For the duration of the Interrogative Design exhibition, we will be providing expanded online content to give viewers a deeper access to selected projects. Materials for this exhibit provided by the artist, with unique edits specially produced for this project by GSD Exhibitions.

Alien Staff, 1993, various locations

A busy pedestrian area between city buildings. Two people stand facing each other, each holding a unique version of the Alien Staff which they hold upright to face the other person.
Krzysztof Wodiczko, “Photo of Alien Staff,” n.d. Courtesy of the artist.


The first in a series of Xenological Instruments designed to help immigrants be heard in public space, Alien Staff was conceived as personal storytelling equipment, a communication device to empower the holder. The first version, which resembled the staff of biblical shepherds, was created in Barcelona; subsequent versions had built-in plexiglass containers, inspired by the form of the reliquary, where the user could store memorabilia, documents, photographs, and other items. The staff is crowned by a hood-like head containing a monitor and speaker to play back the user’s pre-recorded statements. A special bag worn on the shoulder contains video players, batteries, and a walkie-talkie or CB radio. As portable performative instruments, imbued with the user’s personal experiences, the staff’s purpose is to allow immigrants to present themselves and communicate. “Doubled” with their own images, voices, and memories stored in the staff, the users visualize themselves, both for self-reflection and for potential viewers and listeners who, approaching the staff, overcome the distance separating them from aliens. The form itself is activated by the live presence and performance of the operator.

The first model of the Alien Staff was built and tested in Barcelona in June 1993 with support from Funacio Antoni Tapies and SOS Racisme of Barcelona. Multiple models have been made, and each new variant incorporated the feedback from previous operators. The Alien Staff projects were carried out in Barcelona, Paris, New York, Stockholm, Helsinki, Marseilles, Warsaw, Rotterdam, Houston, Boston, and Stockholm. Several versions of the staff were made: wooden, metal, and an interactive one realized in collaboration with the MIT Interrogative Design Group.