Sunday, February 24, 2008

Virtualities and Culturalities in Düsseldorf

Are you an insider or an outsider? Real or virtual? Do you have to be either one or the other? In collaboration with BourbeauVoiceDynamics and the Düsseldorf Stadtmuseum, and with the LAMIC and LANTISS, the Canada Research Chair is undertaking the preparation of a ten day exhibition to be held April 4 - April 13 in Düsseldorf. The exhibition, entitled "Virtualities and Culturalities in Düsseldorf" will present an interactive virtual event highlighting the multi-ethnicity of Düsseldorf.

Each community has its own understanding of the city, based on its commuting patterns and culturally-specific landmarks. The marketplaces, churches, synagogues and mosques, recreational centres and ethnic restaurants together with a person’s movement form a “heart map” of the city. These places also support events which highlight and celebrate each community’s cultural heritage. Traditional costumes, music and dancing can define one as being in or out of a community. When employed in the country of origin, they enhance the feeling of being « inside » an ethnic group. These same rituals, however, held in a host country, underline a ethnic group’s distinctiveness, and hence the feeling of being on the « outside », or periphery of society. The modern city offers an alternative to this polarity of exclusion, however, in the form of an eclectic fusion that draws from different traditions, celebrating the contribution of each and yet creating new spaces for identity. Within such fusions, it is possible to be both “inside” and “out”.

In this interactive exhibition, the public is encouraged to « mix and match » clothing from different ethnic traditions so as to create a fashion fusion rooted in folklore and tradition but with a distinct link to the present. Combined with “heart maps” for several different communities, and contact via avatars with virtual folk dances, the installation seeks to engage both the younger population via its innovative use of Second Life and virtual worlds, and the older population by its integration of ethnic traditions in fashion, dance and music. Vive la difference!