Mercedes Azpilicueta, Doris Denekamp & Geert van Mil, Fotini Gouseti, Anne Maria Łuczak, Fran Meana, Carme Nogueira, Charlotte Schleiffert, Werker Magazine
Rotterdam as case study
Rotterdam is a perfect case study of the late capitalist city where the constant spatial displacement of people and goods in the harbour generates an economy in motion. The dominant image of Rotterdam used to be the harbour, with its ships, docks and workers, sweating, toiling and hoisting, captured by iconic photographers such as Cas Oorthuys, Ben van Meerendonk and Robert de Hartogh. In the course of sixty years, Rotterdam gradually transformed from an industrial city into a leisure city attracting more tourists than ever, thanks to architectural icons such as the Market Hall.
Art and labour
Art has an ambiguous, if not conflictive, relationship to work. It has been defined as being a creative compulsion beyond the call of duty of work, or as incomparable to work, because it doesn’t seem to fit into the normal categories of work. Now that the boundaries between intellectual, immaterial and manual labour are gradually dissolving, artistic labour is becoming more representative of the functioning of a society as a whole. This raises new questions concerning the role of the artist in society and the political dimensions of art. What is today’s image of work in the realm of the arts? What is the condition of artistic work today? What is work?
The show brought together artistic positions dealing with the contemporary nature of work and subjectivities produced by it, while at the same time reflecting on what it means to work as an artist today.
About the artists
Mercedes Azpilicueta presented a video installation focusing on the social soundscape of the city of Rotterdam. Taking as a starting point the performance practices of Futurist artist Valentine de Saint-Point, she used speech as a medium to reveal how social, economic and political identities are constructed in everyday language.
The collective Informal Strategies (Doris Denekamp & Geert van Mil) took the herbarium of the socialist revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg as their starting point. During her political imprisonment, she focused on the study of plants. By conducting a series of walks and collecting plants near an Amazon distribution centre in Leipzig, the artists mirrored Luxemburg’s habit of walking and the routine of the local labourers.
Carme Nogueira presented ‘Rotterdamweg’, the first of a series of research and performance projects about the transformation from industrial to post-industrial cities in Europe. Nogueira looked at urban space as a fabric of micro-stories from the past. With a serieus of posters, she re-inscribe these stories in the city streets and discussed them with passers-by.
Charlotte Schleiffert created a mural-collage of small-scale political drawings on topics such as intolerance, power, oppression, and poverty. Made on different continents in over a decade, her presentation formed a compressed retrospective that dealt with global labour conditions.
Anna Maria Łuczak combined observations on the Post-Fordist city with behind-the-scenes-footage from a report she had made about Polish migrant workers in the Netherlands for a local TV Station, in order to introduce the seasonal workers to the inhabitants. A significant part of the recorded conversations conducted by Łuczak was discarded for the TV documentary.
Fotini Gouseti often focuses on the fear of the uncertain, the undefined, which, to her, has informed the ideology that governs our current society. She developed a project on the testing of air-raid sirens in the Netherlands, on the first Monday of every month, at noon. The sirens have not been used for a real alarm for over fifty years.
Fran Meana looked into the reliefs that a pedagogical programme left behind in Arnao, a small mining town in the north of Spain. Full of geometric motifs, the reliefs were designed in 1912 to introduce local workers and their children to the principles of geography, grammar and geometry. These reliefs are one of the few material traces of the transition from an industrial to an information economy.
Artist Marc Roig Blesa and graphic designer Rogier Delfos began producing Werker Magazine in 2009, a series of publications about labour and the function of photography within society. In TENT, Werker Magazine presented the ongoing project ‘Young Worker Camera’, consisting of more than 500 archival images that depict the relation between young people and labour. In addition, they organized a number of workshops following the methodologies of the Worker-Photography Movement born in Germany in the 1920s and then spreading across Europe, USA and Japan.
The exhibition was made possible with the support of Acción Cultural Española.