Swedish version: http://tiggerisomyrke.se
Essay: ”Giving in Free movement Europe” in Eurozine (Europes leading cultural magazines) The informal politics of distribution on the streets makes visible the faults inherent to the European welfare system. At the same time it contributes to the immediate survival of individuals. By conducting a market survey, taking photographs, reading reports and posing questions to people on the streets I have investigated the choreographies of European giving and begging. See documentation of all exhibitions here.
I am Cecilia Parsberg and I started this project in 2011 as a response to the increasing number of poor EU-citizens using the Free Movement coming to Sweden to beg in the streets in order to survive and support their families in their home countries.
This is my doctoral studies in Fine Arts at Umeå Art Academy, Umeå University and Konstnärliga Forskarskolan i Malmö/Lund. In January 2014. The project was presented at a 50 % doctoral seminar at The National World Culture Museum, Göteborg and the 23 April 2015, a 75% doctoral seminar in Skövde Konsthall.
Film installation 1. In the summer of 2011 I hire a professional market researcher to conduct a qualitative market survey in which givers in Sweden share their views on those begging on the streets and answer my question about how the they could beg more successfully. It’s a film.
Then I interview begging people to give their view on giving people. It’s also a film.
These two films are screened opposite each other. For the viewer standing in between a multitude of images emerge that are at play in every encounter between the two groups on the street.
How does that affect me, the individual, walking down the street and trying to relate to a beggar? We’re many who finds the situation upsetting, what’s the drama unfolding? When do I choose to get involved consciously in the system? Am I systematically included? How? With what eyes do I really look at the begging person? Which images are given and what images can I make of it? Attitudes and structures are related but can I – as an individual – create my own opinion, my own way of acting? How can this be made with and in the Arts? How can I reorganize, network in new ways and thus act politically? What is the space of action between giving and begging people? These are some of the questions that my research project aims to discuss.
Film Installation 2. During three days in June 2014, amateur singers are trained and filmed.
In The Chorus of Giving participates people who give to those begging on the streets.
In The Chorus of Begging participates people who beg on the streets. They sing – without words or music – the feelings between the begging and the giving people.
The two choruses were singing improvised dialogue, when they were filmed.
The two films are shown in the same way in the installation and the viewer stands in between.
The political happens every day, between people in my neighborhood, people who share my existence. It is the very foundation of my artistic work. I see and feel a physical and mental distance between those on their knees on the street and passers by, between beggars and givers. The viewer is invited into that space “in-between.” There is a dialogue, or lack of dialogue, between the two choruses; between voices, facial expressions and bodies. The installation “The Chorus of Giving and the Chorus of Begging” is an embodiment of this experiential space. A mirror of the situation that everybody can experience on the street and refer to in their day-to-day lives. It is my hope that art will make visible this in-between space – which seems difficult to talk about – as a space for action; and thus contribute to the possibility for political action in and about this space.
Contact me if you would like to see a preview of the Chorus installation films.
The film ”On the production of The Chorus of Giving and the Chorus of Begging” show the chorus training.
See also photo documentation.
TV showed the installation in Kulturnyheterna, (SVT, 22/8, 2014)
Swedish Radio made a 30 mins program about the production.
EXHIBITIONS view documentation here
MOTBILDER 23/8–14/9, 2014, in six joined containers.
Solo exhibition at at Skövde Konsthall , 7/3–24/5, 2014. Doctoral seminar (75%) in Fine Arts, 23/4.
Solo exhibition at Reflektera Konsthall Väven, Umeå, 11/4–17/5.
Solo exhibition at Varbergs Konsthall 3/10 – 10/1, 2016.
The chorus work alone is also shown as street screenings, (unannounced see FB).
January, 2014 In an ongoing lab I think in images and with gestures together with many. We activate the street space. Body on street
August, 2014 the essay ”Giving in free movement Europe” is published in Glänta #1.14 as well as on the net magazine Eurozine.com : ”The informal politics of distribution on the streets – begging, giving – makes visible the faults inherent to the European welfare system, writes Cecilia Parsberg. Free movement is intended to open up national borders, but when poor EU citizens make use of this freedom to travel and do what they can to make money within the framework of the law, they are met by rules and statutes that aim to prevent them from enjoying this possibility. Parsberg’s text is accompanied by a series of photographs of places were beggars usually sit: street corners, subway stations, department store entrances. But what is left is only a trace: a piece of cardboard, an empty cup, a pile of warm clothes.” The begging on the streets challenges the reigning EU policy, it raises questions about how the distribution should happen. The giving on the streets challenges the same policy and raises the same necessary issues.
November, 2014, I write about the space of action in the Swedish newspaper. Sydsvenskan Kultur (28/11, 2014.)
