“Through Different Eyes,” a performance project by Copenhagen company Global Stories, reportedly altered the appearances of people who participated so they could assume another race or gender. The exhibition then invited participants to walk around in public to see how people would react to their new skin color or sex.
According to the project’s leader, the project was designed to celebrate uniqueness.
“This is a project that celebrates diversity,” said Morten Nielsen, “We work with make-up artists and provide all kinds of transformations: from white to brown, brown to white, man to woman, and woman to man. We are also looking in to transforming from young to old to address the age discrimination.”
Local Swedes didn’t see it that way, though. More than 200 signed a petition demanding the project’s removal from the Malmo Festival, with organizers officially terminating “Through Different Eyes” Sunday.
“We apologize if people feel aggrieved and we have taken the criticism seriously. This part of the programme took an unexpected turn and we have decided to cancel it,” said organizer Pella Strom on the festival website.
However, one Danish historian had a more negative take on the project’s cancellation, implying it interferes with freedom of expression.
“We could laugh at it as we normally do when we talk abut Sweden, because their ideological discussions seem almost comical, but this is really serious,” commented Mikael Javling. “Sweden is a country where politicians, the media, the cultural elite – everyone, really that has something to say [about integration issues, ed] — is under severe pressure due to immigration and current issues.”
Javling added that “I can understand how minorities in Malmö might have seen this as a Blackface project, but it is everything else but that. It is very hard to be accused of doing something that is the exact opposite of its intention.”
Strangely enough, the Malmo Festival showcased “Through Different Eyes” last year without controversy. Per Nielsen, the project was only cancelled because it featured a photo of a man with his skin darkened.