torsdag 6 februari 2020

Travelling Colossus: From Expo to Eksbo (application)


From Dubai to Eksbo (15 kilometers east of Borås in western Sweden)

About nine months ago (April 2020), we applied for money for a project from Formas' "Communication call" and four months ago we found out that application had been approved. In a blog post that was published just 10 days ago, I wrote about how the spin-off Homo Colossus@Expo 2020 project has been scaled-up and now represents a significant work effort.

I called up Formas before Christmas to ask if it was possible to "repurpose" some of the money we got for our project towards the new Expo project. The answer was that it wasn't possible (which does make sense), but we also found out there was a new Communication call out and that we could submit a new application there.

So we did. We just handed in a new project proposal and will know in mid-June if it will be approved. In our application, the first year of the project is geared towards the World Expo and the second and third year will re-use and re-package the installations we will create for the Expo and show it to new audiences (in Sweden). Here's the project summary:

Travelling Colossus: From Expo to Eksbo

This project builds on our just-started 2020-2022 Formas-funded Stockholm-based communications project “From Homo Sapiens to Homo Colossus” (dnr 2019-01717). The concept of Homo Colossus builds on a thought experiment: what if we were giant creatures that ate all the energy we use in our everyday lives? The average Swede currently “consumes” upwards to 100 times more energy than the energy content of the food we eat. Preliminary calculations indicate that a giant human that ate that much energy would weigh around 30 000 kilos and we will illustrate the size of our energy footprint through Augmented Reality (AR).

Homo Colossus has made rapid progress. In November 2019, it was invited to represent KTH at the upcoming World Expo in Dubai for two weeks (Nov 2020, Feb 2021). In December, Homo Colossus was also invited to be part of the permanent exhibition at the Swedish pavilion for the duration of the World Expo (October 2020 - April 2021). Embracing the blatant contradictions of representing sustainability at the World Expo, Homo Colossus will nonetheless travel to Dubai to tell people why it’s grossly unsustainable to travel to the World Expo in Dubai.

A large part of the expected 25 million visitors to the World Expo will belong to a global elite of “decision-makers”. At KTH, we are currently developing a number of installations for the World Expo, but why should these exhibits be available only to a global elite that can afford to go to the World Expo? This communication proposal aims to reshape the most relevant Homo Colossus installations from the Dubai World Expo (year 1) and create a travelling exhibition (year 2) that will visit different cities in Sweden (year 3).

For the travelling exhibition, KTH cooperates with Konstfrämjandet, an organisation that has over 70 years of experience with organising travelling exhibitions together with its many districts and member organizations (for example educational associations, trade unions and social movements). We will recruit among Konstfrämjandet’s districts and members and develop a study plan and educational materials pertaining to Homo Colossus and related topics (sustainability, energy use, consumption, transport, social equity, the SDGs etc.). This material will be used in several (parallel) study circles in different parts of the country (autumn 2022) and will also serve to prepare local organisations to receive and display the travelling exhibition, “Travelling Colossus” (winter 2022).

I think we have handed in a good application and that it in several respects is stronger than our previous (approved) application. Despite the fact that we have yet to produce something concrete, we have already "proved" the soundness of the Homo Colossus concept by successfully pitching it left and right, including getting invited to be part of the permanent exhibition at the Swedish pavilion at the upcoming World Expo. The new application is more ambitious than ever:

Covering the research/education angle we have me, Mario Romero and a new Ph.D. student who will start to work at KTH later this spring. Covering the art angle we again have Åsa Andersson Broms (Royal Institute of Art) and Per Hasselberg (Konstfrämjandet/The People's Movements for Art Promotion). Covering the communication angel we again have Belinda Retourné (Changeancy) but this time also strengthened by Marianne Loor (KTH). Both me and Marianne will work 10% in the project without charging the project budget as our work would be paid by KTH. While Per would get paid by the project, the application fits what he already does at Konstfrämjandet and he would "double up" and perform additional work in the project that would be paid by Konstfrämjandet.

All in all, there are many moving parts that fit together nicely in the application. The point is that things should go together in a way that sounds "natural" in an application - but there is a lot of hard intellectual labor to get the ideas to align and fit together and then to be able to express that clearly and succinctly in text. This has kept me quite busy lately - but I believe we have succeeded with writing a strong application. Here is our communication plan:

This application brings together unique competence in the form of research (Pargman, Romero, PhD student), artistic (Andersson Broms, Hasselberg) and communication expertise (Retourné, Loor) in a project that combines sustainability research, scientific visualization and artistic/aesthetic expression. The project group has an even gender balance.

The communication efforts are divided between an operational part (Retourné) and a strategic part (Loor). Retourné will mainly focus on information dissemination and content production e.g. creation and management of a project web page, social media accounts and general PR, as well as contacts with journalists and with the sustainability and art communities. Loor will mainly focus on KTH communication channels and extended research communication related to open science and public engagement as well as contacts with educational stakeholders, e.g. academic channels and the adult educational associations (studieförbund). The project can be divided into three phases:

Year 1: Technical development & Deployment at the World Expo.
  • The first phase of the project (led by Pargman and Romero with input from Hasselberg and Andersson Broms) will develop and deploy several Homo Colossus-related installations at the World Expo (Oct 2020 - April 2021) and collect materials (PhD student) for evaluation. Note: there is already (Feb 2020) ongoing work at KTH to develop these installations. We are currently working closely together with our partners Tekniska Museet and the art exhibition space Färgfabriken and will be able to exhibit (demo and test) our installations there late summer/early autumn 2020 (≈ September 2020).

Year 2: Develop study materials & Develop a travelling exhibition.
  • The project (led by Pargman) develops a study plan and educational materials pertaining to Homo Colossus (sustainability, energy use, consumption, transport, social equity, the SDGs etc.). Pargman has extensive experience and has taught these topics at KTH for the better part of a decade.
  • The project (led by Andersson Broms and Hasselberg) develops a travelling exhibition, “Travelling Colossus”. Applicant Andersson Broms has worked in this field since 1996 with The Swedish Travel Exhibition, Living History Forum, Nordic Museum etc.
  • For organising the travelling exhibition, Konstfrämjandet (and applicant Hasselberg) will take the lead as it is an organisation that has over 70 years of experience with organising travelling exhibitions together with its many districts and member organizations.
  • The project (Hasselberg) recruits national and local organisations among Konstfrämjandet’s districts and members ( to form local study circles, with a particular emphasis on recruiting local artists, local K-12 teachers and representatives from NGOs.

Year 3: Study circles & Travelling exhibition.
  • Local organisations (recruited year 2) form several parallel study circles in different parts of the country (autumn 2022). The study circles will also serve to prepare local organisations to receive and display the travelling exhibition (winter 2022). K-12 teachers who participate in the study circles will bring in students to the exhibition. Local groups will be encouraged to continue their work/study circles also after the project ends by asking the question “what happens next?”.
  • Data collection and evaluation (PhD student).

The application itself is not very long, nor is the grant very large, but quite a lot of time has gone into thinking about this project.

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