U.S.E. United States of Europe
Art and culture interact with citizens about Europe
“Do you feel European? Does Mr O’Keeffe in Ireland feel more or less European than Mrs Stylianou in Cyprus? If so, why? What is the idea behind Europe and do Europeans feel included? Do Europeans trust their leaders? Maybe there are as many different answers on these questions as there are citizens in Europe”.
These were questions that United States of Europe (U.S.E.) dealt with in the context of an exhibition that travelled through Łódź, Helsinki, Vilnius, Guimarães, Nicosia, Dresden, Sofia, Cork, Paris and Brussels between 2011 and 2013.
The exhibition project now continues and here in Ravenna, in collaboration with Ravenna 2019 European Capital of Culture- candidate city, you can see a selection of artworks and a presentation of the project.
U.S.E. the concept
For many European politicians, a U.S.E. is indeed a possibility – for some, even a utopia. However, the name of the project was chosen in order to trigger reactions and incite people to communicate their own dissenting points of view. U.S.E. aimed to explore Europeans’ feelings about Europe and to function as a communication platform that facilitated citizen exchange. U.S.E.’s long-term objective was to bridge the gap between politicians and citizens and boost active citizenship.
U.S.E. the travelling exhibition
The exhibition had four components: art works from seventeen artists (videos, photos and installations offering different interpretations on Europe, identity and citizenship) were juxtaposed with interviews from a sociological study. These video-recorded qualitative biographical interviews were conducted in 2011 with respondents from ten EU countries. The respondents represented „typical„ groups within the European population (young student, rural, young immigrant, public discourse, and artist).
A multimedia laboratory - an artwork in itself – functioned as the communication platform; it combined sociology (interviews) with art and was the heart of the exhibition. A series of debates reflected via artistic, sociological and political perspectives on culture, identity, citizenship and today’s Europe.
U.S.E. the core team
Johanna Suo (Sweden/France/UK) initiated the project and conceptualized the exhibition. For the choice of artists she collaborated with three curators; Ryszard W. Kluszczyński (Poland), Anna Bitkina (Russia), Sinziana Ravini, (Sweden/France).
The multimedia artist Jānis Garančs (Latvia) created the interactive laboratory that encouraged visitors to exchange and interact in real time.
Lyudmila Nurse (Oxford XXI, UK), Prof. Andrzej Piotrowski and Dr Tomasz Ferenc (University of Lodz) constituted the sociological core team and ten local sociologist teams conducted interviews in each participating country.
U.S.E. the project conclusions
- Cultural cooperation is one, if not the most efficient way to create European identity.
- U.S.E showed how to bring a diverse group of citizens together to interact and associate.
- Public space is an important forum for the interaction for citizens from various walks of life.
- Bottom-up methods and grassroots initiatives are important in exploring European identity.
- Art is an indispensable type of communication: it is easier to digest in a society that is saturated with visual pollution and media information.
- More debates outside the EU institutions – on neutral ground – that give the word and the agenda to the citizens will bring EU politicians and citizens closer together.
- Local issues matter the most to people, so how can the local matters be seen on a European level?
U.S.E. in Ravenna
Here in Ravenna you can see a presentation of the project, a selection of the sociological interviews and also artworks from five artists: Luchezar Boyadjiev (Bulgaria), Kyriaki Costa (Cyprus), Anna Konik (Poland), Maria Lusitano-Santos (Portugal/UK) and Apostolis Polymeris (Belgium/Greece).
To find out more about the project, the artists, the organisers etc, please visit the website:
Per maggiori informazioni sul progetto, gli artisti, gli organizzatori, visitate il sito web:
This presentation in Ravenna is realised by Innovation Culture Europe. The initial project was coordinated by the Goethe-Institut Paris in partnership with; L’art au Quotidien, France; the University of Lodz, Poland; the Lasipalatsi Film and Media Centre, Finland; AIDA, association for artistic development, Belgium; The Red House, Bulgaria; the Centre of Culture and Art Initiatives, Lithuania; The Pharos Arts Foundation, Cyprus; Cork Vision Centre and the National Sculpture Factory, Ireland and Transforma, Portugal.
The initial project was funded with support from the European Commission. This communication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use, which may be made of the information contained therein.