Concept and execution
For our local project “Parallel Points of View”, we chose ten narratives (Emirate of Crete, Ottoman Crete, current Islam, Romaniote Jews, Sephardic Jews, Romá, LGBTQ+, women, expatriates, refugees) in a way that allows theoretical as well as emotional approaches, political as well as cultural and social ones. In other words: we envisaged a point of easy access for nearly every visitor in the eventual exhibition. Furthermore, it was intended to be obvious that everybody excluded from the mainstream narrative at one point participates in the mainstream at some other point; for example a Romá, Jewish or Muslim male participates in the mainstream male narrative, Romá, Jewish or Muslim straights participate in the straight mainstream narrative, or might be, unlike refugees, Greek citizens.
Our workshops were designed in a way that allowed the participants to experience the insight that all narratives are constructed ones, be it the mainstream narrative, be it any additional narrative, be it the self-perspective or the excluding view from outside. Based on this insight, the participants discussed to which degree they personally ascribe to “their” additional narrative, asked themselves whether they consider it a homogenous narrative, re-evaluated why and to which point and in which ways they feel excluded, and finally they decided what and to which degrees they wanted to tell the public about themselves, personally or as a group.
Within the execution of our workshops, the fact was helpful that the workshop instructor and exhibition curator, in all cases but one, was being perceived, at least potentially, as ascribing to the particular additional narrative. Which means, in terms of language, that he was using the first person plural forms “we”, “us”, “our” representing each single parallel narrative group, as opposed to “them” and “their”, representing those ascribing to the mainstream narrative. As a result, the atmosphere in the workshops resembled rather that of a group of friends chatting than that of a sociological or historical research on often painful experiences for the participants.
Obviously, our current set of additional narratives, the workshops and the exhibition with its catalogue can provide little more than a sketch, showing sort of a snapshot of t today’s reality in our area. The choice of narratives that was necessary (a selection and exclusion in itself, one might argue) was carried out in a way that will allow us (and others) to organize follow-up projects and exhibitions in which the experience gained and the material gathered can be used imbedded in deeper a research and wider a contemporary art context than possible within the setup and framework of this pilot project.