Katya Sander

Public Realm / The Research Institute for Cosmopolitan Cultures, Manchester

Mar 2009 → Nov 2009

Katya Sander made two works as part of the project Whose Cosmopolitanism?, a series of public events to launch the Research Institute for Cosmopolitan Cultures (RICC), University of Manchester. If You Read This, I’ll Give It To You consisted of five thousand pin badges bearing the phrase ‘If you read this, I’ll give it to you (but then you must wear it)’. Each badge represents a social contract between those who wear it, and those who act upon its statement in order to acquire it. They invite communication and exchange and are intended to generate questions about the nature of reciprocity, obligation and openness to others.

The badges were introduced to the city by a number of participants working within higher and further educational institutions and art spaces over several weeks in early 2009, each badge making its own individual journey through Manchester, generating its own unique chain of relationships along the way. The work’s distribution was orchestrated as part of a discussion about the “knowledge economy” and “education industry” that many post-industrial cities have invested in. As many large cities are trying to brand themselves as embedded and invested in the knowledge-industry, access to this knowledge is getting more and more exclusive. But despite major privatisation and corporatisation, Sander believes that knowledge and education remain empowering. This project attempted to link educational institutions (and the many bodies that pass through them every day) to a discussion about public space, a relationship particularly pertinent in the context of “cosmopolitan culture”’.

It was complemented by a second work, A Public Consists of Mere Attention, which was a set of 15 billboard posters hung in a precise order to form a particular sequence. On the posters, the graphic showed a person hanging up the posters in the same order that they appeared, making the work a kind of manual for its own production and distribution. The intention was to heighten the awareness of those who come across them about the mechanisms through which information is mediated and publics created in urban spaces. Together, this project and the badges were intended to locate viewers/participants as part of a simple chain of exchanges that attempt to humanise the mechanisms that can often feel too enormous to contemplate.