Arts, participation, exchange: who are 'we' in a moving world?

Can politics be more artful and art be more political? Here, we ask if art and digital communication can create new ways to talk about belonging, exclusion and responsibility.

Sara de Jong Giota Alevizou
20 November 2017
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The new union jack. Image: Tate/OU/CPA. All rights reserved.Borders, citizenship and migration dominate political and media agendas. The referendum on EU membership in 2016 in Britain and the so-called refugee crisis in particular have sparked intense polarisation, leading rises in both xenophobic attitudes and solidarity activism. In times of social upheaval and transience we need to find spaces to ask who we are and how we know who we are.


Sara de JongWords alone can fall short of capturing what is really meant, even creating barriers rather than shared understandings. Post-truth politics and echo chambers challenge a sense of the possibility of meaningful communication. Where to go from here? Can politics be more artful and art be more political?

This special feature asks if art and digital communication can create new ways to talk about belonging, exclusion and responsibility. Can we form new collective identities and actions through engaged practice, visual, audio, and digital arts, film, photography, theatre and the spoken word?


Giota AlevizouThis special feature is developed by academics from The Open University who formed a collaboration with Counterpoints Arts (CPA) and the Universities of Loughborough and Warwick to organize a free 6-day cross-platform event in March 2017 entitled Who Are We? as part of Tate Exchange Programme. We are currently preparing the continuation of the Who Are We? Programme staged in 2018.

This feature presents 4 themes addressing:

  • Citizenship and Solidarities
  • Identities and Communities
  • Arts and Ethics
  • Hi/Stories and Memories
  • Each addresses co-production between artists, academics and audiences. Immerse yourself in the multi-media essays to confront one of the most pressing questions of our times: Who are we in a moving world?

    Access the entire film collection by Counterpoints Arts here

    Note on eLearning: For an educational iteration of ‘Who Are We?’ read our page on The Open University’s Open Learn: Art and Creative Methods to Interrogate identity, citizenship and migration.   

    We are currently preparing the continuation of the Who Are We? programme to be staged in the last week of May 2018.

    This article is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy, The Open University and Counterpoints Arts to reanimate the Tate Exchange project in which academics and artists together ask who – during a time when the lines marking out citizens, borders and nations are being redrawn, or drawn more starkly – 'we' are, and who gets to decide.

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    To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

    We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

    We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

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    The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

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