Intangible Cultural Heritage and Sustainable Development /Curatorship of an outdoor exhibition in UNESCO

Burying patients in hot sand is a traditional healing technique practiced by Mr Abass in the Egyptian town of Damiette for treating ailments of the bones and joints.

Burying patients in hot sand is a traditional healing technique practiced by Mr Abass in the Egyptian town of Damiette for treating ailments of the bones and joints.

Curatorhsip and production of the exhibition “Intangible Cultural Heritage and Sustainable Development”, commemorating ICH’s 10th anniversary

Dates

From 20 October until 10 December 2013

Location

UNESCO House (fences), Paris, France.

Team

Graphic design: Emmanuel Labard and Estelle Martin

Structures: Caroline Amar, Julien Courtian and Emmanuel Macaigne (Depuis1920)

Printing: UNESCO / Urban Way

Curatorship: Iñigo Martínez Möller / Portmanteau Productions

 

Panels featuring family farmers in Estonia who raise sheep and process wool in harmony with nature and local tradition.

Panels featuring family farmers in Estonia who raise sheep and process wool in harmony with nature and local tradition.

ABSTRACT

Coinciding with the 37th General Conference of UNESCO, an exhibition from 28 October to 10 December 2013 on the fences of the UNESCO Headquarter buildings in Paris aimed to illustrate the role that living heritage can play in sustainable development. This exhibition was organized to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, with the generous financial contributions of Monaco and Turkey. Photographs taken in different parts of the world showed how cultural practices, expressions and knowledge are important in fields such as economic development, health, food security, environmental sustainability, social cohesion and conflict resolution.

The six sets of panels included in the exhibition.

The six sets of panels included in the exhibition.

CHALLENGES

. Communicating complex concepts through particular subjects by means of highly synthetic texts and images.

. Choosing the subjects to illustrate these concepts meeting criteria of equality and geographic diversity and access to documentation -or the ability to produce it.

. Conceiving an exhibition in an unconventional space: the fences of UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.

. Communicating / having an impact on two kind of audiences: passers-by not stopping, possibly walking or riding at a certain distance from the panels, and people with the time to go through the subjects in depth.

. Drawing the attention of the attendees to the UNESCO General Conference (international civil servants, ministers, international culture sector professionals, etc.). This target audience is very used to attending exhibitions showing panels with text and images. Lacking singular elements, the panels in this exhibition would become noise.

. Conveying the idea of sustainability through the use of materials. Make sure that they can all be re-used or recycled.

. Setting the panels at a height that lets the audiences read comfortably. The existing stone wall is too high for standards. Additionally, children and people in wheelchairs can’t read the panels that are usually attached to the fences.

. Considering safety, the potential effect of the wind on the panels, making sure that no damage whatsoever is done to the existing architectural elements (walls, fences).

. Getting to approve an exhibition format which is out of standards by several different sectors of a highly bureaucratic institution.

. Conceiving a catalogue that will last in time. Many UNESCO publications get lost in the shelves of people who master the topics. Thinking of a format that can have a life out of the shelves.

. A standard challenge: working within short timings and a relatively limited budget frame.

 

Panel sets with themes from Spain and Brazil

Panel sets with themes from Spain and Brazil

STRATEGIES / WORK PROCESS

Together with the staff members of the Intangible Cultural Heritage sector in UNESCO, we chose six elements of intangible cultural heritage, each belonging to a different geographic area and referring to one specific concept (economic development, health, food security, etc.). Each subject was summarized in not more than 100 words and accompanied by six images with a short caption. Whenever the available images weren’t good enough to illustrate a particular aspect, we commissioned new photographs: with the collaboration of local public administrations and of UNESCO delegations, shootings took place in Spain and Samoa.

Exhibitions in the fences of the UNESCO buildings almost always use the same format: a variable, often very large, amount of 80cm x 120cm panels, printed on dibond (aluminium), hung spread equidistant all over the perimeter of the building (a total of around 1 km). This layout presents many drawbacks. Exhibitions don’t have a beginning or an end, so there’s no control on the order which people will follow, and each panel must be a self-sufficient communicating tool; this will either not be achieved, or the price to pay will be large and tedious amounts of text, and concepts that will be repeated in several panels. The wall can’t be drilled, so the panels are attached to the fences, too high and uncomfortable to read. It’s altogether very challenging for anyone to visit a whole exhibition. Additionally, some of the streets surrounding the UNESCO have a very low passage, incurring in lots of panels that will be missed by many people. Lastly, dibond is a material that resists very well outdoors for long periods of time, but it’s expensive, it can hardly be re-used and it’s hard to recycle.

Man reading the texts of an old exhibition in the fences of UNESCO in 2007

Man reading the texts set too high of an old exhibition in the fences of UNESCO in 2007

 

People reading the texts of the exhibition panels

People reading the texts of the exhibition panels

We decided to group each of our six subjects in sets of panels to be displayed together, using a main color for each, making a clear difference from one set to another. We built three giant (2,5m x 5m) wood structures resting on the wall in selected spots next to the most crowded accesses to the buildings and set on the sides closer to the metro stations; the rest of the fences was left empty. Our six sets were hung on these three structures following a weekly rotation.

Each set was formed by 9 panels: two depicted huge images strongly photoshopped in a monochrome loud color and one a title / sentence (a slogan synthesizing the concept) printed in a very large format; these could be seen and read from a long distance. The six remaining gathered photographs and short texts to be read from close.

Every subject would occupy at least once a spot next to the access to the two main buildings. The weekly change drew the attention of the people attending the General conference through the repeated effect of novelty; the time during which old panels were taken down and the new ones were set up also attracted curious bystanders. The glowing colors in the panels, the layout in which they were set, which could suggest they were still under construction, and the fact that they were produced through direct print on wood, a new technology which is not found often yet, were also factors that caught people’s eye.

We made special efforts to make sure that no waste would be generated. Once the exhibition finished, all the materials were given away for re-use, their second life being -literally- used to build cultural projects. The wood belonging to the structures will be re-used to renew and build artists, theater and music associations’ studios in Villa Mais d’Ici in Aubervilliers (http://www.villamaisdici.org). The printed panels will be used by an artist and expert in installing exhibitions to build sculptures, crates to ship artworks and elements in museography. The screws will be re-used by the UNESCO’s exhibition team for future installations.

 



Comments are closed.