The System of Systems is a book published in conjunction with an exhibition taking place in Athens in May 2017. It interrogates how political powers in Europe are using technologies, from data collection to private companies, in bureaucratic systems which determine the fate of asylum seekers. Bringing together artists, designers, architects, academics, activists and practitioners, working across a range of mediums, the publication responds to the complex and knotty legal framework which individuals seeking asylum are forced to navigate, or, in many cases, elude.
The title of the publication - The System of Systems - is an informal term used to describe a division within Frontex (The European Agency for the Management of the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union) called EUROSUR. This subsection is an ‘information exchange framework’ and ‘surveillance system’ that operates on behalf of the EU. The process of seeking asylum is a ‘system’ composed of many ‘systems’. By stealing this term from EUROSUR, we are overlaying the discomfort produced by their ambitious definition; turning it into a nonsensical term open for redefinition.
The aim of the project is to open up vital conversations about the legal framework of seeking asylum in Europe, posing questions such as: What policies are we voting for as citizens of European countries, and what is our relationship to this issue? How does the system illegalise people? How are technologies used as processes of making and discrediting evidence? By looking specifically, and rigorously, at the technologies and legal framework of seeking asylum in Europe, we hope to move away from projects that attempt to define what it means to be an asylum seeker, or to speak on behalf of asylum seekers. In order to break from this narrative, we have asked artists, designers, architects, academics, activists and practitioners to interrogate questions of language, the body and biometrics, agency, and infrastructure, within the overlapping bureaucratic systems. In doing so, we hope to provide an alternative viewpoint on this knotty subject through comparative research between the different governmental strategies and approaches to the asylum seeking process.
The System of Systems takes two forms: an exhibition taking place in Athens from 4th through 21st May at Grace gallery, and a publication – allowing the rigorous body of research collected through this project to form a continuing narrative.
This Kickstarter campaign will fund the printing and production costs of our publication. Since September 2016, we have been researching the context surrounding this topic, editing the contributions and designing the publication. We are nearing the production stage of the process, and we really need your help to finally bring the book to life.
CONTENTS + CONTRIBUTORS
The book will be a collection of essays, interviews and visual contributions and will be divided into three sections: LANGUAGE, TERRITORY and AGENCY.
Section 1 - LANGUAGE
This section engages with the medium of language as a means of determining the legitimacy of asylum claims. For example, certain asylum bureaus use Language as a Determination of Origin – LADO – as a tool to verify asylum seeker’s testimonies, by analysing their grammar, vocabulary, loanwords and error patterns. This technology is used to determine whether asylum seekers have come from “safe” regions, allowing their claims to be rejected on this basis. Essays in this section question the ethics behind the reliance on language and narrative as evidence in the determination of ‘truth’ within legal process.
Section 2 - TERRITORY
Territory interrogates both the official and unofficial mapping of routes and borders in Europe. Governments and border agencies undertake surveillance measures, develop tracking technologies and employ private companies (such as Frontex) to control land on the “refugee journey”. In response, asylum seekers create and share detailed maps - of land and sea - through digital and social networks to aid the safe traversing of borders. Furthermore, essays in this section highlight the spaces of immigration, judgement, detention and deportation at play in variegated points in the ‘process’.
Section 3 - AGENCY
Agency explores the biopolitical biases involved in the development of technologies that bolster biometrics and body data gathering: how is the human made invisible and the body hypervisible through these technologies? This section also grapples with delicate issues surrounding the agency and ethics of practitioners who use their work to locate themselves within the asylum seeking process.
Although the contents of the book is the most important aspect, we have also worked carefully and thoughtfully on the design of the publication. The visual concept brings together different elements, playfully exploring the visual language of bureaucracy and unpicking the characteristics of technological interfaces. It's a book we want people to refer back to, full of in-depth and important essays, so we intend the layout to be inviting, spacious, and easy to read. Full colour image pages punctuate the monochrome palette of the publication, drawing the reader through the texts.
The dry nature of bureaucratic and legal documents makes it difficult to penetrate the subjects they discuss. By putting an emphasis on design, we hope to provoke interest from audiences who may not usually see an entry into the legalities of asylum seeking – a topic which can often seem opaque from the outside.
The book will be printed in Athens, where we have partnered with an expert printing company, as we feel strongly about supporting local industry. The book will be perfect-bound, CMYK and black and white printed on high quality paper, with a white slip cover. Its carefully considered design and high quality production will ensure the book sits beautifully both on your bookshelf and in your hand.
WHO ARE WE?
The project was initiated by Danae Papazymouri and Rebecca Glyn-Blanco in June 2016, who met studying Design at Goldsmiths, and whose work focuses on research-led design and design-led research. They invited freelance curator, writer and architectural historian, Maria McLintock, to join the project in September. Between us we have a strong understanding and significant experience in the production and realisation of exhibition projects. Maria and Danae met in New York during their time working at The Museum of Modern Art. Maria has previously curated and independently produced exhibitions, and has built up a portfolio of freelance writing work in the arts. Her research focuses on the social and political implications of the urban environment on contemporary living. As a design duo, Danae and Rebecca have worked on an array of self-initiated and client-led projects - from visual identities and exhibitions, to film and publications. Individually, Rebecca has spent the past year working in museums and galleries in London, whilst Danae is an artist and freelance designer based in Amsterdam whose work explores speech as an interface in our communication to technology.
Risks and challenges
Before deciding to launch this Kickstarter we carefully assessed any risks and challenges we may face throughout this project.
Your pledges will go directly towards the cost of producing the publication. To viably produce the publication, our target includes all content, design, printing and shipping worldwide. If successful, the book will be shipped to our backers in July 2017.
Our initial aim is to raise £5,000, enabling us to produce 300 copies. Although, if we raise £5,500, this would enable us to print a further 150 copies, making this our unofficial secondary target. We have tried extremely hard to keep costs as low as possible to ensure that our publication is affordable for a widespread public audience.
We are currently in the advanced stage of pre-production. We will have received all texts by 31st March, though many of our contributors have already submitted their work. We have taken on an Associate Editor who is currently working through the texts. We plan to go to print on 25th April. Our in-house designers are working tirelessly on the design, which will be completed by 15th April.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (25 days)