder Volk war verboten bei Regierung in Syrien. Deswegen sage ich immer ‘ich bin Kurde’.” Interesting pointed, the participant that “like wedding and dance” wrote that: “I miss wedding in my city because I have all family with me and dancing and so much happy also with my friend. I wish every people in the world to be happy, don’t be sad.” The youngest participant wrote “informatik” and told that when he was child he really liked video games so today his dreams is to study Computer sciences in a German University. “Informatik ist mein Ziel weil ich Ingenieur werde will. Ich will in Köln studieren.”


05. “Where is home?� Project

KEY LEARNINGS: + PROS: This activity was good for a first approach, to get in contact and get an idea about their feeling of home. I got a better understanding about their identity in the first activity and got to know valuable stories in the second:

- CONS: The layout of environment was not favoring because the space look like a little bit formal, so people could not relax. Moreover, people were tired after cooking and eating. THE LANGUAGE BARRIER

Actor, which had courage as a child to protest and is really passionate about his work

Another important CON was the language barrier, which was an expected challenge to be faced. As a non-native German speaker I had to

Book seller, which were selling books not allowed about political topics or sexual content.

worry about prepare and organize the whole workshop and material not also in English, but in German, and I thought that would be an issue.

Love story with the cousin, which would be a tabu in western cultures Teacher that wrote many books Young man sad love story and family distance in contrast to his youth concerns like body appearance Additionally, it worked to get participants for exploring the topic further in the toolkit.

In the end, the grammatical mistakes were the least, considering that the basic skills of German language were the real barrier to half of them. One of them said that one of the reasons why it is hard to learn German is because he struggles to establish a cycle of German friends. Many of them live with other Arabic people because it was hard to find local people willing to share the flat with them. All in all, the majority of the group is learning German, but also some of them would understand better English. In spite of the fact that I was shifting between German and English according to their understanding, it was decisive to have an external person translating most of it to Arabic. That made the workshop be a lot longer than expected, so that can be also tiring.


Fig. 58 >> Fig. 59 >> Because of the language barrier, activities was explained in German and translated to Arabic. (Photo: Liwen Zhong)

05. “Where is home?” Project





PLANNING GOALS: to get a deeper personal emotions than the Workshop, in more the time and without other people watching. Because the topic is “home”, they should feel at home when they are answering. To have concrete outcomes for qualitative research. CONSTRAINTS: Language barriers (bilingual guide);, FORMAT: one task per day during 8 days to work at home., with a guide for the activities. (Fig. 61, 63, 65) QUESTIONS: How to access a more deeper intimate personal emotions from the refugees? How to establish a dialog with trust?





Fig. 60 >> Toolkit Preparation, Fig. 61 >> Toolkit Guide Fig. 62 >> Explaining the tasks (Photo: Liwen Zhong)

METHOD HANDING OVER After the first Workshop, the Toolkit was explained and handed over to the people that were interested. Considering the language barrier, the translator explained every exercise in Arabic, and the Toolkit was bilingual written (in German and English).



05. “Where is home?” Project

Fig. 63 >> Toolkit.with 8 tasks. (Photo: Author)


Fig. 64 >> One to one interview. (Photo: Liwen Zhong)


05. “Where is home?” Project














Fig. 65 >> Toolkit activities


RESULT: Number of Toolkit given: (9) Number of Toolkit returned: (6)

It was interesting that a couple did the activity together at home, so that influenced their answer and reflection about what home means. The husband wrote “The laugh of my wife” and “Enjoy my wife’s food”, and during the one-toone interview, he told that it was good to reflect about it together. This method was good way to visualize connections to “home” and have a better understanding about their struggle, feelings, etc. However, it was not a direct useful output for the project so it will not be furthered analyzed here.


Fig. 66 >> Visible and invisible feelings about home.

RIBBON WISH Most of them did not understand what the red ribbon was for. Originally, the idea was to write a wish for the future of home in the ribbon that could be later tied in a Tree, inspired by how they do in countries from Asia, like China. The

answer about a wish is an interesting data output, but the method of the ribbon was complicated and the final outcome is not clear and easy to read, so it was improved for the Workshop 2 and for the final exhibition.


05. “Where is home?” Project

MAPPING CONNECTIONS The main spots pointed in Cologne were the regions of the Library and Volkshochschule, where most of them learn German. Kalk was also pointed because of the Arabic market, regarding the connection to the food. Some of them lives in Villages near Cologne, so they could not point their home in this map. This method was also not directly used for the exhibition.

FITTING IN A BOX This participant did not understand the task. Although the answer was still valuable to grasp the topics about his identity and stereotypes, this format of task were too complicated to be done alone because of the complexity of understanding. For this reason, I decided to test it in the Workshop. This activity was interesting in terms of output, so it was furthered applied during the Workshop 02, 03 and all of the data was useful for the final installation “In / Outside of the box”.


Fig. 68 >> Stereotypes and identity and also, eventual missunderstandings about the task.

PAPYRUS Although the outcome was interesting and successful, this activity was achieved only by two participants, because it was demanding too much time and reflections for a person to do alone at home. For this reason, it was better applied it during the Workshop 03, and turned out to be a successful installation in the final exhibition.

Fig. 69 >> Papyrus

Fig. 67 >> Participants connected the spots where they feel home in Cologne and explained why during one-to-one interview.


05. “Where is home?� Project Fig. 70 >> Library is a meeting place for most of them because they are studying the German language intensively.

PORTRAY IDENTITIES Festivities are important for setting a cultural identity and bringing a feeling of home. It should be pointed that, according to the research, together with the language, family is one the most important factor for adaptation to a place and feeling home. Moreover, the job also plays an important role on that. The biggest learning was that the participants do not feel comfortable or see motivations to send me their personal pictures, so this was not a successful method.

Fig. 71 >> The New Year’s celebration of Kurds and all people from central Asia happens on 21th of March, according to the Persian calendar. Thus, he sent photo with friends in the Kurdish Newrozfest 19.03.2017 in Cologne and a photo with many friends holding Kurdish flags in the street. Fig. 72 >> Place in Cologne as home. Fig. 73 >> The participant that came with the Family and sent the picture of his daughter also pointed through the Picture that his identity is already related to Cologne.


POSTCARD This activity was interesting because it touched people and provided valuable research data, at the same time that they are easy to be fulfilled. I kept testing it in different situations and formats like the Workshop 2, Workshop 3 and in the final installation “Postcard”.

CURATE YOUR OWN OBJECT This activity was the less successful. It was related to the idea of creating a Pop Up Museum. However, only one person understood that he should take a picture of some object that represents their feeling of belonging and were willing to send it. Although the photo was very interesting, showing that he is an expert in politics that wrote many books, the proposal method itself did not work well.

Fig. 74 >> This method was very successful for getting emotional reflections from participants: “Although I ‘seen’ to think about you the whole time and can’t sleep or do simple things easily. I know I should stop. We wanted different things and I hope we both get the power to forget”

Fig. 75 >> Picture of the 7 books that he wrote in Syria about politics/economy. The one named in English language is called “The peaceful struggle of Kurdish people in Syrian revolution”.

05. “Where is home?” Project

Fig. 76 >>

KEY LEARNINGS: +PROS: Through this method, I established a lot more trust with the refugees so the data were a lot more deep and personal. As a consequence, the whole work was a lot more informed about what should be approached and what should be not approached. Moreover, this trust was important to have refugees as part of the exhibition. For example, two of them were directly part of the exhibition with their voices recorded for the “In / Outside of the Box” Installation

-CONS: Many of the activities tested did not work, especially due to the fact that they were two complexes for the participant to do the task alone at home. All in all, this method was important for the process, because it tested a diverse range of approaches and methods, but it was not successful for collecting data for the exhibition.



