Ideas behind the project
Initiator, concept creator and project manager
I am very grateful for the potential that the Goethe-Institut Paris, the partner consortium and the EU Culture Programme have given this project as it required a major platform.
The idea of the U.S.E project was born out of the low turnout rate in the 2009 European Parliament elections, which I thought must be symptomatic of the low confidence that many Europeans have in the EU…Or was it? Why do people not care about European citizenship? I have myself always felt a strong tie to Europe as a geographical entity and I have always found common denominators with many cultures in Europe.
U.S.E aims not only to debate European citizenship but also to disseminate the discussion as broadly as possible. It is done through bridge building debates and also through the laboratory and the website where we would like to connect different views.
This is why it was very important to ask Europeans with contrasting life situations to participate in our interviews. In the exhibition, these interviews are confronted with the works of 14 artists (videos, photos, installations) and a multimedia
laboratory; documentation is mixed with artistic interpretations. I wanted to present to the visitor an exhibition that offers assorted visual dimensions on Europe and European identity through diverse disciplines and angles.
The laboratory is the very heart of the exhibition and except from being an artwork itself, it is present to function as a communication platform for you visitors. Go there and you can for example answer a touch screen Europe quiz and give us feedback via the visitors log book.
These elements are connected to the U.S.E website: www.go-use.eu
U.S.E is not designed to be propaganda for a federal Europe. The project has been created out of a need to present a cultural project that adds new, diverse, artistic perspectives to the debate about the Europe we live in. With today’s severe
economical crisis it is more important than ever to present art and culture projects that can play important roles for the functioning of our society.
Three curators from the international art scene have been chosen to work with one group of artists each. Here Anna, Ryszard and Sinziana have their say about U.S.E.
Curator, St Petersburg, Russia
The issue of identity has long been important to contemporary art. Nowadays the question of identity has become particularly crucial due to globalization and intense migration processes that have changed the profile of most nations, including European ones. Based on Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of habitus, forms of national identity are relatively stable but they should not be considered natural or given. Only encouraging interactions with other citizens and the notion of “ other ” can often help to develop forms of habitus and identity.
The exhibition serves both as a platform for an open discussion about contemporary Europe and as a great tool to strengthen the sense of European identity among people in the EU. According to Bice Curiger, curator of the 54th Venice Biennale, artists are known as “ cultural tourists and keenly perceptive migrants ” therefore their voices are particularly important.
In her photo series “ Estonian Race ” the Estonian artist Tanja Muravskaya draws our attention towards an increase in nationalistic movements in present-day Europe. In a video installation named “ Risk Society ”, the German art collective REINIGUNGSGESELLSCHAFT reveals the mentality of young Europeans by interviewing students from a German high school.
The main characters in the video piece “ How Capital Moves ”, by the Irish artist-duo, Kennedy Browne, are disappointed with the concept of free market within the EU and denounce economic inequality. The public art installation by Finnish artist Kaarina Kaikkonen could be seen as the romantic image of a united Europe where states support each other. But her work could also remind us of some historical events like wars, revolutions or economical struggles that frequently separated Europe in the past.
Curator, Łódź, Poland
The development of the EU brings up the subject of socialcultural integrity of all European societies. Traditionally we used to talk about identity in such a context. But the notion of identity nowadays, both individual and collective, creates many doubts, regarding processes of globalization, migrations, the merging of cultures, hybridization of traditions. European identity is not a serious issue even among EU citizens. When identifying themselves, they most often talk about nationality, gender, profession, religion, but not about being European.
In such a situation, we may try to develop a socially attractive concept of “ Europeaness ”, or, following the theory of Giorgio Agamben, reconsider the concept of “ community without identity”, in which participants do not share the same
essential identity, but play roles of different examples of such a community.
The exhibition sets the stage for a deliberation of various aspects of this issue. Works of the invited artists discuss its different, important issues.
Examines the question of historical components of national identities. Draws our attention to the consequences of poverty,
homelessness, and marginalization. addresses the problem of power relations among European nation-states. analyses the question of homeland and asks what makes a place feel like home. The issue of home and its role in the process of identity formation is at the very heart of the works of both Konik and Lusitano-Santos.
Extends the field undertaking problems of ethnicity and migration. The artists do not provide us with any final answers. Instead they simply make us aware of the complexity and the scope of these questions.
Curator, Paris, France
What is Europe today? Is it a geographic region? A concept? A state of mind? Europe has eliminated many borders, but it has also created new ones. There are tensions everywhere. The gap between “ being ” and “ becoming ” European,“ having rights ” and “ fighting for ones rights ” is growing bigger and bigger. France is struggling with unemployment, Holland with the new “Cultural Meltdown”, London with violent riots, Norway with right wing extremists, not to mention the economic crisis in Greece and the other East-European countries.
Europe seems, more than ever, to be torn between nihilists and optimists, people that fight for a better world and those that gave up hope a long, long time ago. Democracy is threatened everywhere, and politicians and the public are -according to Chantal Mouffe - caught up in “antagonistic” power relations instead of looking for “agonistic”, fruitful ones.
In “ Democracies ” (2009) Artur Żmijewski explores the possibility of “ free expression in public space ” by filming both staged and “real” demonstrations.
Through the video film “Ausgeträumt” (2010) Deimantas Narkevičius speculates on the horizons of a new generation through a music video depicting his teenage son’s emo band in Lithuania and a mysterious car drive through a snowy landscape.
In “ Lord’s Ride ” (2010), Jean-Charles Hue investigates the social community of a Roma family in the north of France, turning upside down all our expectations of what their life must be.
Apostolis Polymeris digs into his grandfather’s memories about his migration from Greece to Belgium and Kyriaki Costa plays with both dystopian and utopian visions of a Europe to come.