The living room as art30 April 2018
An apartment in Boden is transforming into a public living room. A space where dining, fika and conversations become art. This project places the terms and conditions for asylum seeking immigrants in the spotlight.
Boden has changed radically as a city the last decades. For a long period of time, Boden served as a military town, with the largest garrison in the nation, and with foreign visitors having to inquire authorization to visit the city. Today, the military presence has declined, permissions are not required anymore and the Swedish Migration Agency has based its northerly office here. This context is where artist and architect Sandi Hilal has conceived the work “Al Madhafah / The Living Room.”
Home as political space
Springing from the historic past of Boden, Sandi Hilal has explored the circumstances of life in exile; asking on whose terms is integration materialized in society. With references to that consideration, she is investigating the symbolic and actual value of the living room as space. The living room has the potential of what hosting entails: the act of inviting, and accommodate on specific conditions. Are gatherings in our living room the source from where our societies change?
The idea of transforming an apartment into a public living room came to Sandi Hilal during a period of research, when she met Ibrahim Muhammad Haj Abdullah and Yasmeen Mahmoud. They are currently living in Boden, after escaping their home in Syria, and are opening up their house, and faithfully inviting guests in – a gesture that requires a living room. This space was something that Sandi Hilal found was missing for many newly arrived refugees.
Transforming the apartment
The asylum accommodation in Boden is called ”Gula huset” (the Yellow House) and is located on Prästholmen, appearing as a yellow cube in the open landscape that surrounds it. In the 1960s, several identical buildings existed in the area but have been torn down during the years. It is in Gula huset that one of the apartments will be transformed into a room for collective activities, the so called ”Al Madhafah/ The Living Room.”
The programme of activities that will be held here, whereas they will act as an open preschool or casual meeting for brunch, will actuate a hospitality that previously was non-existent. “The Living Room” is enacting the artistic concept, giving refugees the opportunity and the agency to host meetings and to