05. “Where is home?� Project







PLANNING GOALS: Workshop scope that should be improved through the combination of the findings from the first Workshop and the Toolkit. CONSTRAINTS: Short time (late after dinner), People tired, Data for the installations FORMAT: Improve use of the space (people should seat in circle and visualizations in the wall or hanging) QUESTIONS: How to improve the first workshop? What are the main issues of identity and feeling of belong they face? How to transform the answers in installations?






METHOD ACTIVITY 1: “FITTING IN THE BOX” In this activity, it was asked them to write sentences about “in the box”, which means the things people say to them as stereotypes, when they try to “fit them in a box”. And also to write about out of the box, which means facts about them that the people do not expect from them, interesting facts about their identity that make people think outside of the box. After each one wrote and placed in the wall as “in the box” and “out of the box”, one started explaining the answer, and pointed a post it, which should be the next person to talk.

ACTIVITY 2: “POSTCARD“ They received a card and ware asked to write a message to a person that is far away that makes them feel home, as they were writing a postcard to tell the person what they miss, what makes it special, etc.

ACTIVITY 3: ONE WISH As a conclusion activity, each one wrote one wish they have for the future of their home and told everybody about it.


05. “Where is home?” Project

RESULTS In this activity, I focused on adapting the method of the activity from the ones of the toolkit that provided most valuable answers to the exhibition’s content, which was later used for the installations. Their specific answers were given less attention, especially because in this day, there were more German participants from the previous cooking activity than refugees. Thus, I had to adapt my expectations and I see the value of having the comparison between Refugees and Germans about the same issue.

+ PROS: It was possible to see the strong contrast between answers from Germans that are not struggling with migration and refugees. While Germans described they suffer with

Fig. 77 >> Refugees wrote a postcard message (Photo: Liwen Zhong)

Fig. 78 >> Compared to the Refugees, postcard from Germans to people that makes feel home were similar in feelings but different in distance. 116

(Photo: Liwen Zhong)

Fig. 79 >> Fig. 80 >> Participant talked about stereotypes people have about him. (Photo: Liwen Zhong)

stereotypes about their own personality characteristics, the refugees reported more stereotypes in relation to their origins. Moreover, the people addressed as making them feel home was not so far away and they were able to meet them more frequently, which makes the missing feelings less difficult. Moreover, it was interesting to understand what kind stigma Refugees carry with their nationality when interacting with people in Germany. The participant that had Caucasian looking reported that people do not ever believe that he could be a Syrian, while the Syrian look one said people think they ride camels, do not have any education and do not have a normal life in the city as it is in Cologne.

the Toolkit result about stereotypes, and the mode of disposing them too. The last workshop they were in the table, but the change to the wall gave more clear visibility and more value to all participants. Moreover, the “One wish” activity was an improvement from the “Wish Ribbon” of the Toolkit, which the successful output inspired the installations of the exhibition like the Tree of Wishes.

The feedback from one of the organizers of the meeting was that “It is a great chance to get to know more about each other. During the cooking time, we do not have the chance to share so many personal stories.” L., 24. That could be pointed as the most positive aspect about taking part in the activity for the “Über den Tellerrand” Community. One German senior woman said that she took part in a discussion meeting in Frankfurt about how to solve issues about the refugees, but it was a talk between outsiders of the issue because there was never any refugee there. Thus, she said she enjoyed because it was the first time that she experienced a dialog with the refugees. In terms of the method, there were improvements in the layout of the room. The fact that the participants were disposed in a circle and not scattered everywhere made them more involved. Moreover, the post-it activity about identity was improved with support of

Fig. 81 >> Some people were just observing the Workshop from outside. (Photo: Liwen Zhong)

- CONS: In this kind of activity, many superficial answers were given. For example, especially in the “wish” activity, it was likely to have answers like “I wish myself a lot of success”. In addition to that, the fact that there were not so many Refugees taking part in the cooking evening, the results were more limited. Some of them decided to be just watching it, because they felt for some reason intimidated.


05. “Where is home?� Project







PLANNING GOALS Improve the last two Workshops so more time available. Instead of the expectation of cooking and eating together, they should be there only for thie workshop. CONSTRAINTS: Find participants and convince them to go to Aktionsraum Deutz (not in the city center) FORMAT: Dedicated meeting for the workshop, two hours, German spoken with written instructions in English, personal introduction and name in the T-Shirt. QUESTIONS: How to get direct outcome to present in the exhibition?







01. Time to write your own history.

METHOD Step by step English instruction in the table:

Imagine that an archeologist (person that research the history) found a Papyrus about you in 2050. Make drawings and writings that tells about you. Who was this person? Where did it leave? What important facts and histories she

ACTIVITY 01 (30min):

lived? What were his favorite things?


02. Now you are the archeologist.

01. Write 3 things people tell you when they try to “fit you in a box� (stereotypes, judgements)

As you have found your papyrus in the future, tell everybody about the discoveries you see there.

02. Each person talk to the group and throw it away in the box. OUTSIDE OF THE BOX


01. At the same time, write 3 things that nobody would imagine from you (surprising, unexpected).

01 Write a postcard to a person

02. Place in the box. 03. Take one card and guess who that person in the group is.

that makes you feel home. You can remember the nice history you lived together, or what make this person special. You do not need to sign it.

02. We will hang it in the wall and vote to the 2 nicest story. Those postcards will be sent to the person.


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Fig. 82 >> After secretly writing curious facts about themselves, they had fun guessing who wrote each


card.) (Photo: Liwen Zhong)

Fig. 83 >> Participants got very involved in the task and were able to fill the long paper with their stories

and drawings. (Photo: Liwen Zhong)


05. “Where is home?” Project Fig. 84 >> Participants wrote their names and introduced themselves in the beginning. (Photo: Liwen Zhong)

RESULTS Number of participants: (7) Some of the refugees were attracted by the presentation in the SLZ (Language Learning Center from TH Köln) class, and some were from the “Über den Tellerrand” Community.

INSIDE AND OUTSIDE OF THE BOX This activity was the more social and playful, especially because three from the group were close friends so they were laughing and playing together, so it provided a light mood to the activity. This topic was intended to be part of the final installations In / Outside of the Box. For this reason, after the Workshop ended, the recordings of some of the participant’s voices were made and used direct in the installations. Later, more recordings were done in separate meetings, and they were all edited to be listened in sequence in the installation.

Fig. 85 >> Fig. 86 >> Participant try to guess who that person is from identity 122

characteristics. (Photo: Liwen Zhong)

POSTCARD Fig. 87 >> Postcards from participants



05. “Where is home?” Project Fig. 88 >> Fig. 89 >> Participants wrote a postcard and... Fig. 90 >> then told the story behind the person they miss. ((Photo: Liwen Zhong)

PAPYRUS In this activity, it was tested the media used in the final installation. The same “wooden roll” object was hung in the wall for displaying their result, and it worked really well. This was the longest activity, but also with the most qualitative result. The outcome was really interesting piece to be read, as a speculative activity of imagining what they would like to write about their own story for an archeologist that will find this historical paper in the future. As a consequence, their output was displayed in the exhibition.


