JANE MULFINGER: Common Knowledge 1992
13 European ethnic jokes sandblasted onto glass, each panel 32" x 48", installed in Saint Pancras Railway Station Ticket Office windows, London.
Commissioned by "Northern Adventures," Camden Arts Centre, London.
Made concurrent with the one-time Eurotunnel plans for Kings Cross/St. Pancras to be the Euroterminal station in Britain, and concurrent with the European Economic Community change of name to the European Community.
Using language itself as a locus for tribal xenophobias, COMMON KNOWLEDGE exposes long-held prejudices between nationalities of the larger vision of Europe in the 21st century. The series of etched texts was originally conceived in reaction to ongoing discourse surrounding European union. Suspecting that some of the difficulties in cooperation had to do with age-old xenophobic prejudices, the artist collaborated with many individuals across the continent to gather jokes in their original languages about another national identity in order to bring them out into the open. In the image, a selection of jokes are mounted inside the St. Pancras railway booking office windows, inviting those who stand in line to read the texts with the thought that should one or two be legible and provide a little sophomoric pause, that an awareness of the other jokes becomes more worrisome. In other words, if one joke is about 'them,' then maybe one of the others is about 'us.' This work is about the confluence of time, current events, and an awareness of the potency of language, as well as the potential for bigotry in all of us.
In gallery presentations, the series is mounted 1" from the wall, causing the shadows of the texts to become the most prominent visual element.
below: gallery installation