At best sceptical were most of the islanders of Mandø about the Any Questions? art project on their island. Not many were fond of modern art. Their highlight of the year is the Mandøfest which brings back many related to Mandø in july for a celebration of tradition and island culture in big family gatherings. The Vadehavsfestival is different and the ‘elite’ art is distant this culture. However, the aim of the festival was to instill inhabitants of the wadden region with new wonder about their own environment.
How to prevent that the project on Mandø would completely bypass the community because of separated mental worlds? Inspired by theories on action research – in particular appreciative inquiry – and on social interaction (see Collins 2004. still the best explanation) we formulated a social process to embed ourselves in the place. In three steps (oct/june/sept) we worked at building a positive chain of interaction with the islanders which accumulated – also to my surprise – in openness to and interaction with the artists and the art works.
The shopkeeper commented how moved she was by the threedimensional house drawing on top of the dune and that it was this moment rather than big audiences which was – maybe- important too. An unannounced barn concert attracted islanders who normally do not go anywhere we were told. People passed by our café with a bottle of wine or wiskey or came to have ‘tea and cookies’ in and near the house of Sarah and holding up her window. Our bonfire in the withdrawing sea at the landart site of Liesbeth attracted ‘a record of people’ according to the man who fanatically helped building it with lots of diesel (however many stayed at the dunes because the way through the grass was too dark unfortunately).
We became part of this community for a week, using the closed café, sleeping in people’s summerhouses, struggling with internet as they do, enjoying the wadden nature and the endless horizon. The embedding of the project and the dialogue in which it resulted inspired us too, as can be read on the waddenart weblog. Thanks, people of Mandø for opening up to us.