Fig. 91 >> Papyrus were hung it in the wall after.... Fig. 92 >> they wrote their own story in a long paper for a speculative exercise ((Photo: Liwen Zhong)

Fig. 93 >> Some participants talked about Stereotypes and Identity for the final installation In / Outside of the Box. (Photo: Liwen Zhong)


Fig. 94 >> Participants

worked hard to write and draw their stories, which was displayed in the final exhibition. (Photo: Liwen Zhong)



Fig. 95 >> Presentation

part from the Workshops, the “World

activity about intercultural

Refugee Day” Event was presented for two classes of the Sprachelernzentrum (TH Köln), which the students are refugees learning German.


about the exhibition and

In other opportunity, they had a 40 minutes activity called “Theater”, which they had to simulate that they were in the event and had to talk about intercultural topics with other visitors. For this reason, they received cards with topics like Hospitality, Family, Greetings, Sense of Humor, Awkwardness & Tabu, Custom & Tradition.

It was good activity in terms of practicing German, at the same time that motivated a lot of them to be part of the event as “Food ambassadors”. In this activity during the event, they would receive the food that was previously prepared and was responsible to offer to the other visitors, as way to start a conversation. It was also a good preparation for them to feel free and encouraged to start conversations in German during the event, since they already trained the vocabulary before. 127

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r o


a e






z a

a n








n e

& n


GOAL Organize an event for 100 guests that should connect refugees and Cologne residents through interactive installations and place-making activities.

COLLABORATORS In order to create a large exhibition at kisd, it was necessary to find many different kinds of collaborations and manage them. the main fronts of collaboration were kisd secretary organizational basis, finances, press, volunteers, food ambassadors, and documentation. Apart from that, it was also necessary to divide the creative, building and setting time with the other tasks like booking and renting equipment, etc.

Fig. 96 >> Wooden roll object being produced for the “Papyrus” Installation. Fig. 97 >> Building two 1x1m black boxes for the “In / Outside of the Box” immersive sound experience. 128

PROCESS OF THE INSTALLATIONS CREATIVE PROCESS The creative process was made through sketches, research of references and discussions about concept, experience and building issues with other designers. Moreover, affinity diagrams were part of the process of understanding the user-experience intended, for instance, in the “Invented Boarders� installation.

PROTOTYPING & BUILDING See Figures from 96 until 103.

Fig. 99 >> Fig. 100 >> Fig. 98 >>

Many test were

made to improve the animation, the best material for the light absorption, the size and distance of the layers. Doing video of it helped to improve the experience.


05. “Where is home?” Project Fig. 102 >> Fig. 103 >> Fig. 101 >> Development of “Postcard” Installation

SETTING UP This phase was inviable without support of volunteers. For this reason, a careful plan of all parts needed to be done and communicated to them in order to execute the function properly. In the scope involved layout, lighting, hanging posters, placing foil texts, etc.


Fig. 104 >> Fig. 105 >> Fig. 106 >> The setting up moment of the exhibition needed to be carefully planned and communicated through images because it involved many volunteers






Invented boarders

In/Out side the box

Tree of Wishes







Around the table






Home is where food is.


Home is where music is.

Home is where your history is.

Home is where your heart is.

Home is where you are free of boarders.

Home is where you are yourself.

Home is where hope is.

Where is home?

Text following the black tape vertically in the wal:

Black Foil

Black tape

Black frame with explanation poster

Black layer (light barrier)

Exhibition Signage System






Carpets with Cushions

Fatboy seat


Stations Voucher / Food

14 tables = 56 people Green seat around Black low table


Around the table and Music

Courtyard Layout




Fresnel spot

Focus spot


Directional spot




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GENERAL OVERVIEW: EXPERIENCE Although the role experience intended to be participatory and interactive, the space had clear divisions between the two rooms and the courtyard. Hence, each environment intended for a different mood, based on its original architecture qualities.


THEME EXPLORATION Silent, Concentration, Contemplative


SELFEXPLORATION Emotional, participatory, interpersonal

Scale 5m




ENVIRONMENT 01 – THEME EXPLORATION “Theme Exploration” took advantage of the more insulated environment to use resources like the lighting system, covered windows, projections. As this fixed characteristics of the space are strong, this environment were thought to approach conceptually the topic “Where is home?” through external factors aiming for changes in the future, like the hope for changes about home, the acknowledgement of refugee`s stereotypes and identity for behavior changes and experience of invented barriers for acknowledgement of the social constructed barriers also for behavior changes. This was the room for deeper reflection and concentration, as a counterpoint of balance to the others.

Fig. 107 >> Largest space of the “There Exploration” empty: the most analog to a “White Cube”. (Photo: Author)


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Fig. 108 >>


Fig. 109 >>


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Fig. 110 >>


Fig. 111 >>

Fig. 112 >>


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Fig. 113 >>


Fig. 114 >>


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Fig. 115 >>


Fig. 116 >>


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Fig. 117 >>


Fig. 118 >>


05. “Where is home?” Project Fig. 119 >>


The “Self-exploration” was in a room that connects the inner environment to the outdoor so the space itself allows a more social contact than the one before. For this reason, it was an in-between room an intermediate stage of social interactions after the introspection and before the expansion. The conceptual approach to the topic was more through internal factors, that is, about the own personal history of the visitor. Aiming to access the past, the strategy was to remember the past relationships and connections that provided the feeling of belonging, and a speculative proposal of imagining how visitors would like their own personal history to be seen in the future.



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Fig. 120 >>


Fig. 121 >>


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Fig. 122 >>

Fig. 123 >> 155

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ENVIRONMENT 03 – ENCOUNTERS EXPLORATION Conclusively, the last environment “Encounters exploration” was located in the open air space of a Courtyard, with strong qualities for social interactions as a space for chilling and talking. Hence, the conceptual approach to the topic was through exchangeable factors, which means being able to exchange all the previous reflections through social catalysts like Arabic Music and Food, that was provided by the Refugees through a Food vouchers containing Topics for Intercultural Exchange. They were intended to for create opportunities of exchanges between the students from KISD / other visitors with the Refugees.

Fig. 124 >> Exhibition System in the Environment 02.


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Fig. 125 >>

Fig. 126 >> 158


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Fig. 127 >>


Fig. 128 >>


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METHODS “WHITE-CUBENESS” ASSESSMENT A graphic adopted from the “Semantic Differentials” method were developed to analyze how close or distant are the exhibitions to the concept of the “White Cube”. It is, however, not used in the same context of Survey as the traditional method. It was used here as a visual language scale, but methodologically adapted to the specific situation that most of the people interviewed were not familiar with the literature of O`Doherty, so this evaluation was the conclusion based in the combination of literature, analysis from feedback and in-site observation.

INTERACTION’S ASSESSMENT The kind of interactions was directly observed and questioned during feedback interview, giving special attention to the social aspect. Through these qualitative data, each installation were evaluated from 1 to 5 in the social aspect, that is, how much people talked to each other in the installation or later because of the installation. The participation of the visitors was considered as either active or passive. Active, when they are part of the meaning of the final art piece, creates direct output or discussions and change the shape of it. Passive are the experiences through which the visitor still interact but without interfering actively in installation meaning or shape. In opposition to that, the object function were classified was passive, when the installation main elements were just an instrument for the people express their interpretation themselves


(bottom-up), or active, when they propose actively the experience with close-ended possibilities (top-down). The type of interaction was also classified according to observation and feedback interviews. They are relevant to understand that each kind of interaction possibility offer different qualities to the experience. In the case there was a direct output, the measurement of participation could be done through the output in numbers, and the most relevant one for this analysis were described as highlighted answers. Affinity diagram method was used to cluster the similar answers in groups of importance. After all, key learnings summarize the findings of the analysis. Conclusions were also consequence of feedback interview, direct observation and documentation (video and photography) of the visitor’s participation. Fig. 129 >>


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INSTALLATION 01 – TREE OF WISH Social aspect: 2 from max. of 5. Participation of the visitor: active Output in numbers: 51 Tags in total. They were written in 5 different languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, German, Portuguese): •

13 for mind openness, diversity and respect

9 for peace

6 about deterritorialized home

6 for equality

4 political

3 against fear

2 about safety and confidence

2 about family

2 humorous

1 about happiness, 1 about forgiveness, 1 about learning languages, 1 about plant a tree, 1 non identified.


