What is Europe? Europe is real, but structurally open and indefinable. It is hardly a “thing”. There are things and persons “in” Europe that are not necessarily “of” Europe. Moreover, Europe certainly also exists for those who are not within it. When Europe’s political project is defined by the conformity to an imagined and unified cultural past – as something “we” inherited – we run the risk to leave out of our proposition the contested and – truth be told – the future.
Inside the Hut of European Identity, we suggest the possibility of European characters – and histories – that are not agreed upon, that are not based on the lowest common denominator of several national cultures, but on Europe’s inherent conflicts, on the idea of Europe as a contested political space – a project, in fact.
he Hut is an actual space: pieces of wood raised perpendicularly suggest the idea of columns, while horizontal beams laid upon them afford us the idea of entablatures. Fabrics and sheets salvaged from the demolished sector of the “Jungle” in Calais form and cover an incline that protects the interior from the sun and the rain. Placing all these different and diverging conflicts under one roof is not meant to finally resolve them by forcing them into a narrative of agreement and consensus, but rather the opposite: it is to suggest the possibility to live among multiple statements. The Hut concedes to the conflict between them in no way direct violence, but the violent feeling of many layers coming together, a strength of emotion and passion. It also sketches and tests the possibility of an archive where multiple readings would be possible across a material culture of conflict and other EU-related archaeological findings.
We have started by collecting material evidence. If the official material culture of the EU (again, think of banknotes, memorials, buildings, squares) is manufactured to manifest an “imperialistic” narrative (what Europe “should be”: transparent, continuous, technically democratic), what are then the objects, spaces, architectures that witness other possibilities, or that deny this narrative? An archive of such materials would encourage oblique readings through the EU’s parallel and possible histories and identities.
The structure stayed empty for over one month, representing the identity of a ghostly polity, and then the first objects started to come in: multilingual banners from Athens, a Pan-African flag from Calais, squatters’ posters from a past European Summit in Amsterdam, flower crowns found in Schengen, weary construction materials from Calais.
What do we want to keep? What do we want to leave? Is our identity going to result from that?