The Evidence of Things Not Said

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Poster

The Evidence of Things Not Said (German: Der Beweis für Dinge die nicht gesagt wurden) is an interactive public intervention project by Shervin Afshar, David Brunnthaler, and Henning Schulze.

Contents

Concept and Idea

Backgrounds

People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.

— James Baldwin, Stranger in the Village 1.

Narratives in a complex and multilayer cultural and political system like the modern cities may acquire new characteristics. In the micro-dynamics of the city which forms the urban life experience for the inhabitants, incidents might come to existence in different grades of visibility. The visibility factor is very much depending on the media coverage and the way the public media deal with the happenings in the city. Therefore, “undocumented” incidents in a city are always tending to disappear and get lost through time or at best they might become the words of mouth, “urban legends” - one might say - and part of the urban folklore.

Racist incidents in public space (statistically the majority of all the racist incidents) are forming the undeniable aspect of life in big cities in the countries with high ethnic diversity and those which are facing waves of immigration from other parts of the world. These incidents remain mostly invisible to public, undocumented, and very personal and form a grey area in the collective mindset of the inhabitants of the city. Therefore, the encounter between people and the information related to racism in public spaces remains in the faceless, inhuman level of the statistics.

The Project

For The Evidence of Things Not Said, a prepared phone-booth was installed on the bridge Nibelungenbrücke in Linz, Austria. The phone rings on random intervals. When the receiver is picked up, the user would hear a randomly selected recording from more than seventy pre-recorded sound pieces of the accounts of racist incidents in different cities of Austria.

The recordings are selected from reports published annually by the local anti-racism organization, ZARA (German: Zivilcourage und Anti-Rassismus-Arbeit).

The title of the project is the title of the book on James Baldwin - American author and civil rights activist - by Lawrie Belafour; The Evidence of Things Not Said: James Baldwin and the Promise of American Democracy, January 2001, Cornell University Press, ISBN-13: 978-0801486982.

Metaphors and Contextual Relationships

The phone-booth according to its functionality, forms a capsule of privacy in the middle of public space. Therefore it bears symbolic meanings to circumstance in which the racist encounters as private experiences in public may happen.

The voices which would be heard by the user can be considered metaphorically as “distress calls” from people whose lives have been affected by racism.

The piece would only become meaningful when it is experienced by the citizens who their curiosity leads them to pick the phone and receive the call. In this way, the only method of experiencing the project is taking action, and initiating the interaction. In this sense, the piece would materialize as a process in the city and joins the viral dynamics of people talking and hearing things in an urban landscape.


Media

Statistics

In the following charts, "Picked up" refers to mere case that the handset was picked up when the phone was ringing. "Finished" refers to the case that the user listened to the complete sound recording. The raw data and analysis can be downloaded as an Excel file.

Number of times per day (from the day of installation until dismantling of the project) that the interaction was initiated by a user. Click on image to view larger version.

DerBeweis-Statistic day.png

Number of times per weekdays that the interaction was initiated by a user.

DerBeweis-Statistic weekday.png

Number of times per different hours of the day that the interaction was initiated by a user.

DerBeweis-Statistic hour.png

Honors and Awards

Mentions

Stadt der Kulturen prize in local press

Events

  • 26 August 2010: The booth was installed.
  • 2-11 September 2010: Documentation of the project was presented in Ars Electronica Festival 2010 Campus Exhibition.
  • 16 December 2010: The booth was dismantled.
  • 16 December 2010: The project was announced as the winner of Stadt der Kulturen prize.
  • 19 January 2011: Stadt der Kulturen prize ceremony.

Links

Sponsors

ZARA – Zivilcourage und Anti-Rassismus-Arbeit / University of Arts and Industrial Design Linz / Interface Cultures / Telekom Austria / List-Margreiter GmbH & Co KG / Haus der Schlösser / Elektrotechnik Helmut Gruber

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