Object function: passive Type of interaction: Writing the Tag: Person to object Reading the other person’s Tag: Person to object Discussing before writing the Tag: Person to acquainted person and to object.

Fig. 130 >> Output organized by affinity. (Photo: Author)


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Highlighted answers: An answer translated from Portuguese said “To have a place to plant a tree”, which the association between “home” and the “nature” was directly made. That is interesting in terms of the effect of the tree as a media.


Fig. 131 >> Fig. 132 >> Fig. 133 >> Fig. 134 >> Fig. 135 >> Answers about politics, family, deterritorialized home.


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Fig. 136 >>



“It was really interesting. When I was looking at the tree I have read ‘I wish I could have had more contact with my brother’, and, for me, it was very emotional because I remembered my sister, which I don’t see her since 4 months and we are really connected so I started to cry a bit.” (F., 27, MA Design student, collaborator)

Fig. 137 >> Triggers of experience: Reflection through writing and empathy through reading. (Photo: KISD, Müller / Author)

“It was more like an individual experience because I was also reflecting about my home, which is far away. It was very interesting to figure out how I feel about the idea about my home being now also in Germany. However, my wish was essentially about my connection to my home country, in Colombia. It was about how I do not want to lose that connection, because it feels like, as you stay here longer and longer, and maybe even considering the possibility of staying here, you start feeling that the connections could start to thin out, so my wish would be to keep this connection alive.” (S., 25, MA Design student, visitor) “The interaction was quite interesting. One people were reading the Tags and thought it was really funny because someone wished for ‘Fries for the world’, which is hilarious. They did not mention anything to me about the more serious quotes. People can write easier if no one is watching or talking to them. We were talking to someone and he felt under pressure, and did not write anything, because he felt observed.” (K., 24, MA Design Student, volunteer) 169

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Fig. 138 >>


Key learnings: + PROS: The symbol of a tree was generally triggering positive messages about the future. The task of writing a wish was the easiest between the active installations, so it received the biggest amount of output.

- CONS: Most of the people said it was an individual experience, either writing or reading it. “People stand and are reading through the wishes. It is actually quite quiet here, the moment someone is talking in this area, no one wants to write. It is more like an individual experience. If two people come in, they would read a few and walk away, but if one person comes in, they would read and then write something.� (K., 24, MA Design Student, volunteer) Fig. 139 >>


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Fig. 140 >>


INSTALLATION 02 – INSIDE/OUTSIDE OF THE BOX Social aspect: 2 from max. of 5. Participation of the visitor: passive Object function: active Type of interaction: Person to immersive sound Person and acquainted person to object (Box) Person to acquainted person (Discussion after)


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Fig. 141 >> Individual experience of listening from refugees about Stereotypes (Inside the box) and their Identity (Outside the box). (Photo: KISD, Müller)

Feedback: “For me the most interesting piece was the black box. It emphasizes how much the refugees have to struggle with prejudices. And it also has emphasized that we all, doesn´t matter which part of the world we are from, have similar wishes, interests etc. And it also has shown that some people think when they hear that somebody is a refugees that he needs help in many ways and they can´t do anything on their own. But most people forget that they are just like you and me.” M., 27, collaborator from “Über den Tellerrand” Community

Key learnings: + PROS: This kind of immersive installation has a lower social capacity, but caused more impact in relation to the stereotypes, and as a consequence, later discussions between the visitors. Many people reported that they changed their previous idea about the refugees. Although the experience is always individual and introspective, it was interesting that some people entered in there in group of two.

understood that the headphones had different content from Inside of the Box experience, and additionally, they did not want to spend too much time there so they did not stay more than a medium of 40 seconds. The fact that there was two boxes for individual experiences also reduced the amount of people that could experience it. Santiago, 25, said he did not experiment it because it was too busy.

- CONS: According to K., 24, MA Design student, volunteer, not all the people


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Installation 03– Invented borders Social aspect: 2 from max. of 5. Participation of the visitor: passive Object function: active Type of interaction: Person to intriguing object Person and acquainted person to intriguing object (Curtain and Sensors)


Fig. 142 >> Experience about illusions of visual and sonorous barriers. (Photo: KISD, MĂźller / Author)


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Feedback: “At the first sight people get a bit concerned because of the barrier, but as soon as they begin to discover that the border is flexible, and that it is made of a light transparent fabric, they start to experiment it together with the interactive sound, and it is really fun! The visual part is really beautiful, and it triggers the imagination. I have heard a girl saying that by the end after crossing the barriers, she feels like she is going to heaven.” F., 27, MA Design student, collaborator. The experience as barrier worked, according to feedback from M., 27, Webdesigner, visitor: “Actually I passed around it, and not inside. I was afraid that if I would pass inside it, everything

would fall apart.” And her partner, F., completed saying: “I liked to look it from distance, I liked the visuals, and how the layers looked different. I saw there were sounds but I did not notice that it was through sensors, because we did no pass inside.” As this was the most subjective installation, I asked one of the art collaborators about what he could observe in relation to the visitor’s interest about the meaning or concept of it: “At the first time they just trying it for fun, but as soon as they started to experiment it, they were asking the volunteers about the meaning and reading the papers and they grasp what is the meaning” F., 27, MA Design student, collaborator.

Key learnings: + PROS: People were amazed by the aesthetics and intrigued by understand the dynamics of the interaction. It got a lot of the attention of the people and strong aesthetic experience. The topic was tackled in a subjective manner, so it was the most conceptual work, which can be very positive from the media art perspective. + The experience provided by this installation was probably the most impressive in the distinction of the daily life aesthetics and playfulness. From the sensibility perspective,

- CONS: Many people were intrigued by the aesthetical effect provided by the fabric and projection; however, they mostly did not really understand the metaphorical meaning behind it. The challenge of understanding the installation by oneself was a motivation to keep trying the interface, but also not deepening the reflection and interpretation. It was the less effective in terms of providing direct message about the topic, which could be a problem when the goal of the exhibition is to provide a direct provocation.


Fig. 143 >> Fig. 144 >>

It was interesting to hear that, although S., 25, MA Design student, visitor, said he did not grasp the direct meaning of animation in relation to the topic, he reported to have experienced the illusion of a barrier, which once you try to overcome it, it just disappears. This is the exact metaphorical experience to the social constructions and invented borders, but grasped through a aesthetical subjective manner. “I found it interesting that, once you see from outside, the borders look more intense. Once you are in, they start to thin out a lot and they tend to disappear when you move inside. And you also see a bit the shapes differently when you are closer.�

Additionally, most of the people did not recognize the sounds as activated by their presence, or that they were metaphors of situations when someone face a barrier or border. After being explained about the meaning of the sound, one of the feedbacks from an Artist visitor was that it is a too literal message in comparison to the subjective approach of the animations projected in the curtains.


