Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me

It is a lovely children’s rhyme but does it speak the truth? To explore the human tendency to categorize and label those around us, we designed t-shirts imprinted with the question: “What would others call me behind my back?” Students invited strangers on the streets of Berlin to express their feelings by inking their opinions on the back of their shirts. This initiative was meant to give physicality to the way we label each other. The writers of these opinions pressed their words onto the back of the t-shirt wearer, and in turn, those students felt these labels and assumptions being forced upon their backs.

As many students realized, this was not an easy endeavor. Inviting others to openly judge and visibly label them, was an exercise in risk, potential danger, and emotional turmoil. Todd Nelson, the first t-shirt wearer, was asked afterward, “Would you do it again?”

His answer was an emphatic No.

This initiative provides insight into the true nature of words. They can push us into action. We hope these t-shirts promote you to act: Carefully consider the words you use as they hold great power to heal or to wound, an idea in contrast to the nursery rhyme.

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Sometimes non-verbal facial expressions can say it all,

as this video tries to prove. The Sticks + Stones students traveled around Berlin and asked others to look at a variety of images that referenced different cultural traditions, political beliefs and lifestyle choices. The viewer is seen reacting to a series of images, each seen at the bottom left corner of the video. The facial responses to these images were recorded as a way to reveal the viewers’ thoughts regarding these potentially controversial images.

The genesis for this project came from our symposium participants’ frustration at the inability to communicate verbally. In the absence of easy conversation, students relied heavily upon hand gestures, drawings and facial expressions. This project seeks to invoke the initial non-verbal reactions of the viewer to different visuals, exposing their hidden biases. These reactions are influenced by cultural backgrounds and reveal the differences that underlie our everyday judgments of the world around us.

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Typographic Migration Representations

Students in the Universität der Künste Berlin typography course taught by Simone van Eldik were asked to design posters on the diverse aspects of migration using only typography with no images. Statistical information, poems, and interviews with migrants present either objective or subjective points of views on the topic.

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Our collective desires, satisfactions, and reluctances for a homeland

are being made visible in this project. We invite you to dip your finger into each color of ink to identify where you currently live, where you want to live and where you would never want to live. The overall mosaic of colorful thumbprints helps connect.

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Global Migration Patterns

This map shows immigration and emigration patterns of China, Germany, Turkey, and the United States. Silver wires represent origins of each country’s top immigration populations. Germany and the United States are two of the three top immigrant-receiving countries in the world whereas China and Turkey are two of the top seven emigration countries in the world.

For China, these are South Korea, Germany and France.
For Germany, these countries are Turkey, Italy and Poland.
For Turkey, these countries are Bulgaria, Azerbaijan and Germany
For the United States, these are Mexico, the Philippines, and China.
The gold wires represent the emigration destinations of each country’s former citizens.

For China, these are the United States, Singapore, and Japan.
For Germany, these are the United States, Spain and the United Kingdom.
For Turkey, these are Germany, France and the Netherlands.
For the United States, these are Mexico, Canada and the United Kingdom.

The white stickers represent country of origin; Blue stickers represent destination.

Sources: Development Prospects Group, Migration and Remittances Factbook, 2005, and Immigration and Migration by Raynaa Bailey, 2008

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Symposium Impressions

Symposium Impressions

During the course of our two week symposium, you are asked to write and post responses to conversations and activities to the project site. Writings should address personal feelings and reflections on subjects including: immigration, traveling to a foreign country, impressions of Berlin venues, thoughts on Graphic Design as a medium for social activism, and synthesis of difficult dialogues.

Here are the urls for the posts you are asked to comment on:

Kreuzberg Tour:

Intercultural Workshop with Sophia Stempf:

Possible content to address

A. Self Reflection: Examples include self critique or analysis, an awareness of self and/or self impact, explaining and expansion upon a moment you personally related to a symposium conversation topic or information presented at one of the museums.

B. Group Dynamics: Examples include comments on the contributions of other participants in the session, analyze the unspoken social and/or conversational dynamics of the dialogue or experience.

C. Intellectual Theorizing: Examples include integrating relevant information from academic sources/readings, bringing in related narratives from other sources (friends, family, etc.), and/or framing the conversation within a broader context of social justice.

Ideally, everyone will undertake all three categories when possible. However, there is no obligation to write about all of the three categories.

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Kreuzberg neighborhood tour response

Write a response about your impressions of Kreuzberg. What are the similarities to your home neighborhood? What are the differences? Is this a place you would want to live? Why or why not? Add your comment below other comments already made to this post.

