How do we perceive ourselves and others in today's multicultural world?
Nowadays, globalization and technology mean that we cross borders much more often and easier than a few generations ago. The challenges that affect us, such as economic inequalities, the search for a better future, the desire to learn about the world or fleeing climate change or conflicts, turn many of us into migrants. As a consequence, major social changes are taking place. Multiculturalism allows us to observe people different from us, learn about new values and systems of thinking that change our current perception of ourselves and the world. We question and redefine traditional ideals and values. Drawing from various cultural capitals enriches us, but also prompts us to pose difficult questions, it can be a source of conflicts and divisions. As Ryszard Kapuściński said, “participating in a multicultural world requires a strong and mature sense of identity” . What does this mean for us?
The slogan Gdynia Design Days 2022 – Empasea – refers to the Baltic Sea and its impact on the life of everyone, regardless of where they live. The sea is not only a space for migration, but also a place of constant change. Just as the sea can be changeable, so man fluctuates between his different selves. During the "Mult-identity" exhibition, we will learn about designs that are designers' responses to the complex tangle of sociological phenomena. We will also touch on difficult topics related to prejudices, divisions between people or integration problems. We will look at the new challenges of our time related to constant change, multiple identities and the emergence of new types of societies based more on a community of values than on a shared past.
 Ryszard Kapuściński – Ten Inny
1. Irregular variation in the severity of a process or phenomenon; also: single change in the severity of the course
2. random deviation of the value of a physical quantity from its mean values (source: PWN).
The exhibition "Multi-identities" during Gdynia Design Days 2022 was created in cooperation with Julia Rajs.
Values in a new context
Globalization is responsible for the migration of many things, including values. However, as ideas from different geographic locations travel from place to place, they often lose their original meaning or become selectively adapted along the way. Nowadays, through capitalism, they are assimilated and watered-down for marketing purposes. Especially if they are "exotic" from the point of view of a Eurocentric culture.
Bom Noh is from South Korea where she was raised in a family practising Buddhism. Upon in the Netherlands, she encountered a completely different and transformed use/meaning of the Buddha image. In this country where Buddhism isn’t widespread, The figure of an idol; Buddha can be found almost everywhere. Not only in the domestic environment but also in stores, working environments, bars, and restaurants, even in restrooms .Can the representation of Buddha be a tool to understand and reflect on Dutch society? Through interviews with diverse experts related to social/philosophy/religion, Bom discovered how the Buddha image in the Netherlands is commodified as a symbol of mindfulness, peace and meditation that can lead to happiness and wellness. As a result, she witnessed the possession of Buddha images can be seen as the dominant side of the wellness industries compelling people to symbolise their life as well-being and happiness. She presents her journey in a video installation that illuminates the layers behind the Buddha image in the Dutch context and other European countries where the same phenomenon increases.
Understanding national identity
National identities remain one of the most popular ways that individuals use to define their place in the world. Yet attempting to discuss one's relationship with one's homeland often stirs up enormous emotions and conflict. Patriotism is based not only on lofty ideas of national sovereignty but also on social solidarity and cultivation of community. Can we Poles talk about our attitude towards our homeland without divisions?
Patriotic Parawan is an installation consisting of beach screens depicting the Polish national flag. Surfacing, which is getting up at dawn, fighting for the best place on the beach, and then fencing it in, is a social phenomenon in Poland. And thanks to it being a common practice on the Baltic beaches, has become to some extent a symbol of Polish culture. Is fencing off and isolation really emblematic of our identity on a larger scale? In his work, Bartosz Zimniak reflects on contemporary patriotism, a sense of connection with the country, and identification with one's place of birth. Even in such a peaceful setting as a seaside beach, why is it so important for us to separate ourselves from others? The patch in the form of a tag – "100 % cotton, 100 % tolerance and 100 % acceptance MADE IN POLAND “ – reminds us of the values that would help a fractured society to reunite.
Proverbs reflect the folk wisdom of a nation. Understanding proverbs reveals the cultural foundations, aspirations, and beliefs of a society.