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Installation 04 – Postcards Social aspect: 3 from max. of 5. Participation of the visitor: active Participation of the visitor: active Output in numbers: 42 postcards, to 17 different countries. Object function: passive Type of interaction: Writing the postcard: Person to object Reading the other visitor’s postcard: Person to object Discuss about what to write: acquainted person and to object Reading the other people’s postcard: Person to object / Person to acquainted person


Fig. 145 >>


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Fig. 146 >> Visitors read about the meaning of a postcard through the poster. (Photo: KISD, Müller) 182


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Highlighted answers / addressed places:

Feedback: “I think it created a discussion between the visitors because to send a postcard is not a normal thing to do in this era. It is not so common to write something to someone in a paper anymore. And also, (in general) you have a discussion about diversity, about what it is to be in this world as a different person from the other one that is beside to you.” (M., 21, BA Exchange Design student, event’s volunteer)

“Did you wrote a postcard? S: Yes, I sent a postcard home to my parents, because that is where my home is. Was it a problem for you that the other people could read what you wrote? S: No, it was ok. I was there also with my friends who also came from that side of the world. Did you talk about it? S: Yes, we discussed things like “Do you still remember the address of your mom?” or “Who are you writing to?”. So it was a shared thing, but the message that I wrote was more individual. But I also thought that it was interesting that I could feel free to write what I want because not everyone shares my language. So it is also my own little code to write, and a way to do my intimate thing in a public setting, which I found quite interesting.” (S., 25, MA Design student, visitor)


P O S T C A R D I N S T A L L A T I O N Participation highlights

Mom, My home is where I am with my mother and, since my mother is in my heart, my hear can be everywhere. This postal is part of a project about open a space to people that left their home because of the war. I left you because of my education, but you are for sure in my heart.” (Translation from Spanish)

“Dear Mom, Unfortunately I could never meet you, but you are always in my heart. Maybe we will see at some point again, until there I visit the Grandma and Uganda as often as possible. With love.”

“Where is actually home? I am not completely sure but I think home is there, where I feel happy… Yes, I think Home is a feeling! A feeling drawn through lovely people, places, animals, situations. Home can also be everywhere, as long as I feel secure, loved, accepted and free! Thanks for the wonderful 20 years, in which I could call our beautiful ivy covered house as my home. You will always be my home.” (Translation from German)

“Mom, I miss the warmth from the Mates and the toasts or the coffee with milk in the morning. Get warm in the heater or turn the corner to greet you. The canes with sugar. The movies.” (Translated from Spanish)


“Hey Baby! Since 6 years I feel home with you! Thank you that you love me so much, as much as I do. With love” (Translation from German)

“Where is home? Where would be home? When will that be found, And how long it takes? We find that together.” (Translation from German)

“Dear Yvonne, Thank you for making me feel less alone, even though you are far away. Love.”

“Where is home? The home is the place where we feel well, safe, comfortable of being and living… The time pass fast and it has been 3 years and a half that I haven’t a new home! And it is in the other side of the Atlantic. New experiences and livingness, a new language, friends, work: everything contributes to build a new home. A big hug to this family, that even far away, make my home more complete too. Kisses with a yearning” (Translation from Portuguese)

Somewhere like heaven

ASIA Poly U, Hong Kong Yuen Long, Hong Kong New Taipei City, Taiwan Chiba, Japan Gumma, Japan

NORTH AMERICA Monterrey, Mexico New York, United States Non defined, United States

EUROPE SOUTH AMERICA Paraná, Argentina Cruz Alta, Brazil Curitiba, Brazil Bogotá, Colombia

AFRICA Cairo, Egypt Kpalimé,Togo

Wien, Austria Kettenis, Belgien Dobrich, Bulgaria London, England Aachen, Germany Belburg, Germany Elsenfeld, Germany

Heidelberg, Germany Hennef, Germany Hennef, Germany Heidelberg, Germany Köln, Germany Köln, Germany Köln, Germany Köln, Germany

Marburg, Germany Niederssache, Germany Niederssache, Germany Netphen, Germany Ochsenfurt, Germany Mondercange, Luxemburg Cantanhede, Portugal Istambul, Türkei

Fig. 147 >> Visualization of the participation highlights.


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Fig. 148 >>

Key learnings: + PROS: Most of the postcards were addressed to the family, mainly the mother. Moreover, visitors pointed the boyfriend and girlfriend, flatmate, friends, smell, food, childhood, comfortable, safe, new language, work. Many people described their hometown, like in the workshop. These answers were important to prove the main argument of the curation, which regards to the fact that we are all connected to home by similar aspects. The fact that the postcard will be sent for real was a good motivation for participation.

- CONS: The pen bought for the installation was not Wwriting properly in the type of paper, so the reading of some of them was harder.


Fig. 149 >> Experience of reflecting, writing, reading and exchanging. (Photo: KISD, MĂźller / Christian Butz)


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Installation 05 – Papyrus Social aspect: 4 from max. of 5. Participation of the visitor: active Output in numbers: 29 stories Object function: passive Type of interaction: Writing the Papyrus: Person to object Reading the other’s stories: Person to object Discussing while writing: Person to acquainted person and to object.

Fig. 150 >> Visitor writing to a speculative archeologist. (Photo: KISD, Müller) 189

Highlighted answers:

Fig. 151 >> “I was born in China in a place called Qing Dao, which means Green Island. Fig. 152 >> When I was very little, my parents moved away to a country on the other side of the World, Australia. Fig. 153 >> We were poor for a while and my dad left but everything got better eventually. Fig. 154 >> I was very unhappy, a lot, until I watched a sunrise one day and I changed my life. I was insignificant but also so alive. Fig. 155 >> I proved myself up after that and at one point moved literally half of the earth and went as far as I could go: Germany. Fig. 156 >> If Facebook still exist then, look me up: (NAME). Hope you have a nice life.�



Highlighted Feedback: “Some participants that was very excited, they really understood the concept of “Where is home?”. They generally associated with the idea of where they feel local, that it is a mixture of surroundings and backgrounds. There was one person that was sitting alone and writing, but I could see other groups drawing together. Some of them wrote paragraphs, the others draw symbolisms. Additionally, some have written in their own language, which is really cool because, then, it is a mixture of cultures.” M., 27, MA Design student, volunteer.

Fig. 157 >> Fig. 158 >> Fig. 159 >> Stories of people that left Syria because of the war.


Key learnings: + PROS: This installation was the one that was the most collective experience in comparison to the other active participatory installations with output (1Tree of Wishes and 4- Postcard). - CONS: This is the installation that most takes time to participate, so when the person has not so much time, they do not participate.

Fig. 160 >> Fig. 161 >> Fig. 162 >> Stories of deterritorialized feelings of home.

Fig. 163 >> Next page: Collective experience of writting your story. (Photo: KISD, MĂźller)


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Fig. 164 >> “Encounters exploration”: Installations “Around the Table” and “Music”. (Photo: KISD, Müller)

Installation 06 – Around the table Social aspect: 5 from max. of 5. Participation of the visitor: active (talk), passive (receive food) Object function: passive (food) Type of interaction: Offering food: Person to a stranger Eating: Person to object Talking: Person to acquainted person and strangers.



