REBRANDING EUROPEAN MUSLIMS – GALA

One hundred years ago, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was the first European country to recognize Islam as an official religion. Muslims have long since become a visible part of today’s population – yet they still predominantly represent “the others”, while Europe itself is on the verge of forfeiting its utopian ideals once and for all. “Rebranding European Muslims” is an international PR project by the Israeli performance and research group Public Movement, who play artistically with the instruments of a political branding campaign and the strategies of mass communication. Instead of giving answers, the project, being ambivalent, provokes different standpoints. Backed up by branding experts and with the aid of strategies deployed in official political campaigns, the project experiments with artistic possibilities of changing public opinion.



The campaign that began in Berlin Biennial continued a big gala event in Graz: a political charity event as much as a theatrical enactment of commitment and conflict. The gala staged a performance of conflict and advocacy and celebrated at the same time Austria’s historic role as Western gateway to the Muslim world. Special guests were the Choir of the Islamic Cultural Center Graz, scholars and diplomats, politicians, strategists, all joining in the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the recognition of Islam as an official European religion.
At the heart of the gala, three prestigious branding agencies from Amsterdam, Stockholm and Vienna who presented their creative proposals for the future direction of the Rebranding European Muslims campaign – and the audience itself was asked to decide which one was the most convincing approach. The winning idea was presented in the centre of Graz. The gala was accompanied by traditional Middle Eastern cuisine and closed with a live concert by the internationally acclaimed Islamic punk band The Kominas from Lexington/Massachusetts, performing for the first time in Austria.

28 September 2012
Graz, Austria
stierscher herbst Festival

Head of Public Movement: Dana Yahalomi
Curator & general consultant: Florian Malzacher
Advisor: Daniel Miller
Production director: Dominik Jutz
Consultant of design and light: Jackie Shemesh
Correspondence and Assistant: Gerda Strobl
Assistant research: Nora Gresch
Consultant and text: Alhena Katsof
Newsletter: Daniel Miller
Catering: Eckstein
Design logo and poster: Luca Conte / by Herz – information strategies

Curator: Florian Malzacher
Advisor: Daniel Miller
Action Leader: Dana Yahalomi

Production Kirsten Patent
Technical direction Hermann Schapek
Technical direction Helmut-List-Halle Peter Springer
Light Edith Offenhauser
Sound Karl Masten & Johannes Egger
Crew artbox / reddog

  • J.J Kuc
  • J.J Kuc
  • J.J Kuc
  • J.J Kuc
  • J.J Kuc
  • J.J Kuc
  • J.J Kuc
J.J Kuc
J.J Kuc

Press

After all, the rebranding activity always fails,” she says. “It never fully represents the thing it seeks to brand. So the project itself uncovered the paradox, the impossibility of branding the European Muslims, an effort that is being undertaken with great enthusiasm across the political spectrum. The paradox is inherent in the title of the project. The success of the process lay in the very fact of staging the Gala event and in the conflict that emerges from participation in it.

“… Like all the activities of Public Movement, the campaign Rebranding European Muslims can be perceived as having multiple meanings and appears to be highly deceptive. It is an artistic event, yes, but all the participants treat it as the real thing”

Haaretz | Shay Fogelman |Nov. 1, 2012

“…Public Movement’s gala suggested an alternative approach to the celebration of a historic anniversary – one that looked beyond the purely ritual purposes of these kinds of events into the constructive potential they carry – an anniversary that not only commemorates a moment in the past, but reactivates it within the present to recognise the repercussions it had, and continues to have, for identity formation. …”

[…]

[At the Gala] “…Voting was done publicly with individuals required to stand in order to cast their vote, dramatising the traditional gala sequence prevalent in both the arts and politics. The campaign by Demner, Merlicek & Bergman (DMB) won the vote, and was shown on billboards throughout Graz in Autumn 2012. Additionally the project as a whole was included in a major national branding competition, and became the focus of controversy in the Austrian national press.

[…]

Afterall | Ellen Feiss |Published 11.04.2013