You may say I ‘m a dreamer…but I’m the only one

Performance / Installation Graduation show Rietveld Academy – Amsterdam 2014

According to the Rietveld Academie’s Bestuursverslag 2013 (management report), there were students from 69 countries enrolled in the academy. As a student you have limited access to the breakdown of these demographics. We know the number of students from each of the 69 countries, but due to privacy issues, no other information is provided. Is this quantification alone, these numbers and statistics, the proof of this policy’s success? Where is the resulting community that these policies are supposedly intended to build?

My graduation project is the result of research carried out between January and July 2014; to identify and meet with students of each nationality, represented by students enrolled in the academy.

Between March and April 2014, I met with sixty students of different nationalities in the glass pavilion, located in the centre of the academy’s courtyard. During these meetings, we talked about different policies of the various departments, teachers and the school overall. Together, I and each of these students made the flag of the countries they came from. The size of each flag is based on the percentage of students from each country. No audio or video records were kept of these meetings.

At the end of the project, after series of lectures and meetings with students and a performance where I attached the flags to each other, I made an installation for the graduation show. This installation includes:

  • A world map, I built a map that showed each of the countries represented at the academy. Connected grey map showed a territory conquered by the Academie. But then, seeing grey territory surrounded by nearly 150 countries that were left unrepresented in the Academie, the perpetually limited representation of even the most ambitious attempt to build an international community became clear. As members of the audience listened on headphones, tapes were played of my calls to art academies in the countries that were not represented on the map, where I offered them information about the Academie and suggested they look into exchanges for students. Even as the limits of the project to bring the world together at the Academie were laid bare, the drive for even higher statistics from those places left unrepresented moved forward in my calls.
  • A big curtain, unifying all the flags, stitched to each other facing the inside of the Academy and a huge flag of the Netherlands, representing 50% of Dutch students, facing the outside of the Academy.
  • 60 illustrations of my visual memories of those meetings with empty speech bubbles. During the graduation show, these illustrations – which took the form of graphic illustrations showing the individual and myself – were shown with a slide projector, being the only documentation of the meetings. The faces of the students were immediately recognizable for the Rietveld students themselves, who could easily figure out the identities of the speakers from the cartoons, but not for the audience of the show. These empty speech bubbles represent a free platform for any potential conversation between students.

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