May, 2015 TV in Rumania http://inpremiera.antena3.ro/reportaje/pierdut-paradis-ofer-recompensa-2-318.html
First part of the program: http://inpremiera.antena3.ro/reportaje/pierdut-paradis-ofer-recompensa-317.html
About the reserch
The political and economic system in the European community, in Romania, Sweden and other countries, systematically exclude some people. Images of the nation’s (functional and dysfunctional respectively) welfare systems, the European Union’s (free and unfree) movement, complicity, racism, generosity, egotism, solidarity. Visions of what labor is and could be. Images of Roma. Of givers. To whom is the beggar really directing their plea?
To live in a society, is a negotiation between individual freedom and agreements with the Community. I don’t want to, automatically, become part of a power that places responsibility on each one, to individually determine who is in real need of help. ”Alms = State minus liability” Alakoski writes. On the other hand I don’t, automatically, want to become part of a power which decides to ban begging or ban giving to those begging. Is it then also banned to ask for help? Should all help to others be organized? I signed the Red Cross debit form the other day. Red Cross sells the possibility to give. This is organised giving. If all help to others is organized, then what happens to the individual’s ability to reflect on what it is to give and take? To help and ask for help?
In my Research questions image is linked to action:
What image is a begging person facing?
What image is a person facing when giving – or not – to a person begging?
Through various practices I try out how these ”images” – collective as well as individual, visual as well as linguistic – are set in play in the society.
Follow-up question:In cases where space of action is established (created) between begging and giving:What are the potential images in the space of action between the beggar and the giver, and how can these images be portrayed?
To get an answer to my first questions I asked, in 2011, those begging and those who sometimes give what images they have and get of each other.
To answer these questions, I asked begging (film) and giving (film) people.
What image is the begging person facing? (57:30mins. Filmed in Göteborg, February 2011).
–Interviews with begging EU-citizens In this film begging EU citizen’s give their views on giving in Sweden
In this film begging EU citizen’s give their views on giving in Sweden and how people act towards them. The interviews lasted 30 minutes, we sat in a movie studio and had an interpreter. This is an edited version of all interviews. All participants were payed a fee.
What image is a person facing when giving – or not – to a person begging?
–Interviews with givers. A market research company was commissioned to conduct two group discussions, 2+2 hours, with 20 residents of Stockholm on their view on beggars and answer the question: How do you become a succesful beggar in Sweden? The film is an edited version of the group discussion.
The market researcher put together a report. In it, it becomes evident that a successful beggar:
- Is in a dire situation that is more or less temporary.
- Is active – gets something because they are doing something.
- Is relatively clean – nobody wants to be close to someone who is too dirty.
- Is “normal” – a person with “normal” clothes that one can identify with is easy to understand – and does not make the giver uncomfortable with strange or unusual rituals.[i]
- Can offer a reason for being in said situation, or explain what the money is going to be used for.
These answers disqualify many of those who beg on the streets of Sweden. It is clear that the beggars, in various ways, need to live up to the demands of “authenticity” that we, the potential benefactors, make. Different types of beggars are ranked in relation to that ideal.
(The market research is financed with support from Umeå Art Academy and the project is supported by Swedish Arts Grants Comittee.)
What kind of society generate begging? What society are we shaping, in Sweden, in Europe?
Have the politicians and EU reacted in a satisfying way? Obviously not. Others have reacted, actions of reactivists.
There is a risk with naming and grouping a number of people as ” beggars ” with my project title I provoke the use of language and allow ”beggar” collide with the word ”successful”. To want to be successful is a relevant question that should cover all professions, but when I ask the question to a beggar the language cracks, the person begging has no other way out. As a beggar in Bucharest says to me: ”If you can accept that you can not get more than minimum survival, then it’s succesful. It depends what limits you have. for me, if I can survive, then it’s sccesful.
May ”beggars” be exchanged for EU migrants? But then it include all coming and looking for work and those who are begging are lowest in the social hierarchy, they are the poorest, the excluded because many doesn’t have papers, birthcertificates and pass ports. The risk is to start to use the term carelessly – who are actually included in the end? All homeless? Street musicians regardless what they play…? If it is the activity to beg that characterizes beggars, the next question folllows: what is the difference between begging and asking for help? As I talked to both those who give money and those who ask for money in the streets, the more I see a range of different life situations. Everyone is trying to somehow carve out a strategy, a way to manage life. People network and organise themselves, it’s a way to manage to live together. It’s a way to respond to a social system.
(Following translation is not yet checked…so bare with the translation)
Designations are an example of how mental images conveyed.
For example: Begging Backpackers is a term used about Swedish Beggars in Spain and other countries, what image does it give?
Those who come here and beg are often called EU migrants or poor EU migrants. But most people I have met in conversations and interviews, more than 40, using the Free Movement in Europe. By using the concept of migrant, begging is associated with migration and migrants. Another name is the EU-mobile, or EU mobile Begging or EU citizens who are begging or poor EU citizens. Further characterization is Guest-begging (like guest-workers) because more than 90% are here for shorter periods, almost exclusively by economic reasons. Designations conveys an attitude, provides a picture of how one looks at the people who practice begging.