The West and the East are seen as opposites, yet proverbs emerge that convey common values. This can lead to internal conflict in people who identify with both cultures simultaneously. Can't both sides coexist in one person? The authors of the project, the Koppelteken group, as members of the Chinese diaspora in the Netherlands, noticed that similarities are often overlooked and unacknowledged, and practicing "foreign" values is considered a betrayal. In their zine 並行 / Co exist / Bijzijn the designers highlight the similarities between the two societies. Chinese and Dutch proverbs were paired based on the unity of the values conveyed. It turns out that although spoken in a different way, the goals are common, and the two societies are closer to each other than they admit on a daily basis.
Celebration of differences.
Every country has its cultural norms defining acceptable behavior. But what is the significance of these rules in the context of globalization and cultural mixing?
"Jumping" between socially desirable personality traits can become a minefield where styles, aesthetics, or even tastes clash between what is desirable and accepted, and what is foreign and shameful. The artist Chongjin Chen wonders if this struggle daily life is full of invisible taboos? Are we all, like modern pagans, constantly disciplined by 'sacred, contemporary' (Eurocentric) life? "Pagan festival" consists of a multidisciplinary installation combining video, performance, experiment and sculpture. It is a kind of archive of the artist's experiments with the theme of confrontation between "normality" and the domination of monoculture in the context of globalization. As a Chinese woman living in Europe, she bases the project on her personal experiences in her homeland and the city she currently lives in. Despite how intimate a portrait this 'festival' is, it depicts the universal experiences of people who fluctuate and adjust their 'selves' to circumstances on a daily basis. Ultimately, for those who are defined as migrants, foreigners and outsiders, it is an opportunity to celebrate their otherness.
Migration as continuity, from forever and ever
The only constant is change.
Landscapes are constantly changing, carving new paths for social change. The impact of the environment on humans, and conversely humans on the environment, has always been a motivation for movement. Now, with climate change such a powerful driver, we know all the more that the human identity of the future will be based on constant change and migration.
The number of climate refugees could range from 25 million to 1 billion people by 2050*. This is a great challenge globally, often evoking negative emotions such as anger, fear, and a sense of hopelessness. And yet, humans have adapted to changes in nature many times in the past. Will it be so this time too? The installation LANDSHAPES is composed of AI generated images of landscapes. These speculative worlds are constantly changing, presenting likely scenarios for future landforms. Shifting bird's eye views show our world as an ever-changing, harmonious whole. An artificial intelligence network, developed from thousands of high-resolution satellite images, acts as a neutral mediator of the experience. The messaging of climate change is often fearful, demotivating and overwhelming. Instead, LANDSHAPES aims to fascinate with the beauty of the complex and changing system that is the climate. To offer a place to find peace, hope, and allow people to reflect fearlessly on their collective future.
*data International Organization for Migration
We are all newcomers.
The theory that language shapes the course of our thinking has long been the subject of study by linguists. That is, from a scientific perspective, vocabulary, narrative, grammar, and other elements of language, determine how we perceive reality. This includes our self-image and perceptions of others.
The "Nowacy" campaign by Jana Shostak aims to replace the Polish word "refugee" with "nowak" (or "nowaczka"). The idea has been popularized in the media, including participation in the TV program Słownik polsko@polski with Prof. Jan Miodek, as well as numerous radio programs and interviews in the press and on the Internet. The artist collects materials and publishes them on her Facebook profile. They will become materials to legitimize the word in the PWN dictionary. Shostak is attempting to popularize this moniker, which so far doesn't exist in everyday language, by associating it with the most popular surname in Poland. However, the project has a global dimension. In fact, alongside the Polish Nowak, Novak (in Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian, Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian), Novák (in Hungarian, Czech and Slovak) and Novac (in Romanian) is one of the most common surnames in Central and Eastern Europe. The project is therefore not only a tool for breaking down prejudices, but also a question about the place of outsiders, newcomers and migrants in a society in which each of us is in part a 'newcomer'.
The Migrant Journal
Encyclopedia of migration.
It seems that migration today, due to globalization and technological development, has become a sign of our times. And while it’s true that it is happening faster and has very complex consequences, it is in fact part of the genesis of humanity. In the past, movement throughout societies was often the foundation of their strength, and the adaptation of other people's skills and knowledge a condition of survival.
