Filed under 2021

While Waiting, Wait Here



“Accessing Universal Credit is a frustrating, dehumanising experience that can feel like you’re part of a terrible game.”


—> MINDSCAPES Artists in Conversation with Merel Smitt

While Waiting, Wait Here is an interactive website to be explored online which represents the experience of being stuck in a system, going around in circles, hitting dead ends and being  constantly watched into a game. The website also facilitates tools to help and empower you to deal with your waiting state, to propose some self-care strategies and acknowledge the dehumanising experience of this system.

The digital installation While Waiting, Wait Here stages an administration office based on a research around jobseekers and their participation in the Universal Credit benefit system in the UK. Universal Credit supports you if you are on a low income or out of work. It includes a monthly payment to help with your living costs and has a controversial waiting period of five weeks before getting the first payment. This installation explores the immorality of a damaging, administrative system and seeks to amplify the experience of being at the mercy of bureaucracy. 

Developed by artist Merel Smitt, based on the stories of staff and service users working with Universal Credit, While Waiting, Wait Here has taken the reality of lives kept on hold and powerless to expose the systems, language and policies on which Universal Credit is based, to open the conversation if they can be changed into a more human and humane experience.

Together with the launch of the website we have facilitated a couple of online collective viewings with participants of the system in order to collectively explore the work and talk about our bureaucratic experiences afterwards. 

While Waiting, Wait Here is an artistic project by Merel Smitt in collaboration with Ariane Gros (dramaturgy), Maisa Imamović (web design & development) and Maaike Canne (illustration)

Made possible by the amazing contributions of: Dr. Sarah Marie Hall (University of Manchester), Rebecca Lawthorn (MMU), Cheetham Hill Job Centre, Kirsty Pearce (Yes Manchester), Stephen Ohagan (Yes Manchester), Collete Carol (HNP/Welcome Centre), Marysia Bocquet (Welcome Centre), Lucie Zorzopian (participant), Melanie Smith (participant) Lara Piercy (experience with UC), Marian Brown (participant) and Rizwan (participant)

With special thanks to: Evie Manning (Commonwealth), Richard Gregory (Quarantine), Chelsea Murphy (MMU) and Gabrielle Ivinson (MMU)

While Waiting, Wait Here is part of the MINDSCAPES program from SICK! Festival in Manchester. MINDSCAPES is the result of a two-year collaboration between artists and arts organisations in Manchester and The Netherlands who have been working together with local communities. Created by SICK! Festival with Brighter Sound, Young Identity and Design Manchester in the UK, and Kunstinstituut Melly and Theater Zuidplein in the Netherlands, MINDSCAPES is delivered with a host of fantastic community organisations in Manchester. The project would not have been possible without their support, particularly in these difficult times.

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