street action: LIVING EXHIBITION

AIMS OF THE SESSION:

  • to challenge and refute people’s general misconceptions about migration through exhibition
  • to create a link between one individual, personal story and global context
  • to express the story through body language
  • to invite and raise curiosity about the exhibition

CONTENT

The main goal of »Living exhibition« is to inform the public about the misconceptions concerning migration, which are rooted in a series of false facts that stem out of lack of knowledge about the nature, causes and consequences of migration processes. The focal point of the action is the exhibition “LET’S WASH OFF OUR PREJUDICE” (Italian: “SPOGLIAMOCI DEI PREGIUDIZI”), which is supported by live image theatre performance and storytelling with boards. The exhibition, made of hanging T-shirts on a rope, each T-shirt carrying one of the false facts about migration, was set in between two trees in the square and was there for the people to inform themselves about true facts concerning migration processes. In order to attract people’s attention, every half an hour an image performance in front of the exhibition took place. The story in the performance was explaining the surroundings about one of the false facts that were stated in the exhibition. By presenting a personal, local story we were able to create a link to the exhibition and place the story from a local environment into a broader, global context. We decided to focus on the misconception that it would be better to help migrants develop in their own countries so that they would be able to stay there and wouldn’t have to go elsewhere. In order to do that we chose a story about a man named Prince from Ghana, who was growing and selling his own tomatoes in Ghana and led a happy life. After a while, European companies started selling tomato sauce at a much lower price and soon after that he was out of business. In order to support his family, Prince was forced to leave Ghana and his family to find work elsewhere. He arrived to Italy and found work in a big company, working on a tomato plantation, being exploited as so many others workers. In order to avoid any misunderstandings from the public, after each image we displayed a board explaining what is happening in the performance. At the end of the performance, we displayed the final board, which presented the misconception we were refuting and the whole group invited people to come closer and read more information in the exhibition. Before the image performance took place, one person, who was not a part of the group image, held the board carrying the title of the exhibition (board 1). The board was slowly placed on the ground. Then the group carrying out image performance formed the first image and set the beginning of the story. After some short time, the person holding the boards displayed the board with the first element of the story (board 2). Shortly after the second board was placed on the floor, the group formed the second image presenting the cause. Giving the people some time to understand the meaning of the second image, the person in front again then displayed the board (board 3). Again, the board was placed on the floor and the group transformed into the third image, presenting the consequences and after a while, the image was again reinforced by displaying the board (board 4). While the group remained in the last image, the person in charge of boards displayed the final board (board 5), which reinforced the happening in the image performance and refuted the misconception. The whole group lined up and opened their arms, pointing to the exhibition, inviting people to come closer and find out/read more about the topic.

WORKING METHODS

  • t-shirt exhibition »LET’S WASH OFF OUR PREJUDICE« (Italian: »SPOGLIAMOCI DEI PREGIUDIZI«) hanging on a rope just as our clothes after washing them
  • image theatre depicting a real, personal story connected to one of the false facts from the exhibition
  • storytelling with the boards – in order to support understanding of the story
  • music – on order to attract the attention of people walking by before playing out the story

PREPARATIONS

  1. SETTING UP THE EXHIBITION

Although the exhibition »LET’S WASH OFF OUR PREJUDICE« (Italian: »SPOGLIAMOCI DEI PREGIUDIZI«) has already been developed prior to the action Living exhibition, the following lines contain a description of the process of setting up such an exhibition. In order to prepare the exhibition, we need to collect the common misconceptions/false facts concerning migration and also the information with real facts which refute them. We print the false facts each on a separate paper and glue them separately on T-shirts (old T-shirts or bought at the second hand store). Each T-shirt carries one false fact on the upper side of it, bellow it we glue papers with information refuting them and providing the reader with real data concerning each false fact. After the T-shirts are done, we tie the rope between two elements in the space (two trees) and hang the T-shirts the rope, as if hanging our clothes after washing them.

  1. SUPPORTING THE EXHIBITION WITH LIVE IMAGE PERFORMANCE

In order to support the exhibition, we find a real, personal and local story relating to one of the false facts from the exhibition. We identify the three key moments in the story and create three different group images that »tell the story« with bodies in front of the exhibition. In order to avoid any misunderstanding of the story from the public, we support the group images by telling the story with boards. Since the street action “Living exhibition” took place in the square of the beautiful town of Lecce, Italy, we also included the Italian texts that were used during the action.

  1. STORYTELLING WITH THE BOARDS

We prepare 5 different boards which are displayed by one member of the group who is not a part of the group images. We write the following different things on the boards:

BOARD 1 (a big black board): CARRYING THE TITLE: THE EXHIBITION: »LET’S WASH OFF OUR PREJUDICE« (Italian: »MESTRE SPUGLIAMO DEI PREGIUDIZI«)

BOARD 2 (a smaller green): Prince is a farmer, growing and selling tomatoes in Ghana, living a happy life. (Italian: Prince, un agricoltore che produce pomodori in Ghana, vive bene.)

BOARD 3 (a smaller yellow): A big company producer from Europe starts selling tomato sauce at much lower price. (Italian: Un grande produttore dall’Europa vende la salsa di pomodoro a un prezzo molto basso.)

BOARD 4 (a smaller red): Prince has to leave his family in Ghana and finds work in Italy, working for a big company in tomato fields. (Italian: Prince deve lasciare la sua famiglia. Trova lavoro in Italia nella raccolta di pomodori per un grosso produttore.)

BOARD 5 (a big black): THE FALSE FACT IN QUESTION: “WOULDN’T IT BE BETTER TO HELP THEM IN THEIR OWN COUNTRIES SO THEY CAN STAY THERE?” (Italian: “MA NON SAREBBE MEGLIO AIUTARSI A CASA LORO E RIMANENDO NEI PROPRI PAESI CHE POSSONO SVILUPARSI?”)

  1. MUSIC

As people are passing by and probably don’t notice that a theatre performance is about to take place, it is good to use some kind of action that attracts their attention right before the performance is about to take place. In order to do that, we made use of music – by drumming we were able to attract people’s attention our way.

MATERIALS NEEDED

  • t-shirts for the exhibition (old worn-out T-shirts or T-shirts bought in a second hand store)
  • paper – to equip the T-shirts with misconceptions printed on paper and additional information that refute there misconceptions
  • a strong glue
  • rope – to hang the exhibition on
  • clips to hang the T-shirts on the rope
  • different props, in our case we only used tomatoes (which the protagonist was growing) and we
  • also made a can of tomato sauce (Salsa), to support the image of a big company bringing tomato
  • sauce to Ghana. In the third image, the tomatoes were again used by the protagonist (working
  • on tomato fields form some other company), showing the paradox of the situation.
  • 2 big black boards (reusable plastic boards)
  • 3 smaller boards: 1 green, 1 yellow, 1 red
  • markers of different colours (white, black etc.)

COMMENTS/IDEAS

Just a few things we’ve learnt during our action:

  • it is good to use the capital letters when writing on the boards
  • when choosing an action before the performance in order to attract the attention of the people one has to be careful
  • the action should not involve the people who are later performing because it might cause confusion as people will be trying to connect whatever the group is doing prior to the performance and the performance itself. That is why we decided to involve a friend  who attracted the attention by drumming and then left the scene, was not a part of the image performance.
  • in order to avoid any misunderstanding of the action, the last board should carry a question which makes people re-think the misconception we are dealing with. For example; “Are we really helping them?”
  • the story used should be a real, personal story, possibly related or linked to local environment. That way people have some knowledge about the situation and it is easier for them to relate to it.