Public art installation on satellite dishes, interactive website, guided tour and printed matter
Fittja/Residence Botkyrka, Sweden September 2011 – September 2012
Read about Satellitstaden in my book Satellite Lifelines: Art, Media, Migration and the Crisis of Hospitality in Divided Cities
The setting is Fittja, a housing estate in a Stockholm suburb built in the early 1970s. Hundreds of satellite dishes hang from pre-fabricated concrete façades and enable many immigrants to watch satellite television broadcasts from all over the world, and mainly from their homelands. However, these objects are more than receivers of television signals, and television in Fittja is more than just entertainment. The satellite dishes represent an important lifeline in the connection to the homeland – and this creates a strong relationship between home and homeland through satellite media. Yet satellite dishes are condemned by the authorities for violating building codes, for being aesthetically disruptive, and with the onslaught of digital television, these objects may well be on their way out of existence soon.
More importantly, satellite dishes on the façades of public housing estates have become a marker for the segregated city, where immigrant populations find themselves more and more being pushed away into satellite cities in the peripheries of Stockholm and thus forming high concentrations of foreign-born citizens in the country. This feature is commonly used in the current media as an “integration problem” amidst an ever more conservative political climate in Europe in general.
Autobiography of a [segregated] city
Satellitstaden’s proposition is very simple: we invite residents to put color on their satellite dishes.In exchange to letting us color their satellite with a color of their choice, all we ask in return is a conversation. From this conversation a story emerges, and this compilation of stories and messages to the world are linked to each colored dot on an interactive map of the area. Each dot on the façade then tells a story, as a signal that is sent out from the antenna back to the sky. On site, we see many colors along the façades, and on the map we understand how each dot relates to one another. See the interactive map.
Forming the network
The logic of on-site participation in the project follows the dynamics of digital social media.It entails a strong collaboration with local residents in coloring the satellite dishes dotting Fittja’s façades as they recommend each other to the project. In this way, the colors begin to spread over the area. This enables a network formation that I call “constellations” and makes visible existing and durable social bonds. The on-site installation then becomes a collective endeavor where each participant plays a vital role, and where artist and participant share the same goal in the project – to make Fittja as colorful as possible and lift it from years of façade deterioration, to change the perception of this locality both from inside and outside, and stimulate community participation from the bottom up.
The project includes the public arts installation, and an interactive map where visitors can read the stories behind each colored dot, a project publication and a guided tour around the neighborhood that connects the stories and the colored dots to the site itself in September 2012.
Many thanks to Residence Botkyrka for the continued support.