The System of Systems is an independent project exploring technology and bureaucracy in the asylum seeking process in Europe.

Through a roster of exhibitions, events and a publication, The System of Systems aims to open up vital conversations about the legal framework of seeking asylum in Europe. We hope to pose questions such as: What policies are we voting for as citizens of European countries, and what is our relationship to this issue? How does the asylum system illegalise people? How are technologies used as processes of making and discrediting evidence? We gather research by collaborating with artists, designers, architects, academics, activists and practitioners to interrogate questions of language, the body and biometrics, agency, and infrastructure, within the overlapping bureaucratic systems. In doing so, we hope to provide an alternative viewpoint on this knotty subject through comparative research between the different governmental strategies and approaches to the asylum seeking process.

The number of people applying for asylum in the EU reached a record 1.26 million in 2015, according to Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics agency. This figure is nearly double the previous high water mark of roughly 700,000 set in 1992, following the fall of the Iron Curtain. To ‘cope’ with growing numbers of displaced people, the EU has delegated more and more autonomy to ‘border management agencies’. One of the largest such agencies, called The European Agency for the Management of the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union - commonly known as Frontex - has seen its budget inflate from six to 90 million euros since its establishment in 2005. The namesake of our project - The System of Systems - is an informal term used to describe a division within Frontex called EUROSUR. This subsection is described as an ‘information exchange framework’ and ‘surveillance system’ that operates on behalf of the EU. The process of seeking asylum is a ‘system’ composed of many ‘systems’. By stealing this term from EUROSUR, we are overlaying the discomfort produced by their ambitious definition; turning it into a nonsensical term open for redefinition.