The Migrant Journal is a publication devoted to the circulation of goods and people around the world and the transformative impact it has on space. The six-volume collection seeks to present migration in all its forms and build an antidote to the polemical discourse that associates the word exclusively with crises. The publication stimulates a fresh look at the concept, examining with encyclopedic insight everything from the movement of people and goods to information, flora and fauna. The project aims to explore the relationship between these elements, events, journeys and spaces , which is crucial to understanding today's society and its complex identity.
Breaking the barriers
Bring down divisions.
Walls and fences not only create physical barriers, but also tend to clearly define who is on one or the other side of them. Do they nurture a sense of community, or a disconnect in the minds of those whom they separate?
Although he was taught that South Korea's main enemy is North Korea, designer Moonseop Seo wonders what is on the other side of the border that divides the Koreas. He points out the intergenerational polarization towards their neighbors. While the older generations still remember a time when the two countries formed one nation, the next generations of Koreans have always been told that a stranger lives on the other side. The designer wonders if it is possible to challenge this status quo by interfering with the wall on the border. If modern Koreans saw the man on the other side, would they be able to build a new image of him? In his project, Seo ponders this by proposing a conceptual solution in which the materiality of borders made of concrete and barbed wire is replaced by a soap bubble. Using the inherent qualities of the material – transience and fragility – he creates an ephemeral wall that will soon burst, opening the way to meet the other side.
Change of perspective.
Cultures are enriched through integration, but this can also be a source of conflict and division. Integrating values is a challenge. Are the tools created to bridge cultures keeping up with reality?
The REAL-INTEGRATION project is a video created by reworking the Dutch integration exam (inburgeringsexamen). The original intent of these exams is to help foreigners understand the rules and culture of everyday life in the Netherlands. Although the test tells you, for example, how to behave when visiting a patient in the hospital, it does not tell you how to handle yourself when you encounter ridicule or aggression, even though this is a common experience. All the scenarios in the new exam are based on the real stories of 23 people with migrant backgrounds. The project responds to issues of discrimination and migrant identity in everyday life. It also draws attention to the context in which the support materials are created. Do hypothetical scenes invented from the perspective of natives really reflect the full reality of integration?
Facts vs. prejudices
Identity is conceptualized by people’s relationship to themselves and others in their communities. However, perceptions of other people often diverge from reality, especially in times when fake news and unverified information are globally disseminated.
Public opinion, built from assumptions gathered from disinformation channels and anecdotal evidence, gives way to stereotypes in everyday discourse. Starting from the most widespread prejudices, Max Samuel Hornäcker seeks to provide transparent economic and social information about the relationship between Italians and migrants through tangible objects. The installation El Dorado aims to juxtapose opinions with facts. A series of eight capsules containing natural-colored and gilded materials represent statistical data. Interacting with them brings to light the contrast between stereotypes and reality. The choice of gold, which resembles a thermal blanket given to migrants after a rescue operation, is meant to show that foreigners and migrants are an asset to the country they arrive in, and a boon to the economy. It begs the question – what is El Dorado* and for whom?
*El Dorado, Eldorado – a legendary land in South America full of gold. The word comes from the abbreviated Spanish term "el hombre dorado," meaning "the golden man".
Black is polish
Different and equal
At a time when the stereotypical perception of a Pole as a white Slav seems to be outdated, are we ready to deconstruct the myth of a culturally monolithic nation? Can racism and prejudice give way to unification through education?
When, during the protests against the murder of George Floyd, a photo of a black Polish woman holding a banner with the words "don't call me negro" appeared in the media, part of Polish society, including the Polish Language Council, launched a debate on the use of the word in public space and its pejorative nature. Despite this issue being raised in the past by Black Poles and falling on deaf ears, it finally got its day in the sun. On the wave of these events, the hashtag #dontcallmemurzyn was coined, gained momentum, and the anti-racist, educational platform Black is Polish came into being. Created by Sara Alexandre, Noemi Ndoloka Mbezi, Marta Udoh and Ogi Ugonoh, Black is Polish shows the perspective of dark-skinned Polish women on life in the country and related problems. Activists deal with the monolithic vision of Poland and the myth that there is no racism in our country. They show that it is not always explicit aggression, but the whole, unfair social structure that requires transformation. Although they often receive malicious comments during their work, they patiently explain how to become an ally of the Black community and fight inequalities on a daily basis.