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Fig. 165 >> Intensive exchange between KISD students and SLZ students.. (Photo: KISD, Müller)


Highlighted Feedback:

Key learnings:

“Today I spoke with many people.” The food was an important factor to break the ice into conversations. “Yesterday I prepared a desert and I brought it here today with me. I think it was a great idea

+ PROS: This installation along with the

for me to chat with new people, and talk about it. However, we talked not only about food but also about our culture, our family, and how the life in Syria, so our culture in general, we also talked about hospitality: how it is for us, what happens when we have a guest, what we eat and drink.” O., 31, Syrian refugee

the visitors. It brought also the desired Arabic mood, and placed the refugees in the position of the “food giver”, and as a result, it fostered the social interaction with them about food and other aspects of culture.

music was far away the most involving and bringing the people together. As a social catalyst, it was very efficient first step to start conversation between

- CONS: Although the people that used the “Food voucher” gave a positive feedback, in general they were barely used because the function of providing food was intense, that is, there was suddenly a huge kill and they had to hurry up. The adherence to the game activity would probably larger if there were more Refugees, so they could divide between the ones who play the game, and the ones that assemblies the food.



Fig. 166 >> Syrian students from SLZ shared their culture through the food. (Photo: KISD, MĂźller)


05. “Where is home?” Project

INSTALLATION 07 – MUSIC Social aspect: 5 from max. of 5. Participation of the visitor: passive (listen), active (dance, talk)

Object function: active (musician) Type of interaction: Listening: Person to sound Talking: Person to acquainted person and strangers. Dancing: Person to acquainted person

Fig. 167 >> Syrian musicians shared their culture through the music and 202

dance. (Photo: KISD, Müller)

Highlighted Feedback:

Key learnings:

“What do you think about the music in relation to your interaction to the people here?

+ PROS: This installation was the most

S, 25, MA Design Student, visitor: I think it sets the environment quite nicely, you feel transported to another land and another scenario. And also seeing other people that probably come from this country, you also feel a bit drown into this world, and that is actually quite nice.�

dynamic one. The music brought a cultural environment and cultural in a way that it is exclusive from that media. It provided also an Arabic mood in a pleasant way, supporting to associate this culture with a beautiful and happy environment. It made many people stay there longer because it offered a chill environment to relax, talk to friends and meet new people.

- CONS: The balance with the other environments was negative. It was calling a lot of attention so it attracted people out of the other rooms. As a result, people did not want to leave the Courtyard, so they spent less timing writing the stores, for example.


06. Conclusions

06. Conclusions















06. Conclusions

GENERAL FINDINGS THE NON-WHITE CUBE In relation to the “White Cube”, the aspect of a space reserved for elite was definitely deconstructed through a diverse kind of visitors, including the main target group, the Refugees. In addition to that, as it was also pointed before, this work tried to remedy the problematic of some past critical designs by avoiding a closed selfreflective content, which happens in a design that only communicates to other designers or specific elites. That way, by including different groups in the conversation, it escapes from providing a ‘hermetic autonomy’31 to the discussions that do not surpasses the academic design world. Furthermore, by observing the behaviors and through the documentation, it is possible to see that most of the social rules of a “White Cube” were broken, and many people there were not profiled as a typical exhibition visitor, like the TH Köln employees and the Refugees. A BA design student and visitor, L., 24, said in a feedback interview: “I would say that this is a really nice event to get ‘two different societies’, let´s say, ‘together’, because we get to know them through the food, the

31  See Mazé and Redström , 2007, p. 8, mentioned by Malpass, 2017, p. 9. 206

installations and the exhibition. That shows to society that they [refugees] are there.” She also said that one of the refugees was curious about the school, KISD, and asking how he could study there. This confirms the bilateral gains and exchanges from both groups. Even though it was not possible to avoid codes of behavior in any social relationships, the environment created established a way more flexible code of behavior. Especially in the outdoor space for “Encounters exploration” with food and music, it was possible to observe a relaxing, friendly and more dynamic environment. All in all, the separation of the rooms made a lot of difference. In contrast to the outdoor space that was very attractive, some people did not even notice that there was the insulated and more introspective experience room (Tree of Wishes, In/Outside of the Box, Invented Borders installations). The fact that the “Topic exploration” environment would be less dynamic was expected, because of the intensity of the Music and the general social environment. However, in order to have a better balance, a future multi-rooms exhibition should give more attention on how to attract people from the socially active rooms to the calm rooms.











(+) Institutionalized


Hierarchical: Top-down Elitist Religious temple environment

Collaborative: Bottom-up Accessible / Unrestricted Informal / Chill environment

‘Holy’ / Precious objects Neutral container

Personal visitor’s value / Ready-made Communicative environment

Strict codes of behavior Insulation from external

Flexible codes of behavior Integrated with local Opened for new values

Closed system of values Passive experience Introspective Reflexive experience Controled experience


Participatory experience Social Relational experience Open-ended experience

Fig. 168 >> Analysis of the “White Cube” factors.


Fig. 169 >> Fig. 170 >> Relaxing environment through the environment design: carpets, bean bag seats, cushions, Arabic music and food (Photo: KISD, MĂźller)

THE REFUGEES EXPERIENCE The experience of the KISD students was different from students from the SLZ. Although they took part in the Exhibition, the Refugees from the Learning Language Center (Sprachelernzentrum / SLZ) were mainly looking for opportunities to practice the German language and have intercultural experiences. In that sense, their feedback was very positive. For instance, one of them from Egypt said that he would like that I could organize monthly an event like this, because he generally have no opportunities to meet and speak with German people in the daily basis. He was excited to say that it was the first time since one year that he talked to Germans and could actually practice the language.. It should be mentioned the importance of the empowerment about its own culture, which means being comfortable with who you are, how you look and your history. During the same feedback interview, one of the refugees exposed to feel a lot of confidence about his culture after talking to other visitors.

Fig. 171 >> People paying attention to the inauguration form the University 208

(Photo: Christian Butz)

“We also talked about the Arabic language, and compared it with the German language. By lucky I met two people from China, and they were in Jordan and learned the Arabic language there. I appreciate that a lot. For me, this is really really important and makes me so happy. Someone from another culture learned my mother language; it means that the Arabic language is important in the world. “ (O., 31, Syrian refugee, Translation from German)

Furthermore, during the event, one of them came with the typical clothes he uses in Kurdistan and shared their dances together with another visitor from Syria around the Arab musicians. That brought a different environment and called attention of the other visitors for the happiness of their culture. Other groups of refugee from the “Über den Tellerrand” also took part as visitors, but since they were not as much involved as the “Food Ambassadors”, their experience was more similar to the other KISD Student visitors.

Fig. 172 >> TH Köln employees available for answering questions about study opportunities. (Photo: Christian Butz)


06. Conclusions

TH KÖLN COLLABORATION The support of the Presidency of the academic institution to the event proved to be essential not only for the budget, but also to ripple the message through a larger range of society groups. TH Köln participated with different internal sectors like the International Office, Office of Equal opportunities, Language learn center (Sprachlernzentrum / SLZ). More than visitors, the intention was that they could bring to the event the dimension of returning something to the community. That proved to be a nice opportunity to the academic institution as supporters to bring information for the refugee’s community about how to study there, whether to learn the local language or academic graduation. The space of collaboration offered by the SLZ before the exhibition event should be again emphasized. These made them actively part of it as “Food ambassadors”. It was an intercultural dynamic approach to foster their cultural sharing through the Arabic food, and that was the main vehicle for the facilitation of the talk between students and other visitors with the refugees. As part of the press, they also highlighted the relevance of the event through the publication of an interview in their website. That helped to attract a diverse audience, amplifying the social interaction diversity.





