Schengen Smile

This interactive and durational participatory installation was a creative response to the ups and downs, swings and roundabouts of internationalism. It was a surreal take on the everyday reality of international travel: waiting rooms, forms, desks, stamps, and frozen smiles.  Hoping to open up a space for reflection, it played with and subverted the structures present in the bureaucratic world of visa applications, passport controls, and border crossings. The experience was designed as a liner journey for one person at a time. The performers remained silent throughout, their fake smiles fixed on their faces. Upon entering this Kafkian world, audience members were taken into the waiting area, where they were instructed to fill out a form with their personal details. They were then ushered into another room, where they were met by a series of clerks at different desks. The process allowed people to adopt a new nationality, picked at random by one of the clerks, for a period of twenty-four hours.

Performance Dates

Schengen Smile
Cornwallis Building, University of Kent, Canterbury
28th Feb 2009

Extra Information

Schengen Smile was commissioned by the University of Kent for WorldFest.

The title refers to two international treaties signed by countries across the European Union in 1986 and 1990. They dealt with cross-border legal arrangements and the abolition of systematic and physical border controls among the participating European countries. Therefore a common Schengen Visa allows travel for tourism, business visits or temporary transit for employment purposes to non-EU citizens for a period of up to 90 days. Nevertheless, Ireland and the United Kingdom were the only EU members that did not sign up to the original Schengen Convention of 1990, and retained a right to opt out of the application of the rules after their conversion into European Union law. Thus, they have not ended border controls with other EU Member States, but do apply the provisions relating to police and judicial co-operation, which form part of the Schengen acquis.

Photos ImagebyKatie.