Common Knowledge, 1992
13 European jokes sandblasted onto glass, each panel 32”x48”
“Northern Adventures,” Camden Arts Centre and St. Pancras Railway Station, London
[made concurrent with the onetime eurotunnel plans for Kings Cross to be the terminal station in Britain, and concurrent with the EEC change of name to the EC]
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.