Living Room – a space connecting cultures, ages and skills
“Living Room” is an interdisciplinary project focusing on refugee empowerment through craft & entrepreneurship. Terra Vera Association connected immigrants, refugees and the asylum seekers with local artists, association The Place in Between as well as students from the Faculty for Natural Sciences and Engineering in Ljubljana
The project showcases the talent, creativity and knowledge of asylum seekers as well as Slovenian artists and students. The project was first showcased at BIO biennale in Ljubljana last year, before being invited to show the work to a wider audience in Tate Exchange in May 2018 as part of a cross-platform event and exhibition “Who Are We?”.
We have chatted to the students about their involvement with the project and what they learned from working with it.
Tell me about your involvement in the project?
Our part of the exhibition consisted of three different objects, each one with a different background story, based on the different journeys the refugees experienced. We worked closely with them and together created pieces of furniture that combine their culture and skills with ours.
Authors: Darija Batić, Polona Šavc, Teja Rojnik, Rojin Mohamd, IsmaAel Kalel and Romat Hassan
The idea of the hanging bag emerged when we talked to refugees from Syria. In their tales, full of memories of the home they had to leave, Syrian Kurds gradually revealed their rich and original culture. On their refugee path they have slept in all kinds of temporary beds. In the creative process the common everyday hammock grew into a small home – a cocoon of peace and silence. It is made using simple knotting technique.
THREE-DIMENSIONAL CARPET AND MIRROR
Authors: Tara Lombergar, Denis Lukeševič and Ilir Halili
The inspiration for the carpet came from the conversations with Ilir Halili from Kosovo. We wanted to find a symbiosis between the two cultures and merge them into a single unit, a 3D carpet. In Kosovo the carpet is given the central position in the living room. From Slovene culture we took lace, which we had cut out from the carpet. We raised the cut outs and we placed mirrored cubes underneath them. Three cubes, turned towards each other, create their own social space in the living room.
MULTIPURPOSE TRAVEL BAG AND DRAWINGS
Authors: Ina Hadžisulejmanović, Kaja Repenšek, Pia Gorišek, Moutaz Bara and Mahmoud Sabbag
The shocking story of two refugees from Syria touched us. The towns in which they lived have disappeared. Bags with essentials they brought with them now represents their entire home. Their bitter experiences became the starting point for planning a multipurpose travel bag. Its shape imitates a silhouette of a well, which is the central object in the atrium of every Syrian home. Bag can be open as petals. Inner part can be temporarily moved to free the bottom, which becomes a convenient surface where the family can sit, play and eat.
How did you get involved with this project?
We got involved with the project through a textile design subject at our university. We saw an opportunity to experience something new, to learn from other cultures and help people feel welcome.
Why do you think it’s important to produce socially engaged work?
Art and design is a powerful medium that lets us connect people and raise socio-political questions. Art uses visual language to portray information, stimulates thinking process and let them question their surroundings. It makes people stop and think, even if it’s for a minute.
Often it’s not just about the final product, but also about the creative process and work that was put in to developing and producing it. It involves people from a variety of different environments, social statues and ages. It makes people feel included and equal, which is extremely important in this day and age.
How was it working with refugees?
At the beginning it was a bit trickier communicating and exchanging ideas due to language and cultural differences. We overcome the problem using technology and drawing. Refugees gradually revealed their rich and original culture. Their textile tradition was, at least for us, the most interesting.
What have you learned from them?
We learned that your life can change very drastically very quickly. They had a home, a family, business and everything was taken from them in a short second. They left everything to save themselves.
Every time you meet people like them you start to appreciate your life and be grateful for what you have a little bit more. We learned how hard it is to integrate into the new environment, it was nice to help people do exactly that in such a creative way, through art.
You exhibited this project in Slovenia as part of BIO biennale, before being invited to show the work at Tate Modern. What was it like showing your work at a world-renowned institution?
Being a part of BIO biennale was already a big thing for us and then, almost 6 months later, we got the invitation from Tate Modern. It was a great opportunity and honour to present our work in such an important institution in the middle of London. The exhibition was called Who Are We? and we presented our furniture alongside other collaborators. Visitors were able to sit and relax in our Living room, read the stories of refugees and participate in our macramé workshop.
Why do you think it’s important to get opportunities like this as a student/young designer? Is there enough of them?
Opportunities like this show you that your work can touch people, it can make a difference even if it is a small one. It is important to spread your ideas and messages through creative practice. Exhibiting in a place like Tate Modern can help bring the work to a wider audience, helping them understand it.
Opportunities like this are also rare and important, especially for young designers and artists. Textile and Fashion industry is a very competitive and oversaturated industry. There are a lot of talented students in Slovenia and around the world that are never going to get the recognition they deserve. Exhibitions and opportunities that Tate Modern, and many other galleries around the world offer are important because they offer young people and small countries like Slovenia a platform to introduce themselves.
Design and art, even though there is a fair amount of it, and a high standard, in our opinion, still isn’t appreciated enough. That is why it is important to see what is happening around the world and, hopefully, change the mentality at home.
What’s next for you guys?
Some of us are finishing our BA degree, the others have already graduated and are looking to continue studying abroad and pursue the career out of Slovenia. Some will stay home. Everyone has his own path and it’s nice to have this project that connects us all.
Special thanks to everyone involved in this project:
Terra Vera (Jana Milovanović), Textile and Fashion Design at the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Engineering (Tara Lombergar, Denis Lukeševič, Darija Batić, Polona Šavc, Teja Rojnik, Ina Hadžisulejmanović, Kaja Repenšek, Pia Gorišek, Professor Marija Jenko, associate professor Elena Fajt and assistant Petja Zorec), Samira Kentrić, Palmas Ngen, Dragica Čadež, Martina Obid, Erfan Mohseni, Prostor Vmes/ The Space In Between (Lara Gligić, Teja Gorjup, Laura Klenovšek, Neža Krošel), Ilir Halili, Amjad Al-Achkar, Moutaz Bara, Rojin Mohammad et al.
Photos by Prostor Vmes/ The Space In Between