A forced discussion about the role of art in gentrifaction
"In 2011 I was a still a student of Fine Arts at Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam and I lived in my studio at AK9. This is why I was invited to show work during Open Ateliers Zeeburg in a local group exhibition while AK9 and other artist studios were open to the public. The event was organized by big housing corporations, Ymere as the main sponsor and Amsterdam Fonds Voor de Kunst. For housing corporations art often is part of their gentrification strategy, because art and culture are known to improve the image of urban areas. If you are a housing corporation that wants to develop a new area, art is a cheap and effective tool to make it more attractive (and more expensive) for potential buyers and local residents alike.
The main exhibition was in a gym at Ed Pelsterpark 8 in Ijburg, the park itself was surrounded by social houing. Just across the big main road there was a living area for rich buyers, a lot construction work only two blocks away and there were major development plans for the neighbourhood on Zeeburger Ijland too. The work I wanted to show did not fit inside the exhibition space, so I asked for permission to install my work, a huge flying black inflatable cube with an edge lenght of six meters, in front of the building instead.
Teenagers usually hang out there and children from the neighbourhood use the large empty lawn as their playground. Most of them have a migration background and their families live in social housing that surrounds the park. I installed my work in the early morning hours. It was April, but the weather forecast that day promised a sunny sky. Heated by the sun, yet tied to the ground to prevent it from flying away, my cube was soon floating approximately one meter above the ground.
To the kids, the floating object was an irresistable attraction. The next six hours I spent playing with them. We talked about life in general, what it was like to grow up in Ijburg, Amsterdam and about art (what a confusing topic!). Was the floating cube art, or just a huge flying rubbish bag? In the evening, deprived of direct sunlight, the black cube sank back to the ground again.
A little bit later, just half an hour prior to the official exhibition opening, the camera man arrived. He was hired by Ymere to document the artworks in the gym, as well as opening talks by curators, sponsors and developers. He immediately started to film. Exited children wanted to pose for the camera in front of the cube. This was expected. But then, all of a sudden, a little boy jumped right through the black plastic into the cube and a soccer ball was shot through its surface. Instantly twenty or thirty kids came running and ripped it to shreds, scattering torn pieces of black plastic all over the place.
The destruction happened in less than a minute.
When guests, sponsors and official speakers arrived, they had to cross a battlefield of ripped plastic and loud playing children. Inside the gym my 'destroyed artwork' hijacked the event, the speeches and subsequent discussions."
Amsterdam, May 2011