Each installation had a text next to it and a volunteer as a host that welcomed the visitors and explained the concept of it. Both were essential for the people to understand what the idea behind it was, but the volunteers were more effective to guide their answers (in the case of 01- Tree of Wishes / 04- Postcards / 05- Papyrus) towards the specific proposed direction.

In regards to the topic “Where is home?” and the non-territorial connections, the “Self-exploration” room revealed that the assumptions about relational connections and feeling of belonging were right. In the visitors answers in the “Postcard” and “Papyrus” installations, the main connections to home were the histories lived with their family members and friends. Even though some people describe places or countries, almost all of them mentioned a relational affection to it. In conclusion, that contemporary topic was the right approach in terms of accessing similar emotional experiences that all people have in common with the refugees.

They are also an important social factor, because the experience of a person explaining you an idea provides more empathy and makes it easier generally easier to grasp, in the practical level. Moreover, in terms of accessing research observations to such a huge event, they were also essential for the assessment of the visitor’s feedback and interactions.

THE COMMUNICATION OF THE CONTENT On the other hand, the poetic and deeper explanation content in the posters also added a different layer in the experience. In regards to that, it was mentioned in a feedback interview: “I was asking myself what should I put here, and then someone asked me ‘Do you want to send someone a postcard?’ Yeah, ok, why not? But then I have read what a postcard is, that is something about the past, but it is actually in the future. And then I thought “that is so nice”, and then you come again with a different perspective to start to write things.” (L., 24, BA Design student, visitor) 211

06. Conclusions

Moreover, in the most top-down installations (02- Inside/outside of the box and 03- Invented borders) were less necessary to have a volunteer host, so it also favor a more introspective experience due to the fact that you have to figure out the experience alone. The first was the most comprehensible message of the topic to the audience, because it was a very direct communication. In contrast to that, the second was the less comprehensible because there media was more subjective.

INTIMACY X SOCIAL INTERACTIVITY It should be emphasized that the variations between intimacy and social moments should be careful balanced. This experiment revealed that people need some space to think about themselves and explore their emotions, which cannot be accessed if they are in a room full of spectators. On the other hand, if there are not enough social opportunities, there is a high risk; either losing the attention of the visitor, or missing the discussion potential from the reflection moment that was triggered.


During a feedback interview, two visitors that were a couple (they are both neither designers nor refugees) mentioned that they did not discuss too much about any of the installations between them. They emphasized that in the three active interactions (writing Wishes, Postcard and Papyrus) they were trying to hide their answers from each other, which means that even between a couple, the environment to express this forms of intimacy can be crucial to the quality of the experience. All in all, it is important to create right moments for accessing internal reflections and for sharing them. That can be either by discussing directly with other people or through a participatory installation. Otherwise, how could the social transformations resulted from those reflections reverberate, if they are neither shared nor documented?

MOST SOCIALLY ACTIVE As it was proposed, it can be affirmed that the most active social interactions were related to the food (Around the table) and to the music (with the dance) installations. In the evaluation, none was considered 01 in terms of social

because, even when the experience is totally individual, it is possible to notice that visitors would generally talk about it later, so it was important that this social environment was provided in the third moment. All in all, this is an interesting aspect that the art installations can add value to the design field in terms of provoking reflections that, if intensively discussed and exchanged, can provoke social transformations and behavior changes.

PROVOKED REFLECTION AND DISCUSSIONS The intention of provoking debate through a relational experience was achieved. Visitors wrote their personal reflections provoked by the exhibition in the Papyrus and in the Postcard. Moreover, many reported during feedback interview to have shared with colleagues new perspectives about the Refugee issues, and that they share the same multilocal feeling of home. As they could also see many interesting similarities to their own culture, it means they were connected through empathy.

“I was discussing to a friend that when you see this event, you notice that there are things that get lost in the coverage of the refugees. For example, you start to disconnect the people from their culture. When you listen to the music, you see that there is so much of a hidden culture. You notice that it is also a very happy culture which you can see from the music and the people dancing. So that brings you back and gives you a different perspective. (S., 25, MA Design student, visitor) “I think it is really good because now, there are a lot of things talking about refugees like “Welcome them” but this project did something that is different from what other people are doing. You thought about it, you studied it and but then you also interacted with them. (…) From the postcards you see that everyone feels the same about home: they miss it. (…) There are people here from so many cultures here, and they are interacting to each other because of the event. People get to know each other and share their feelings, which generally is the same when they are far away from home.” (M., 21, BA Exchange design student, event’s volunteer)


06. Conclusions













in a nutshell:

• Understand different aspects of home • Reflection and empathy in regards to migration issues • Change stereotypes about Refugees • Learn about different cultures, specially Arabic • Practice of different languages • Establish contact with the University or have practical questions about how to study there answered • Refugees meeting with locals and other internationals, and the other way round • Meet new people with a common intercultural interest • Affect people and provoke reflections through relational art and design


This research supports the argument that the exhibition design should include in the process many layers of participation. The experiments showed that it is possible to involve groups (refugees) in the content creation (participatory research), design exhibition in collaboration with them (participatory design) and the installations designed to have their active social participation (design of participatory exhibition). 214

As it was pointed, the exhibitions as

a medium can either intermediate social relations, trigger them, or both. For example, in the occasion of the Tree of Wishes participation, visitors didn’t talk a lot to each other but the installation itself established anyhow a certain kind of honest communication that a conversation with a stranger generally could not provide. As a result, it establishes a positive intimacy and empathy to “others”, which would never happen without this intermediation. In this case, it intermediates the social relations, and after trigger it in an indirect way.

Moreover, the intentional different experiences, aiming for testing visitor’s active and passive interaction proved that a “relational mediation” (like Postcard and Papyrus), results in more qualitative exchanges between visitors than “external/technology mediation” (In / Outside of the Box and Invented Boarders), which makes much more sense in an event gathering lots of people. This comparative output was an opportunity to prove the point that the physical presence should be more than coexistence but sharing, so the encounters in this space are the main profit. All in all, it presents suggestive conclusions that these actions are possibly causing social transformation like fostering critical mind, intercultural empathy, reflections about the differences and stereotypes. In that sense, it can friendly hack local communities, envisioning long-term improvements.

THEORY AND WORKSHOP RELEVANCE ON RESULTS In the diagram bellow, it is possible to see that the workshop were part of the creative process of all the installations, and the experience developed would not be possible without being involved with the Refugee`s community. Due to the fact that they came to the event and took advantage of the narrative exhibited there to start conversations was a good measure of positive results. Moreover, in installations like In/Outside the box, Postcard and Papyrus, their own stories could be identified between all the other visitors, which place them as one more person of the community with similar stories about home.


