« UNITY IN DIVERSITY: A COMMON EUROPEAN HERITAGE »
Can there be a united, common heritage in a diverse Europe?
Heritage is difficult to define as it is many things. Heritage can assume the form as a tangible, intangible, natural, or virtual entity that may be viewed as something positive or negative. Traditions, identity, culture, institutions, communities, geography, history, and recognition all make heritage. Yet heritage also makes and influences these aforementioned things (Figure 1: Heritage Web).
Figure 1: Heritage Web
Using this idea that heritage is both constructed by various factors and influences these factors, this exhibition attempts to define a common, unified heritage of Europe that is rooted in diverse identities, traditions, histories, and ideas. It is this “unity in diversity” that creates a common European heritage. The first part of the exhibition on the ground floor focuses on common, well-known aspects of this European heritage: geography, art, culinary traditions, and song & dance. The second floor challenges and unpacks these well-known aspects, presenting a new, alternate narrative of European heritage.
In part, the subjects and objects would be chosen by average Europeans that could nominate and vote for certain foods, artworks, dance traditions that would be featured in the exhibition. This would be accomplished via the exhibition’s website, social media, and cooperation with European institutions and states. In our opinion, it is extremely important that all Europeans have the opportunity to celebrate the unique cultural heritage of each country while recognizing that Europeans value many of the same aspects of their shared heritage. This exhibition would also feature an individual audio guide in their native language – that would incorporate an audio soundtrack tailored to specific parts of the exhibits.
Image 1: Ground Floor Layout
The first room on the ground floor is titled, “Where is Europe? – changing borders, changing times” and focuses on how Europe is defined by its geography. At the centre of the room are 44 chairs, each representing a different European country. This work would be titled, “A European Audience” and would symbolize the diverse craftsmanship and design traditions of all European countries. Here, the participant would be invited to sit symbolically with all Europeans facing a large 3D physical map of Europe upon which a projected video would depict the changing borders of Europe from ancient times until the present day.[i] The surrounding walls would feature various historical maps depicting the rich tradition of European mapmaking and cartography.
Image 2: Room One – Where is Europe?
Image 3: View of « A European Audience » & 3D map installation
From the first room, the visitors enter into the adjoining hallway and the second room of the exhibition. This room is titled, “Icons of Europe – art that defines a continent.” Originals (on loan), reproductions, or photography of the Europe’s most famous artwork would depict the diversity of artist expression throughout the continent. The pieces featured in the second room would be chosen via an online poll.
Image 4 (top) & Image 5 (bottom): Room Two – “Icons of Europe”
The third room, “Food & Drink – culinary traditions that shaped a continent,” focuses on the diverse culinary heritage of Europe. The central object is a long wooden table – set for a banquet with 44 plates. Each plate (an interactive tablet display) that represents a different European country would depict the most typical dish as voted by the citizens. The visitor can interact with each “plate” to learn more about the culinary traditions of each country and why this specific dish is so important to the people. The three additional walls display cases feature the traditions of three European drinks: wine, beer, and whiskey.
Image 6 (top) & Image 7 (bottom): Room Three –“Food & Drink”
The fourth and final room on the ground floor focuses on, “Song & Dance.” The two-story atrium would feature projected videos of folk dances from across Europe. A central tablet display allows the visitor to select a video of a dance with music to play on the central wall while providing the history and background information on the dance/musical tradition.[ii]
Image 8 (top) & Image 9 (bottom): Room Four – “Song & Dance”
The space under the mezzanine would display various traditional European folk dancing clothing. Stairs to the first floor would be engulfed with the sounds from a European dance club with, “Europe of Today” printed on the wall. This signals the shift in the theme of the exhibition.
Image 10: View of folk costume exhibition below the mezzanine
Image 11: Stairwell to the first floor
Image 12: First Floor Layout
The first-floor mezzanine features a small space devoted to, “Clubs & Dance – European Music & Dance traditions in the 21st Century.” Various small screens on the landing would depict video footage from various European dance clubs and a brief history of “techno, rap, and hip-hop” music in Europe. Average young Europeans could submit pictures and videos from their favourite clubs for the chance to be featured in the exhibition.
Image 13 (left): View of mezzanine, “Clubs & Dance – European Dance traditions in the 21st Century
Image 14 (right): Video screens depicting club scenes throughout Europe
The mezzanine leads into the first-floor hallway and would exhibit “Street Art.” This space mirrors the ground floor space devoted to iconic artwork, however, focuses on street art as an art form that is less rigid and defined. One that belongs to the people and defines an urban space, such as the East Side Gallery in Berlin. These specific examples featured would be nominated and voted by the people.
Image 15 (top) & Image 16 (bottom): Room Five – “Street Art – Across the European Urban Landscape”
Room six, titled, “Non-Traditional Food & Drink – culinary traditions that reshaped a continent,” focuses on cuisines, dishes, and minorities cultures that influenced European cuisine as voted by the people. Dishes such as kebab, döner, and curry have become commonplace throughout Europe. Like in the culinary room on the first floor, three long tables in the centre of the room feature interactive digital plates with non-traditional foods from each European country. A map on one wall shows the most popular pub, non-traditional foods and the traditions and stories of the people who own such restaurants. The other walls feature photos of various ethnic restaurants throughout Europe, such as Indian food in Edinburgh, or the Chinese Sea Palace in Amsterdam. This collage would feature restaurants and stands nominated and shared by average Europeans.
Image 13 (top) & Image 14 (bottom): Room Six – « Non-Traditional Food & Drink »
Room seven focuses on, “Identity in Europe.” Europe has been shaped by numerous cultures, migrations, religions, and civilizations throughout the last millennia, creating a rich heritage. One wall features two large maps comparing the “national” to regional identities in Europe. Another wall displays an exhibit on the major religions of Europe (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) and how these religions have influenced the identity of Europeans. A central display case contains objects telling the stories from individuals fleeing to Europe in the most recent migration crisis. These migrants, like the many before them, contribute a richness to the European society and culture. A small recording booth, and interactive media screen asks the visitors the question, “What is your ‘Heritage’?” Visitors are allowed to record their own stories and definitions of their own personal heritage as well the points of commonality they share with all Europeans. These recordings and interviews (such as those conducted in Edinburgh in April 2017) would be available via an interactive media screen or the exhibition’s online website.[iii]
Image 15: Room Seven – “Identity in Europe”
Image 16: View of visitor recording booth and national vs regional identity exhibit
Image17: Bird’s eye view of recording booth and religions of Europe exhibit
The eighth room discusses a “Global Europe” and asks the questions, “How has Europe influenced the world? How has the world influenced Europe?” The focal point of the room is a large digital globe suspended from the ceiling. This interactive globe depicts Europe in a global context, showing the rise and fall of European colonial empires and the influence/attraction Europe still has today[iv]. Europeans have had a major impact on the world – both positively and negatively. European architecture, art, thought, and culture has shaped various countries, peoples, and heritages around the globe. Three display cases feature objects and photographs showing different examples of European influence in Asia & Oceania, Africa & the Middle East, as well as the Americas.
Image 18 : Room Eight – « Global Europe »
The ninth and final room, “What is the future of Europe?” asks the visitors to share their visions for the future of Europe via interactive touchscreen displays. As a conclusion to the exhibition, two opposing visions of dystopia and utopia are depicted on either wall.
Image 19 (left) & Image 20 (right): Room Nine – « Future Europe »
[iii] See interviews collected in Scotland and FranceRETOUR