Chris and I, in collaboration with Fabienne Stoll, had just tested the prototype for a workshop on the topic of "Unconscious Bias" in two TryOuts, and we were already asked whether we could lead a workshop for the Anti-Racism Action Days 2022 in Thun. Great, when it just flows like that, isn't it?
The inspiration for this work comes from a performance about cultural identity and prejudice that Chris and I developed together with Sandra Chatterjee and had already shown several times as part of our piece "Table Conversations".
"Unconscious Bias" invites you to start growing your awareness for our own thinking and behaviour mechanisms around the topic of unconscious bias.
We use the thinking and feeling body to experience the topics of migration, unconscious bias, exclusion mechanisms and cultural identity. Participants are asked to try something out physically, alone and in interaction, through easy-to-follow action suggestions. This creates surprising situations that invite reflection.
Direct experience on the physical, relational and emotional level plays an important role. It serves as a starting point for reflection and exchange and prevents the discussion from remaining a purely intellectual treatise. However, factual knowledge about migration and racism in Switzerland also comes into play and participants are invited to test their level of knowledge.
The workshop consists of three main parts.
In the first part there are playful tasks and movements through the room on the topic of "borders". Where are my boundaries? How do I defend them? How do I cross boundaries? What happens to me when I am denied access to cross a border?
The second part is about a constellation and arrangement on the topic of "migration". How much migration is in me? How do my own unconscious prejudices show up? How do I personally feel about certain statements and opinions on the topic of migration, integration, cultural identity? What happens to me when someone confronts me with an opposing opinion?
In the third part, there are questions that encourage reflection and exchange, as well as a few tips and suggestions for further discussion. How do I experience unconscious prejudice, exclusion, migration in my own life? In my work? In my education? In my family? In my free time? Where do I wish for a change? What might the first steps toward that change look like?
We tested our prototype with two very different groups. The first group was heterogeneous in terms of cultural identity and ethnic background, the second group consisted mainly of Swiss people without a migration background. While the first group responded more to the first part on the topic of borders, for the second group it was more the second part that triggered something.
In both groups, the participants appreciated the combination of physical experience on the one hand and mental examination on the other. This was rated as an innovative, holistic and inspiring learning experience.
The playful design and relaxed atmosphere of the workshop gave the participants permission at all times to reveal only as much of themselves as they really wanted to. At the same time, the physical and spatial movement and positioning meant that the participants could never completely escape the emotionality and their own involvement in the topic. This resulted in a high degree of participation as well as a high level of attention and intensity.
Thanks to the open, trusting atmosphere, very lively and honest conversations and exchanges took place in both groups. Both this and the tips and suggestions for further discussion were highly appreciated.
Some participants were visibly moved and touched after the tryout of the prototype. Some were shaken up because they had been confronted with their own prejudice and demarcation mechanisms. Others were alarmed by some facts about racism in Switzerland. In a feedback they told me that they had continued to deal with the topics in the next weeks and continued the conversations with the next persons from their environment.
Of course, this is exactly what we hope to get out of this work! At the same time, this feedback was a clear sign for us that more space is needed to integrate what people have experienced in the workshop. We have now planned this in for the next implementation of the workshop. I am looking forward to this next adventure!