06. Conclusions

LIMITATIONS This work does not intend to prove its results through quantitative numbers or precise countable results. Instead, it intends to borrow the subjectivity of Art studies and some methods of social sciences to measure patterns of behaviors within design experiments. Moreover, as it was mentioned before, this project did not tackle directly the economic quantitative value of the exhibitions, neither for the issue mapping, problematic nor for the results measurement. Firstly, the value of this sector (cultural exhibitions) cannot be measured exclusively from quantitative financial assessment, because an important value generated is the social capital. Secondly, this research came from academic perspective, which is seen here as a space for experimentation to the establishment of wellbeing and innovation to different groups of society. Furthermore, “Where is home?” was an exhibition that took place inside the doors of the University. This restricts part of the results to this academic environment because it did not offer the same constraints of the market like an Art gallery, and neither conservation priorities like in Museums. For this reason, there are limitations to affirm


that this social activism could find the same mechanisms to happen through the methods used here, but applied to that context. Despite this, it is still valuable to advance in an emerging “Participatory exhibitions” field of studies. The success of the event points that the art and design schools should be a place for participatory exhibitions aiming for social innovation. In opposition to that, many of the design and art schools are still doing their events and student’s work exhibitions based on the “White Cube” ideology. In addition to that, it should be said that the intention was not to prove that the White Cube ideology is wrong or do not work at all. For sure, it is possible to reasonably argument in favor of it, which is a strong and dominant language for exhibitions, and that have been definitely working for some situations. However, the main focus of this research is to foster the social catalyst aspect of the exhibitive spaces and point possible directions to social innovation, which the actual status quo language cannot offer. Lastly, this research permeates the role of the exhibitions in social and political changes, but the evaluation of it is hard

in a short term. It is a huge challenge to measure and evaluating social impact, which points that there is a demand for the continuation of these studies. Although this assessment demand time and costs that are dependent on many external factors of the exhibitive space surroundings, it is an interesting approach in order to propose ideas for the city regeneration and social inclusion.

REFUGEES TOPIC: CUTTING OF GENDER In regards to the approach to the social context of the Refugees in Germany, there was an important gap that could not be ranged: cutting of gender. Particular groups are, generally, more vulnerable than others, thus, it is important to mention that the situation of women in the war and the chances to apply as an asylum seeker is obviously totally then than of man, and that is a relevant issue for future exhibitions covering the refugee’s narratives. Considering the utility value of this support for the group of refugees in Cologne, specifically about the ones coming from Syria, this project found difficulties to have women as

participants of the research. Most of the refugee’s residents in Cologne in 2017 were man, and the women I talked felt always intimidated to participate. That is not an occasional and coincidental fact. Hence, it is an important issue to be mentioned that, although it is relevant for the exhibition content to have participation of woman, the contextual factors did not favor that. There are still many gaps in the coverage of a refugee journey. As a consequence, it is hard to point the specific reasons why there way more man than woman receiving asylum. In fact, the stage of the journey in which women are particularly in trouble to succeed is a lot before the “Adaptation” to the new county reached in this research. It probably starts already from the individual decision of leaving the country, women are often believed to be less able to survive a conflict and flee a conflict, and that also morally required with their ‘mother duties’ of protect and stay with their children. A refugee man reported during the project that it could be due to religious and cultural reasons, considering Muslim women are culturally less independent from the family and, which makes difficult to move alone to another country.


06. Conclusions

RECOMMENDATIONS As a conclusion, it was verified that exhibitions has potential trigger social transformations through critical thinking, intercultural exchange and integration. Thus, it can offer a relevant contribution to the social innovation in the future, especially by investing in the concept of LABs. As it was observed in the current exhibitions, Museums already noticed that the learning methods of an exhibition can extend the act of watching an artwork or content as spectator. These spaces for contribution and learning inside the exhibition are an interesting trend to transform this field, envisioning social innovation. To sum it up, this study recommends the exhibitions to absorb also the concept of the Living LABs. These are spaces for co-creation and collaborations along with


the community. The main quality that should be pointed is that the knowledge and critical thinking in this kind of proposal is not only absorbed in a top-down arrangement, but co-created by real users and life environment in a bottom-up process. In other words, it offers user-centered open-innovation ecosystem, offering an environment for development of any study and for testing it. These qualities could be an important shift to the exhibition environment, especially when they are located in the context of the schools, Universities and cultural Museums. This process of active participation and “hands on� activities offer support change the way how people absorb the content of an exhibition to learn by doing, and results in process of empowerment of their own knowledge.

Museum & Gallery as Living Lab Could the creation and visit of an exhibition be at the same time?







L a b s

trigger next discussion

Common local issue

Discussion & Creative action

Exhibition: encounters performance & action outcome



A c k n o w l e d g m e n t s



This Master Thesis reflects a four semester journey in Cologne, Germany, and a semester in Shanghai, China. It would be impossible without the support of the collaborators in many different levels. A special acknowledgment must go to my Thesis supervisor Prof. Andreas Muxel for providing me valuable feedbacks and guidance during the research that led to this book. Furthermore, my appreciation to Prof. Philipp Heidkamp, from which the mentoring as head of the KISD Master Program and encouragement to expand my studies abroad were equally important. I am grateful to the trust and exceptional learning experience that was offered me as first Master Student from the Double Degree Program of KISD / TH Köln in partnership with the College of Design and Innovation / Tongji University. In regards to that, I am also thankful to the support from Prof. Dr. LOU Yongqi, as my supervisor from Tongji. Moreover, my sincere appreciation to all the excellent professionals that accepted to be interviewed, and to the participants of the action research, for the collaboration and willingness, specially the very kind Syrian Refugees and the organizers from the Über den Tellerrand Project and SpracheLernZentrum from the TH Köln.

In regards to the exhibition “Where is home?” as final experiment, a thank you for the KISD organizational support from Miss Birgit Pawelzik and the TH Köln presidency for the trust. In addition, to all the Bachelor and Master students that helped to build, set and were volunteers during the event. My special appreciation to Mr. Gerd Mies from the Wood Workshop, which supported me with his expertise during the whole process of building, and also to Igor Shin and Filipi Dias to the collaboration in the “Invented Boarders” installation. I am thankful to the DAAD organization, which awarded me with full-time Master scholarship, which was crucial for this period of studies exclusive dedication and adaptation to the country through the German Language course. This is also result of a personal journey into a new home, so I have to thank my colleagues of the Master, specially Aline Alonso, Liwen Zhong and Mary Rizk for the design research consultancy, practical support during the thesis development and friendship. Finally, I would not be here without the strong lifelong support from my family back in Brazil.















l r


i a y



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11. Malpass, Matt (2017) Critical Design in Practice: History, Design and Practices. New York: Bloomsbury. 153p. 12. McLuhan, Marshall. (1964). Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York: McGraw-Hill. 318p. 13. O’Doherty, Brian. (1976) Inside the White Cube: The ideology of the Gallery Space. San Francisco: The Lapis Press (1986). 120p. 14. Simon, Nina. (2010). The Participatory Museum. Santa Cruz, CA: Museum. 388p. 15. Slowinska, Maria A. (2014 Art/Commerce: The Convergence of Art and Marketing in Contemporary Culture. Chapter: Art Spaces/Commercial Spaces. 19-108p. Series: Cultural and Media Studies. Transcript-Verlag. 288p. 16. United Nations (ONU), Department of Economic & Social Affairs. “International Migration Report 2015 Highlights”. ST/ESA/SER.A/384, September, 2016. Accessed February 21th, 2017. 17. UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). “Mid-year Trends 2016”. February, 2017. Accessed April 22th, 2017. 18. Whyte, William H. (1980) Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. Washington D.C.: Conservation Foundation. Video Online. Available HTTP: https://vimeo. com/111488563 (Accessed 13/12/2015).


Profile for Mariana Lourenco

MA Thesis - Social Interaction through Installations: Outside the White Cube  

Final thesis, Master of Integrated Design at KISD / Cologne and Design at Tongji University / Shanghai from Mariana Lourenço, supervised by...

MA Thesis - Social Interaction through Installations: Outside the White Cube  

Final thesis, Master of Integrated Design at KISD / Cologne and Design at Tongji University / Shanghai from Mariana Lourenço, supervised by...