An unusual bar is serving up biases and its patrons are sending their own biases right back.
The bar is the Bias Bar, an interactive exhibit at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway. It shares space on the first floor with Detours, an exhibition about people who find themselves forcibly displaced from their homes. It is a floor below Hope Over Fear, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize exhibition that presents a strong portrait of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and his efforts to integrate members of the FARC rebel group with the rest of the Colombian people.
Participants at the Bias Bar get small cards designed to look like drink coasters. A bias is written on the front of the card. On the backside of the card is a blank space where people can write and share biases of their own. The cards are displayed on racks mounted on the museum wall.
The front of a typical card has a bias such as, “I am not a racist but…” Turning around the card people have written their own biases such as, “I’d rather live in a white than black neighborhood,” “You don’t look like a foreigner,” “But you are white,” and “#BREXIT.”
Another bias card reads, “All terrorists are Muslims. What do you think?” A patron’s reply to that was, “If all terrorists are Muslim that means all Italians are Mafia, all Russians are part of the Bratva and no one is a human being. Everyone is different, everyone is special and everyone needs an opportunity prove themselves [sic] and be who they are. Be proud of who you are.”
“We have printed, I think, 2000 cards since March and people are writing and sharing biases and their thoughts,” said Ingvill Bryn Rambøl, Director of Information at Nobel Peace Center. “It’s quite entertaining to explore the cards on the wall there and see what people write. People are very open about the fact that they have biases themselves and that they have met biases.”
The Bias Bar even has its own version of an open mic event.
“A Bias Night is where we invite Norwegians with different backgrounds to sit and discuss biases and people can sit behind and talk to them afterwards,” Rambøl said. The first Bias Night “was very popular and we had a lot of visitors that night with an immigration background or with different ethnic backgrounds, and they were very excited about discussing something very dangerous in such a light manner.”
The next Bias Night will be in August. “It will focus on Islam,” Rambøl said.
Exhibits like Detours and the Bias Bar have connected with Norwegian school children, because topics such as immigration are covered in school curriculums, but the school books have not been updated yet on the current refugee crisis and the war in Syria.
“They have been very happy to have the opportunity to come here and learn about that issue with updated information,” Rambøl said.
The Nobel Peace Center was opened in 2005. The building used to be a railway station, which closed in 1990 and was reinvented as the home for Nobel in Oslo. The museum depicts stories through a variety of permanent installations, and temporary exhibits of paintings, photographs, interactive digital films and other art.
Rambøl said the museum is famous for its modern, artistic design conceived by the British architect David Adjayeand.
“He did what he calls ‘room manipulation.’ You can tear down the whole museum from the inside and you will have the train station the way it used to be,” Rambøl said.
Nobel prizes are awarded in six categories including Literature, Physics, Physiology/Medicine, Chemistry, Economics and Peace. The Nobel Prize in any category is one of the most prestigious awards in the world. It was founded by the multi-millionaire philanthropist Alfred Nobel in 1901. Nobel created his immense wealth by inventing and manufacturing modern explosives into dynamite and patented it in 1867. He left his estate (the modern equivalent of $200 million) to be used as award money for the betterment of the world.
Swedish institutions choose winners in five categories (Literature, Physics, Physiology/Medicine, Chemistry, Economics) and the awards are presented in Stockholm, Sweden. The winner of the Peace Prize is chosen by a Norwegian committee and is awarded in Oslo.
The challenge for the Nobel Peace Center is to create an exhibition honoring the winner in just eight weeks. That exhibition is created within the context of the permanent and temporary exhibitions. The Peace Center, including the Bias Bar, is open seven days a week and the center has averaged more than 100,000 visitors annually since it opened in 2005.