Another designation is Roma people from Rumania who beg, or Roma migrants or Romas begging, although the proportion of Roma among the EU citizens begging on the streets of Sweden is estimated at 75-85%. The figure is based partly on my own interviews with those who beg, and information from contacts that works with support for those people begging. There is no official number or possibility to statistically confirm this estimation because of four reasons:
1 / The Free Movement makes it difficult to deal with demographic data.
2 / Individuals who beg people are not recorded in Sweden or in Romania, they simply go off and return when it’s really a crisis. Thus, there are no official statistics that examine just that. There are samples which different actors have tried to do, including police and other Swedish authorities.
3 / The demographic under reporting the Romanian Roma populations constantly contend with. Romania’s official censuses mean that there are about 500,000 Roma in Romania, while the EU, Council of Europe and people’s rights organizations believe that the population is 2000 000. There is therefore an under reporting of 75%. The reason for this is very complicated to answer, but many Roma do not identify themselves as Roma and so forth.
4 / Categorizing begging as employment – what counts as begging? Are buskers counted as beggars? Collecting cans? How many hours a day should you have to work for to count as begging?
Is there not a risk that Roma are generally linked together by begging and prejudices against Roma rather strengthened? That Roma increasingly need to migrate associated with anti-Gypsyism: the historic and ongoing racism against Roma. I think it can reinforce existing stereotypes – like the Swedish police Roma registry showed. These kind of circulating myths about the Roma is unveiled by the Swedish Government White Paper ”The dark and unknown history” (published 25/3, 2014) by showing facts and telling the victim’s own stories. The discussion of begging associated, but should not be confused with the Roma situation. Why this occurs is in part because The Roma issue have ended up on the political agenda and to get support for marginalized Roma can in some cases be easier than for unemployed begging people. The situation of Roma is a clear example of how refugee policy fails when the developed countries produce refugees. The Roma has namely been excluded from refugee policy on three occasions: immediately after the Holocaust, after the fall of the wall and now that the Union has expanded.
Many Swedes also have a bad conscience about how Roma historically been treated in Sweden. The situation of Roma in Europe today is a testament of a complete failure in terms of minority housing policy, education policy, integration and health policy. There are currently major differences between all EU countries, but the Roma from the East is undergoing a difficult situation.
But even if a large majority of those engaged in begging consists of Romanian Roma and Roma are the largest minority, I mean that you should not use the term Roma begging partly because it can further strengthen stereotypisation and thus the traditional public hatred against the Roma and thereby the discrimination, and that each categorization strengthens a group simultaneously marginalize another. One example is that undocumented migrants have the right to health care in Sweden, but not mobile EU citizens begging. Another example would be if efforts are made with money earmarked for Roma EU-mobile Begging and their children, and in this way distinguishes non-Roma begging, the latter would then end up at the bottom of the scale.
All tell me that they are unemployed, they have come because no work is available where they live.
Presumably it is the political situation causing begging and giving on the streets that should be discussed. These actions raises questions about how the distribution should happen. What is the space of action? How can the inequality revealed be handled?
About image use, why discuss the picture?
Pictures of prejudices and beliefs – what I call mental images – can reinforce preconceptions and prejudices through designations (for example, political parties who want to gain votes can strategically play on voters’ emotions and values, such as fear and security. One example is SD’s poster campaign summer 2014).
Images that portrayed from a situation where both parties want to meet and have a desire to ”see through” given or outdated attitudes can be effective to open new approaches and ultimately change attitudes. To see is a constant process, to make images too. Therefore the aesthetics plays a role in the discussion. Art is one of many forums for such a discussion.
… Further discussion follows about this …
One Friday evening in August 2013, I counted fifteen beggars along Götgatan when I walked from Slussen to Skanstull in Stockholm. Götgatan is popular for shopping and there is an intense nightlife.
In the mid 90’s, I saw for the first time, a homeless at Järntorget in Gothenburg. He didn’t beg or ask actively for money, but people still put money in the cap beside him, the same cap as he put upon his head in the cold night. I also put money in his cap, I felt confused, what was it that caused his situation? I didn’t ask him.
To openly show in the street, the struggle to survive, is the only way out for some of those that society doesn’t include. The society has become increasingly difficult for some people to live in, partly caused by the economic crises, partly caused by rasism. Almost 120 million EU citizens live in poverty. In Spain and Greece a quarter of the population lacks work, the unemployed youth in Southern Europe is approaching 50 percent.
Susanna Alakoski writes in her book October in poor Sweden that : ”We know that only the human hand can help the people.”
Those who are expected to give also need help to understand what is happening, who can help me with my frustration when I don’t know how to behave, how I should relate. Shall I give or not, what will happen to a vulnerable person if I do not give? I can choose to respond or harden. What is the difference between begging and asking for help? Are street musicians beggars or artists who aren’t succesful on their art? How do you become successful in your profession, in your personal life? It may be a dilemma that do not always go together, is actualized at conflict and problem solving. The people who are begging reminds me of the choices they have, compared to mine. Seeing them makes me think about my space of action, as an individual and as a member of a society, in Europe, in the world. It also makes me think about what I mean when I say ”we”.
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