RESEARCH

Image by João Silas

The original goal of ImmigrantART was to mobilize non-Danish artists in Denmark and make room for their agency, i.e. create a space in the public domain within which such immigrants (who left their home countries by choice or because they were forced to) could be, could become and could have a sense of being active members of the communities that they are co-creating.

The initiative was conceptualized in March 2016 as part of a broader research project that would attempt to analyse what happens during the process of “integration” of specific categorizations of newcomers, with art being—in a sense—the centrepiece that brings the two parties (locals and the newcomers) together. In my research proposal I, Nicol Savinetti founder of Immigrant Art, wrote:

The [research] project takes the concept of intra-action as its starting point. Intra-action differs from interaction as it does not presuppose the prior existence of independent entities (Barad 2003). Asylum seekers and refugees do not exist as such categories before they confront space and place […]; it is the social environment that makes their categorization true. By sharing their environment in tangible and intangible settings, which they also co-create, immigrants intra-act with locals before they interact. Barad’s (2003) understanding of intra-action thus problematizes mainstream conceptualization of integration , which are premised on the notion of prior separateness.
Dictionary definitions of [integration] vary from “an act or instance of combining into an integral whole” (Dictionary.com), to “incorporation as equals into society” (Merriamwebster.com). If we speak of the intra-action of immigrants with society, the former definition becomes redundant, as the ‘whole’ already exists. For the latter definition, we are forced to consider who does the incorporating and how. Currently, the intra-action and co-creation is largely controlled and defined by political and social actors in Denmark, as they occupy a significantly greater power position (see Korpi 1985). By mobilizing immigrants’ human and cultural capital, by making space for agency, this power balance has the potential to shift.
Barad, K., 2003. Post Humanist Performativity: Toward and Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter. Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 28(3), pp.801-831.
Korpi, W., 1985. Developments in the theory of power and exchange. Sociological Theory 3(2), pp.31-45.

The research project was never realized, but Immigrant Art was. Some of they keywords that have travelled with us are intra-action, agency, co-creation, community, power and, as contested as it is, integration.

Very quickly, however, we have come to realize that ImmigrantART does, and has the potential to do, so much more than serve as a tool for integration.

In our network we have artists of different genres, media folk, academics, activists and other active members of society who originate and have heritage from all over the world. In consideration of the supediversity of the network, we shall be taking a very broad multi and inter-disciplinary approach to the intra-action of art, academia and to how we, as a group and as individuals, can contribute to building a more aware and a more cohesive society where all members can feel at home with difference.

We shall bring people together to debate, discuss, analyze and create different concepts, ideas and projects, and we shall track the evolution of Immigrant Art through these happenings on these Research pages and our blog. In addition, we shall share news about events and accessible research that is happening in this area in the Nordic region. This will allow us to map what is happening in Denmark into the Nordic frame, expand our network outside of the national borders, and also identify the channels through which we can disseminate knowledge produced by us in the region and beyond.