Following an invitation by Sign Groningen, Parhessia, and TimelineGallery, I participated in a project titled “Fear in Public Space”. The project started in 2018 with a series of lectures, talks and workshops in Academie Minevra in Groningen. Later, the participants formed small groups of artists to deliver urban intervention projects related to the topics from the sessions. Based on examples and discussions formed within the larger group, artists Angeliki Marina Diakrousi, Alice Strete, and I formed a small group to work and play around the idea of xenophobia. The format of the project turned out to become a city-wide rumor prank.
During the campaign for the municipal election of 2018 in Groningen, we appropriated the name and logo of the local LET’S GRO festival, changing it into LET’M GRO. We spread stickers with pro-refugee slogans around the city and created the hashtag #letmgro on social media. This was part of our attempt to spread a rumor that a big refugee camp will be built in the neighboring Noorddijk area, within the current context of refugee settlements being pushed further outside the city, as well as the massive student accommodation crisis.
On the 17th and 18th of November 2018, we asked two Dutch speakers, actor Arminé Telimi and artist Klaas Koetje, to conduct interviews in the city center, as well as close to Noorddijk. Locals were asked what needs to be done politically in Groningen (with regard to the upcoming election), as well as their opinion on the supposable refugee camp, in the context of the housing crisis.
In addition to the stickers, hashtags and the interviews, we recorded longer audio interview as one-on-one conversations between Groningen residents and our interviewers. The interviews were later broadcasted by Radio Zomaar in Groningen. Also, we asked a local graffiti artist to freely interpret the project and draw some of his famous face drawings around the city, with regards to the project.
In late 2019 and following an interview by Bibi Straatman (Academie Minevra) organized by Sign Groningen, a conclusion to the project was discussed between Bibi Straatman and the Rumor Camp group. The results will be available as a booklet produced by Sign Groningen in early 2020. During the interview, it was decided that the project Rumor Camp continues living. The next target would be the city of Rotterdam, and possibly, the Rumor Camp project will be collaborating with project Open Source Governance in investigating rumors vs. collective-decision making.
Academie Minerva workshop project week February 2020
During the project week, I and Angeliki, together with students of Minerva Art Academy, staged a public intervention where a rumour was started about the international housing crisis of Groningen. The rumour was that the municipality was considering enforcing a fine on landlords who advertise housing properties to tenants exclusive of international students.
The rumour was in reaction to the very real housing shortage that is causing a lot of international and local students frustration. There have been ads posted online that called only for Dutch citizens or called even more specifically for female Dutch tenants. We were curious about the reactions of the Groningen residents to this possible law, to reveal if there was indeed a deep-seated attitude of xenophobia.
"We intervened in the public space of Groningen’s residents by approaching them as an interviewer on the street. We initially set a test-run, where we asked the passers-by if they could reveal a piece of gossip in return for a cookie. Afterwards, we intervened again, this time to spread the rumour by asking the passer-by their thoughts on it. To further cement the rumour in the consciousness of the city, we campaigned the rumour on multiple social media channels and locational stickers with the hashtags #GROlandlordstop and #RentalDiversity. In addition, we created a map where all activities and conversations are documented"
Do Phuong Thao, Leah Kilian, Lourens Stuurman, Jeanine de Weerd, Danielle Tjon-Atsoi, Nynke Krottje, Liza Kolomiiets.