Project Diversity

By Zsofia Kollar

Photography by Medina Rešić

During the Salone del Mobile 2018 in Milano, Italy my former school The Royal Academy of Art, The Hague, invited me to participate in a group exhibition together with other alumni representing our theme, My Practice, My Politics.

The curatorial statement by Saskia van Stein and Agata Jaworska outlines, “The personal is political. Whether explicit or implicit, there is an embedded political dimension to everything we do.” My Practice, My Politics explores how art, too, is inherently political. The exhibition aims to expand our ideas on political modes of expression. Through a wide array of artistic practices, the presentation conveys manifestations, interfaces, and exchanges between the individual and the societal. My Practice, My Politics portrays the way in which artists and designers capture their views on society through the subject matter they explore, the language and tools they employ, the aesthetics they manifest, and the communities they engage.” 

The project I showcased was called Diversity, a tactile gesture that connects and facilitates conversation about gender identity.  The project questioned how we relate to other human beings in terms of gender identity. Using an unfired porcelain object, I engaged individuals in a conversation, asking them to imprint the object as they answer questions on the topic of gender and sexuality.

Last year, my design proposal was selected as The Jos Brink Prize, which is awarded every year to LGTBQ communities. For the first edition, I mapped about one hundred different coordinates in The Netherlands where I asked approximately one hundred people to treat a soft object as they would another human being. During the Salone del Mobile, I worked on the new series by engaging visitors at the exhibition.

“The project I showcased was called Diversity, a tactile gesture that connects and facilitates conversation about gender identity.”

During the design week in Milan, I was able to engage hundreds of people and connect to them with a simple gesture and a basic material, which later became a collection of human traces and represented how we treated each other. The collection of my porcelain objects not only represented how we treat each other but also acted as tools that freed people to talk about their personal experiences towards their sexuality or their issues and views on society. Thinking back to those private conversations or group discussions, they gave me an elementary power to believe that our humankind is beautiful and despite the negative media,  change will come for a future where equality and freedom will be a basic human right that everybody has.

My conversations varied between issues, fears, hopes and memories that people shared with me. Here are some examples of stories to encourage people to dare to be themselves but also to let others know what these people feel and experience:

“I’m gay. I grew up in a small village in the countryside, where you go to church every Sunday. For a long time, I didn’t even have a word how to describe myself. I just knew I’m not fitting in where I am. My family would never understand my love for other men. When I turned 18, I moved to a big city. That was the most exhilarating moment in my life. I felt like a newborn baby who just came to this world to live. If you would ask me how old I am, I would say 11 years. I have lived 11 years free. I’m not angry where I was born, I got love, I just wasn’t able to give love freely who I wanted to.”

“I’m an exchange student here in Europe. I still have a boyfriend back home. Until I moved here I didn’t even know why I had the urge to move to another continent, but now I know. It might sound strange but I found love here. I’m in love with a girl. Please don’t judge me, I know I have my boyfriend back home and I will break up with him, I just didn’t collect the courage yet how to tell him and my family. I don’t know how they will react. This is the scariest part, but the most exciting is to be with this girl. I haven’t told anybody yet, you are the first one. But now I feel less scared. Thank you, stranger.”

“I have a 14-year-old daughter. She is full of energy, but not just her, her whole generation. I try to keep up with the changes and understand what’s going on, but I’m not the one who will bring change to this society. I’m old for this, but I give all the support they need and the freedom to be what they want to be. I have a really big hope, this young generation has the power to change.”

I believe the people I encountered found a safe spot where they felt understood. I also believe design serves as a tool to both propose changes and make the change possible.

The stories and the final objects are in process of documentation for a book, which will be available by the end of 2018.