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Intercultural workshop response

Write a response about your reaction to the Intercultural workshop by Sophia Stepf. What did you learn about yourself? What did you learn about the other symposium participants? How does this or will this new knowledge influence your future design work?

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response to classmate

Write a response to one of your fellow participants postings about the Kreuzberg trip or intercultural workshop. Do you agree with him or her? Why or why not?

What was the response of visitors? Was this what you were expecting? Comment directly to your classmate’s comments so your response appears directly below their comment.

Kreuzberg Tour:

Intercultural Workshop with Sophia Stempf:

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language and communication

Any thoughts about how language has impacted exchanges you have had in Berlin?

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  • posts

  • Sticks + Stones Berlin 2010 Participants

    Bilkent University
    Ankara, Turkey

    Güclü Aydogdu
    Sera Cakiroglu
    Basak Gokce

    Northeastern University
    Boston, Massachusetts USA

    Christie O’Laughlin
    Kate Terrado

    Ann McDonald

    Shandong University of Art and Design
    Ji’nan, Shandong Province, P.R. China

    Kang Kai
    Sun Lu
    Li Lingjun
    Xu Yichen
    Ma Wen
    Liu Mengdie
    Yang Shuai
    Li Yang
    Liu Xinkun
    Zhang Xiao

    Shi Zengquan
    Hou Liping
    Wang Xiaofeng
    Zhang Xiaojuan

    Universität der Künste
    Berlin, Germany

    Anna Cairns
    James Ellison
    Karolina Hałatek
    Catherine Kirk
    Rotem Peleg
    Philipp Tögel
    Xingzheng Jin
    Thomas Zimmermann

    Ulrich Schwarz
    Charlotte Driessen

    University of Maryland
    College Park, Maryland USA

    Brittany Atkinson
    Katie Friedgen
    Shai Goller
    Talia Hillman
    Christie Liberatore
    Jaimie Mertz
    Todd Nelson
    Joanna Shieh
    Anna Tulchinskaya
    Jessy Weiss
    Lilian Yu

    Audra Buck-Coleman

    Weber State University
    Ogden, Utah USA

    Crissy Barney
    Sam DeMastrie
    Jennifer Hadley
    Britni Howe
    Chanel Licheld
    Jeff Madsen

    Mark Biddle

  • supporters

    The Sticks + Stones faculty and students recognize the generous support of the following:

    Bilkent University
    Nancy H. Clarvit
    DAAD German Academic Exchange Service
    Northeastern University Undergraduate Research Fund
    Shandong University of Art and Design
    Universität der Kunste Berlin
    University of Maryland College of Arts & Humanities
    University of Maryland Center for Teaching & Excellence
    Weber State University College of Arts and Humanities

  • additional contributors

    Lisette Berndt
    Teresa Besser
    Wilfried Beuster
    Melanie Bossert
    Eugen Bräunig
    Vinzent Britz
    Vladimir Llovet Casademont
    Lisa Bukall
    Sujin Choi
    Benjamin Courtault
    Gökçen Demiragli
    Simone van Eldik
    Maria Fountoukis
    Marius Förster
    Vera Garben
    Irina Gertmann
    Branka Hanisch
    Florian Hardwig
    Philipp Hoffmann
    Stefan Höderath
    Soo-Im Jung
    Julia Lingertat
    Antonia Aravena Llanca
    Jens Ludewig
    Matthias Maercks
    Lena Marbacher
    Benjamin Maus
    Markus Mrugalla
    Naomi Mulla
    Donnie O’Sullivan
    Gulnara Petzold
    Robert Preusse
    Next Interkulturelle Projekte
    Nina Ritter
    Serge Rompza
    Marie-France Ryder
    Ilka Schaumberg
    Leon Schmid
    Timo Schmitt
    Sophia Stepf
    Carla Streckwall
    Stefan Stubbe
    Lena Teuber
    Philipp Tögel
    Wanja Toselli
    Rafael B. Varona
    Julia Volkmar
    Dominik Wagner
    Peter Winkles
    Felix Worseck
    Yang Liu

  • Sticks + Stones: Culture, Migration and Representation is a response to the topic of Migration/Immigration by an international group of student designers and artists.

    The participating students from universities in China, Germany, Turkey, and the United States worked together throughout a two-week symposium in Berlin Germany to create an exhibit focused on the expectations, realities and connections of migration in a global community.

    designtransfer, UdK
    opening: Thursday 17 June 2010 7pm
    exhibition: 18-25 June 2010,
    Tuesday-Friday, 10am-6pm
    Einsteinufer 43-53
    10587 Berlin-Charlottenburg

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