NMG@PRAKTIKA: Ivana Papić // Berlin, The Promised City – A Report From A Call Center + Curator school

NMG@PRAKTIKA, MKC Gallery, Split Youth Center, Ulica slobode 28, Oct 1 – Oct 8, 2020.
OPENING NIGHT: Thursday, October 1st, 8 p.m.

The exhibition is open to the public on weekdays from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the MKC Gallery, through
to the 8th of October 2020.


 

CURATOR SCHOOL: “Once you leave, you’re a stranger forever” – Research projects examining
economically and politically driven migrations in contemporary societies, Beton Kino, Split Youth
Center, Oct 2 and Oct 3, 2020.

Oct 2, 2020
5 p.m., A talk with Ivana Papić, author of ''Berlin, The Promised City – A Report From A Call Center
7 p.m., Lecture:MIGRATION/MIGRATIONS/from the perspective of artistic interventions in public
social spaces – Kristina Leko, lecturer with the Institute for Art in Context at the Berlin University of
the Arts (Institut für Kunst im Kontext, Universität der Künste Berlin)

Oct 3, 2020
5 p.m., Lecture: Cities of Refugees/A Migrant Worker’s Planet – Ana Dana Beroš
7 p.m., Workshop and task assignment


 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ivana Papić (Split, 1987) acquired her master’s degree in 2011 at the Arts Academy of the University of Split, with the Department of Restoration and Conservation. In 2018 she began her postgraduate studies at the Institut für Kunst im Kontext (Universität der Künste Berlin). She has participated in a number of group exhibitions in Berlin, this being her first solo show. She currently lives and works in Berlin, and is a member of the international artists’ association at the WerkStadt studio complex.

ABOUT THE WORK:

Employing a participation-based approach to my art, my aim is to evaluate the living and working standards of the working class in contemporary digital society. In the past few years living abroad, I found myself a part of this same working class. In my artistic explorations, I make use of photography and biographical interviews, which I subsequently assemble in the manner of a collage into a layered sound installation designed to encourage observers to interact and move through it. Sound, Story, and Space form the building blocks of the work. The collection of stories, numbering 13 different narrators, speak of the oppressed status of the working class, of the nature of migrations, of identity and belonging.

”Berlin, The Promised City – A Report From A Call Center” is a comprehensive art-research project wherein Ivana Papić conducted interviews with around twenty former and current employees of a Berlin call center – the group consisted of agents and managers, all young and well-educated immigrants from abroad. The exhibit is set up in such a way that by progressing from one ”station” to the next we become acquainted with the different protagonists, the common thread among them being the aforementioned call center. Using office phones, we are able to listen in on fragments from their lives, like passers-by overhearing conversations in the subway. The ”stations” of the exhibition, corresponding to different chapters comprising a number of short stories, tell the tale of the narrators’ arrival in Berlin, their time working at the call center, the systems of oppression that they have struggled against, their notions of ”home”, and finally their plans for the future.

Berlin is a magical city, a beacon of freedom and a ”better life”, whereas the Call Center serves as a symbol for the capitalist work model and digitalization: two disparate worlds that nevertheless collide and intertwine with respect to the various values they uphold. Different corporations see Berlin as an appropriate homebase for their call centers due to the substantial influx of expats, that is to say work-capable immigrants, into the city. Upon arrival, this class of newcomers is often forced to settle for low-skilled underpaid positions such as that of call operator, owing to high competition, a shortage of jobs, and unfavorable Visa regulations. For the majority of our protagonists, the job at the call center represents a station in their life’s journey, a trap of sorts, and an overall arduous experience that they each had to endure in order to stay in Berlin and be able to continue pursuing their dreams. 

Among other things, Ivana Papić uses her research in an attempt to critically reexamine this type of capitalist work model, seeing as call centers are not yet a thing of the past. On the contrary, a number of centers are seeing a marked growth in this Covid-19 epoch, fuelled on by ever-increasing digitalization and automation. They persist under the ruse of online platforms, often putting forward a façade of appealing colorful start-up office spaces, cultivating an ostensible air of ”family” and ”flat hierarchy” – all this to conceal the all-too-familiar pyramid-shaped power structure typical of big corporations that continues to operate in the background.

What are we prepared to do in the pursuit of our dreams? What forms of resistance are available to the working classes in their struggle with corporate power structures? Is there a clear dividing line between the life of an individual and a life inextricably tied to the fabric of the working masses, especially as it pertains to immigrant lives? The choice between remaining in one’s homeland and  moving abroad to become an immigrant worker is compounded by possibly the most crucial of questions: once we’ve left, does the way back ”home” remain open to us?

This interactive sound installation in Croatian and English takes the form of a 45 minute audio-documentary, assembled in a kind of collage comprising 27 different stories further divided into 9 chapters – all reproduced using specially modified office phones. The interactivity of the phone units resulted from a months-long process of prototyping using Arduino electrical components. The layout of the installation echoes the spatial plan of the Berlin underground, as outlined on the floor of the exhibition space. The installation is accompanied by the ambiental sounds of a 5-minute loop playing sounds from the Berlin U-Bahn.


 

AUTHOR: Ivana Papić
CURATOR: Natasha Kadin
PRODUCTION: Otvoreni Likovni Pogon, Mavena – 36 njezinih čuda, POGON – Zagreb
Center for Independent Culture and Youth

TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE WITH PROTOTYPE DEVELOPMENT: Xaver Hirsch
CO-PRODUCTION OF THE U-BAHN SOUNDSCAPE: Frane Papić
DESIGN: Nikola Križanac
TRANSLATION: Ivan Berecka
PRINT: Bijeli čarobnjak d.o.o., Zagreb
PRINT RUN: 200
EXHIBITION LAYOUT AND DOCUMENTATION: Tihana Mandušić, Franko Sardelić, MKC
DONORS: Croatian Ministry of Culture, City of Split, City of Zagreb
MAVENA SUPPORTED BY: National Foundation for Civil Society Development, Kultura Nova Foundation


 

All activities in Split are part of the #Gradimo Dom zajedno” project, co-financed by the European Union from the European Social Fund.

”Berlin, The Promised City – A Report From A Call Center”  by Ivana Papić was developed at the Institute for Art in Context (Berlin University of the Arts), within the framework of a midterm project titled ”Experimentation and intervention in public and social spaces”, under the mentorship of Kristina Leko. The project is part of the Artist’s Glossary of Public Spaces, created by the art organization Otvoreni Likovni Pogon, whose aim is to fortify public discourse on art in public and communal spaces through the use of various spatial interventions by young artists.


 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: KUM, PDM, MKC, To all the interviewees who participated in the project.