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Thesis (Master's)

Iceland University of the Arts > Sviðslistadeild / Department of Performing Arts > Lokaverkefni (MFA) / Final projects (MFA) >

Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/29127

  • Pillow Talk
  • Master's
  • Pillow Talk works as a listening device set to engage the public with the lives of asylum seekers and refugees in Iceland. The setup is simple: several emergency beds from the Red Cross, that serve as beds for asylum seekers in Iceland, are travelling the city. They are equipped with speakers and are broadcasting an array of stories. The audience is invited to lie down and listen. The stories have been carefully edited to give an insight into the person portrayed and are looking to find new ways of engaging with the ‘story of a refugee’. Through lying down in the bed, shifting their bodies and having the sensory stimulation the audience is invited to experience a new way of connectedness to the topic.
    Pillow Talk is in line with an ongoing working process of Sonja Kovačević reflecting the role theatre can play in modern democracies. How can theatre serve as an oratory, giving a voice to people? How can it give space to marginalized groups in society without taking advantage of them? Can there be social inclusion of refugees into society? How can you engage the audience with the topic in a way that connects their whole body, that touches their senses and not only their intellect?
    These questions played a vital part in the development of the project.
    The use of ‘story’ when working on art with refugees became a center point of the research and the piece itself.
    Any narrative or life story by a refugee is already framed and defined by the person’s definition as a refugee. Their status already frames them as traumatized victims. What is often forgotten is that even though a person suffered a traumatic event, this doesn’t take away anything of their personhood. We are accustomed to look at people who become victimized through a lens of compassion and pity, and often this is being enforced by aid organizations.
    On the other hand, ‘story’ can also be used as a tool to help refugees frame their life story for themselves. It can be helpful for people who went through traumatic events to find ways to own their story, especially when your life story has become a tool for institutions to judge your future upon.
    For Sonja Kovačević it was very important in this piece to use `story´ to highlight people’s agency, to give them their space in society. She reflected this in the way the stories were edited.
    Pillow Talk aims to create an inclusive environment through the way the voices of the refugees are amplified. It is the specific social position of refugees and asylum seekers that marks the point where self-agency is being lost.
    What is interesting to explore in theatre is to re-establish that agency but in a way that makes the audience reflect how they themselves tend to take agency from refugees and other groups of people.
    Through combining the idea of theatre as a listening device with the specific attention that listening to one person, alone, one on one, creates, a layer of intimacy is added to the experience. This is heightened by the sensory approach of lying down in the emergency bed. And all this is then confronted by the site-specificity of the work.
    It is important for this piece to take place in the city, in open spaces. And it is important that there are no formal actors in the piece, but that the bodies most present are the bodies of the audience. It is a means to amplify that these bodies are part of the problem field as well.
    A sensory experience can provide the benefit of understanding something more profoundly than just intellectually. Through stimulating the senses, the piece wants to engage people with their whole body, with their whole self, and make them aware that even if they don’t realize it every day, their body, their self, is a part of this bigger picture, it is as much a player in this crisis as the body of the refugee.
    The audience has the chance to stand up from the bed and carry on with their day, living free and in peace. This project aims to open a space to rethink and create ideas that are less limited to one’s own bubble of experiencing the world.
    Pillow Talk is a continuation and further development of Sonja’s artistic practice that understands art as a social exploration, a way of finding new ways of examining the social and political structures we live in.
    Sonja Kovačević sees this project as a form of active citizenship that will hopefully inspire other people to go out there and engage with the community of asylum seekers and refugees themselves to form their own opinion. Pillow Talk was carried out in different public places in Reykjavík and Hafnarfjörður from 15.-19.08.2017. A video documentation, additional pictures, the full audio played and a selection of press releases are uploaded on Skemman.

  • Oct 4, 2017
  • http://hdl.handle.net/1946/29127

Files in This Item:
Filename Size VisibilityDescriptionFormat 
Pillow Talk 1.JPG6.24 MBOpenSupplementary DocumentsJPGView/Open
Pillow Talk 2.JPG6.5 MBOpenSupplementary DocumentsJPGView/Open
Pillow Talk 3.JPG6.5 MBOpenSupplementary DocumentsJPGView/Open
Pillow Talk 4.JPG7.04 MBOpenSupplementary DocumentsJPGView/Open
Pillow Talk 5.JPG7.36 MBOpenSupplementary DocumentsJPGView/Open
Pillow Talk 6.JPG7.87 MBOpenSupplementary DocumentsJPGView/Open
Pillow Talk 7.JPG5.18 MBOpenSupplementary DocumentsJPGView/Open
Pillow Talk-Víðsjá 14.11.2017.wav194.59 MBOpenSupplementary DocumentsWAVView/Open
Pillow Talk-Víðsjá 14.11.2017.mp311.03 MBMembersSupplementary DocumentsMPEG Audio