In the MoVE 2017 Exhibition, we featured two different arts-based MoVE projects: the Nelspruit Poster Project, which is a project which in later years transformed into the sticker project named Bua Modiri, and Izwi Lethu, a long term newsletter project. Both these projects were undertaken in collaboration with the Sisonke Sex Worker Movement. While the outputs of these two projects were invisaged within their design as advocacy materials for Sisonke, these outputs are also research material that is useful for the researchers of migration and society. The aim of this exhibition was to showcase arts-based methods as part of a research process, rather than advocacy materials. The exhibition was accompanied by a symposium on arts-methods in research titled #artsmethods4.
The creative analysis of this project involved conversation and idea sharing between Jo Vearey and Elsa Oliveira and myself. We agreed that although the exhibition coincides with the #artsmethods4 conference, and could have a research angle around methods, the exhibition also had to be accessible for a broader public. Because the exhibition was held at the Workers Museum, we were guaranteed a steady inflow of visitors over the exhibition period. Therefore, it we wanted to make this exhibition of interest to anyone who was interested in the Workers Museum.
Exploring themes around migration, work, and labour through the exhibition, alongside the research dimension of the work, provided hook for a broader public. The migration, work, and labour themes made sense through the advocacy messages contained in much of the exhibition content, becacuse, Sisonke, at organisational level, advocates for the decriminalisation of sex work, and argues that this line of activity is work. The themes of migration, work, and labour also resonated with the permanent exhibition social history of the venue, the Workers Museum.
The decision that any methods and research angle would be approached through issues around migration, work, and labour had implications for how we would explore and rethink the showcasing of the advocacy artefacts and research dimensions of the projects. The design process that unfolded kept on going back to core idea of the project. It is because we spent time with defining the design problem that we could come up with conceptual and practical solutions. As the visual, spatial and conceptual relationships of the exhibition became more concrete, work shifted towards creating layout proposals, solving display challenges, and lastly, rapid production of all exhibition elements.
At the end of this focussed design process, we had a simple and elegant exhibition that responded to the design problem in a novel way.
The exhibition was spread over three areas of the Workers Museum: The Main Hall, a close by conference room, and the passage that connect these two spaces. In both rooms we displayed series of academic posters that outlined key ideas and resources that inform the arts-based research. These rooms also had original artefacts, and takeaway artefacts. The passageway between the two spaces was used to feature all previous MoVE projects.
From the Nelspruit Poster project we displayed the original physical zine pages on stands fabricated from 32 x 32 x 1800 pine planks. We had about 40 of these stands, and used them to create a clustering of forms that would be visually-spatially captivating and potent in ideas and messages. This massing of hand made posters displayed on wooden stands had the effect of being inviting, menacing, comforting, and challenging. Close to these posters we had a collection of stickers that had been made from the posters. The idea was that visitors could take stickers and stick them in whatever public spaces they wanted too. Stickers would be both cost effective to produce, and easy to desseminate. They are also of perenial interest for many people. Elsa Oliveira came up with this idea of transforming the posters into stickers. This idea influenced the objective and vision for a later iteration of the Nelspruit Poster Project, the Bua Modiri (sticker) project.
In an adjacent room we displayed on the wall enlarged pages from the Izwi Lethu newsletter project. With the guidance of Greta Schuller, who was the project lead on Izwi Lethu, we chose pertinent stories in the history of that newsletter. It was important to increase the size of these pages for display because it would command the attention of viewers, and a project that is so rigorous. It was also important to have copies of the various newsletter issues available in the space for distribution. Gallery visitors were invited to read and take home with them copies of these newsletters.
*Thank you to Jo Vearey who provided some of the pictures above. Photo credits in image title.