What makes a society?

What makes a society? According to Merriam-Webster’s definition, it is a “community, nation, or broad grouping of people having common traditions, institutions, and collective activities and interests”. However, you only have to consider your own family, workplace or neighbourhood, to realise that to this notion of homogeneity must be added those of complexity, movement and multiplicity. Indeed, it is true that the members of a society have, at least theoretically, the same rights, must follow the same laws, and share common practices. Yet , these same individuals may hold different beliefs, opinions, backgrounds and traditions, which is what makes each society so rich, diverse and powerful. Due to reasons such as fear, misunderstanding, or the agendas of various political parties, these diversities are currently subject to political recuperations that tend to polarise societies. So how can we, as a society of people, address these issues and imbalances? The answers are obviously multiple and specific to each context, but at SuperGlue, we believe that certain artistic practices and initiatives can help make these phenomena visible and challenge the audience. In this, we believe that art has a unifying power, given its ability to express standpoints and perspectives in all their complexities. Through three specific examples from Seoul, London and Geneva, SuperGlue will investigate how art can play a role in addressing current socio-political phenomenon, and how by doing this, they bring people together and make them question what really makes their society. In this short editorial, we introduce the topics of the articles that we’ll release over the coming month. 

In recent years, artists have redefined borders by expanding out of their regional boundaries within the art world. However, after a period of time that has seen an unprecedented lack of movement, some artists within South Korea have turned inward. As a consequence of this, they now focus on the solidarity within this artistic cohort of society. In this issue, Superglue will examine contemporary art from Seoul that looks to reveal this togetherness. 

Refugee Week, an initiative that was founded in 1988 by the arts organisation Counterpoints Arts, is a week-long programme that “celebrates the contribution, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary”. The week-long event looks at creating a platform for expression, which enables connections that go beyond boundaries, bringing under-represented perspectives to the forefront of public consciousness. The theme for this year’s Refugee Week is ‘We Cannot Walk Alone’, a sentiment that carries particular weight in the fractured society that makes up the United Kingdom today, given the polarising of opinions and the insipid rhetoric of being a lone island nation pervades through the land. In this feature, SuperGlue will bring you an in-depth commentary on the art upon which the event is run, alongside the people who make it possible.

Switzerland considers itself to be a successful democracy, given that the people extensively participate in political decisions at the federal level. For example, the popular initiative (initiative populaire) is a democratic political tool which allows citizens to propose the modification or extension of the Swiss Constitution. If 100,000 signatures are collected within 18 months, the initiative is submitted to a popular vote. For the past 30 years, initiatives launched by the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) – the right-wing, populist political party that is the largest party in the Federal Assembly – have been openly racist, xenophobic and sexist. The infamous poster for the initiative “For the Deportation of Criminal Foreigners”, showing white sheep throwing a black sheep out of Switzerland, is a perfect example of the rhetoric and imagery used by this party. On 7 March 2021, the Swiss people accepted the initiative “Yes to the Ban of Face Covering”, also known as the “anti-burqa” initiative, proposed by the Egerkingen Committee, an association chaired by SVP National Councillor Walter Wobmann, which aims to “stop the Islamisation of Switzerland”. For a clear and detailed statement against the initiative, see the report written by Les Foulards Violets. Due to the Islamophobic and sexist character of this proposition, many international organisations showed their solidarity with Muslim women of Switzerland and human rights organisations such as the UN and Amnesty International condemned the initiative. 
In reaction to these events, curator, artist and publisher Mazyar Zarnadar launched AL-LAH, a digital exhibition against Islamophobia. For the exhibition, the works and texts of about 30 Swiss and international artists and academics were shown. Through a discussion with Mazyar, SuperGlue will explore what it means to curate an exhibition linked to Switzerland’s current political context.