Fake News – A Journey Through History

“We don’t have ideas, we create them.”

On sunday 7 students from the Academy of Visual Arts started their journey from Frankfurt to Niederbronn. I can speak for all of us, that we had no concrete ideas what to expect at the Albert-Schweitzer-Begegnungsstätte in France. To quote Tomaso Carnetto, we don’t have ideas, we create them. All we knew was our general topic, the topological space of „Fake News“. Noone could have possibly thought of the intense and creative experience which followed the next 10 days.

Arriving there and getting to our rooms, immediately the feeling of a schooltrip came to our mind. The Albert-Schweitzer-Centre is located next to a forest in the peaceful village of Niederbronn-les-bains. It is a place not only to learn about the first and second world war but to experience an historical place itself with its cemetery with over 15.000 graves for victims from the second world war. The first day of the trip, Bernard Klein, the director of the centre, gave us a special guided tour through the cemetery and explained based on the history of fallen soldiers the happenings of the second world war and its battles. It seemed his historical research is kind of comparabale with treasure hunting, the biggest treasures being first hand sources like letters or diary pages from soldiers fighting in the war.

We had a lot of workshops about the treaty of versailles in the context of fake news which resulted in a complex roleplay with fictional ambassadors from fictional states. Our goal was to make our very own piece agreement, our version of the treaty of versailles. It was really interesting and immersive, quickly we stumbled upon the difficulties such a discusssion generates but in the end we managed to find a compromise.

On one day, we, the students of Academy of Visual Arts, took completly over and organized the daily structure. Our goal was to explain our perspective on the topic of “Fake News” and our personal and individual involvement. Therefore, we worked out a concept based on two major steps. First identifying the personal cultural identy and second how our biggest fears have direct impact on the perception of “Fake News”.

It was at that day, we realized the special dynamic of our french-hungarian-german group. Everyone was extremely open about themselves and their personalities. We formed groups in order to discuss our cultural background and afterwards present them to the others. The cultural identy is a huge topic to talk about, to keep it short we worked out our roots, the identy of our parents and grand-parents, the countries they were born in and the main activity which came to our mind when we think about them. Quickly we recognized cultural differences and without knowing a lot of similarities as well. For example, we realized that most of the work our grand-parents did was craftsmanship, so we saw lot of parallels there even though they were born in different countries and cultures. Getting more serious and personal, we continued in the groups talking about our biggest fears and the experiences we had living threw them. Like I mentioned, everyone was really open about it and afterwards we felt like truly knowing a bit of the other on a level which was deeper then the usual superficial small talk.

Now having worked on the theoretical part, we continued with the practical translation, to fill the grammar with volume. We prepared huge papers with screen printed grids, in which all defined fears were listed and for each fear we developed a color definition and free shapes, which we converted into stamps. It was a lot of fun but even though we tested the process beforehand, it didn’t work out as precise as we hoped for. In the end it was an intense bonding experience for each of us, no one could possibly have predicted that the context of fake-news can reveal the real, genuine and open personalities in a society were especially young people produce their own fake-image everyday on social media.

Beyond the program inside the Albert-Schweitzer-Centre we visited different historical places. We had a roadtrip to small, cute towns in Elsas and explored their memorials of the great wars, of course enjoying the beautiful and harmonic nature aswell. One city for example was Scheibenhard, a town which is partly french, partly german caused by the changing occupations of germany and france during the wars. Speaking of wars one of our most memorable experiences was the visit of verdun, the memorial and grave as well as the museum. The view was so impressive and impactfull, everyone was caught by this historic and sad area. Next was the trip to the maginot line, a really intense underground-line of bunkers deffending the french borders to belgium, louxembourg, germany and italy. It is like a small underground world with confusing tunnel systems, bed rooms, kitchens, basically its own ecosystem. It was interesting but kind of claustrophobic, we all were reliefed when we finally could breath fresh air again.

Back up on normal ground, we drove to strasbourg, visited the european parliament and had the chance to experience the environment in which europa and its political structure manifests. We also went to the Robert-Schumann-House nearby Metz. Robert Schuhman, also known as the father of europe, was the key figure after world war II, which sparked the idea of a trade union between the countries, the Montan Union. Later he was president of the european parliament

The 10 days went by so fast and for our final project we had complete freedom of choice with who we wanted to form groups and in which way we wanted to translate the many impressions we had. So it ended in the most diverse and varied results, each reflecting a little part of our adventure. We had two groups working out interactive games which dealt with the world wars, euorpe and ethnicity. One group painted a portrait of Rober Schumann, his silhouette consisting of written down Fake News. The last group presenting decided it was a good idea to make a musical act and changed the lyrics of the europan hymne filling it with fake news and funny storys of our group. In the end we made a big circle and we all spoke about our experience of the passed days. It was really emotional, knowing the time together was over for now and the day ended in a big party.

Tired and half smiling, half crying we woke up the next day, packed our stuff together and said goodbye to everyone. We finally went home. With us not only our baggage but a lot of funny storys to tell, knowledge to share and friendships to appreciate.