LATEST NEWS!

ONGOING GRATITUDE to the MONDRIAAN FUND , the AMSTERDAM FUND for the ARTS and CBK-Zuidoost
for their generous support!
.
.
.

2019, 4 June
TOTALLY CRASS
This T-shirt leaves me speechless…

(Sorry about the bad photos, just using my phone…)
.
2019, 28 May
CAN’T RESIST!
Although I surely have enough souvenirs for the exhibition in November, I couldn’t resist these…

The brothel depicted on these tiles has an interesting name…. The word Lichtekooi most probably comes from the words meaning ‘lightly to berth’ as in easy to get to bed with, and was used to refer to the women. Still, it’s quite a humorous name for a brothel, if one is in the mood to find such things funny.
.
2019, 27 May
MOUSE MATS!

Mouse mat… That’s a first! The combination of texts, Red Light District and Dutch Girls makes a careless combination, making it sound like all Dutch girls are available.
.
2019, 24 May
ADDICTIVE!
I suddenly understand the urge to collect things… nipping into souvenir shops to see if there is any choice item of tourist paraphernalia I had not yet come across is becoming addictive! Still it provides a very welcome excursion away form the computer where I am otherwise heads-down editing the five videos recorded at the beginning of the month.
Here are a couple of choice items…
Hard to know if the designer is taking the Mickey with this one! Sunbathing on the blades of a windmill… In the Red Light District…?!

Got the association right this time though with the phallic bollard… and these are either twins or else it’s a kind of before-and-after fridge magnet.
.
2019, 4 May
BIJLMER STORIES
Been in the studio all week recording four of the Bijlmer stories and one other short but emotional testimony. Two stories are going to have to wait until the actors I want to work with are free, as this week was a school holiday, so people were away.
Kaisa Pohjola comes from Finland and her accent made an interesting combination with the story of a woman from Madagascar.


This was the first time working with someone from the USA, and i was worried that the accent would be disturbing in a non-constructive way, but Harmony Shaikin performed wonderfully and the accent was not a distraction at all!


Matt Carney comes from the North of England and is a proper actor. I thought it would work best with native English speakers as the African sentences and grammar were going to be tricky for anyone for whom English was already a step removed.


Thom Driver is a fellow artist and got landed with the longest text… all about Shell Oil’s bad behaviour in the Niger Delta… I’m hoping I won’t be forced to cut too much of it to keep the video within limits.


Another artist, Rosie Heinrich, who studied at the Dutch Art Institute in the same time I was there. Extremely perfectionist… I’m going to have my work cut out for me editing all those takes!
.2019, 25 April
SOCIAL COGNITION
Invited by department head and fellow abolitionist Sheetal Shah to lecture yesterday at the Webster University on Leiden to a group of psychology students for their Social Cognition class.

Photo by Koen
Wonderful mix of nationalities, including two Nigerian students which prompted me to change my presentation at the last minute and show the video monologue based on the testimony of a Sengalese ‘sex-workers’ rights activist and prostitution survivor. Interesting to hear foreign students’ first reactions to the Dutch system and the red light district.
.
2019, 18 April
STRANGE BEDFELLOWS!

Yesterday there was a presentation by Per-Anders Sunessen, the Swedish Ambassador charged with Combatting Human Trafficking during which he presented, and then took questions on, the ‘Nordic Model’ – whereby it is the purchasers of sex who are prosecuted rather than those selling it. The organiser, Renate van der Zee, had asked if I could help find a location in the Red Light District, and so we ended up in the hall of the Salvation Army, with a rather stern portrait of Majoor Bosshardt looking on.

Prior to the Ambasssador’s talk one of my Prostitution Monologues was shown to the assembled crowd, which well superceded the 50 people we had expected.
Afterwards the ambassador asked if he could have a copy of the video to show when he travels around promoting the Swedish model… Yes of course! This is precisely how I hope my work can contribute to political change – art-activism in the best possible way… very happy indeed for it to travel with him.
.
2019, 30 March
TRAFFICKED MAN
Today was the first time I encountered a man who had been trafficked for sex with women. Another incredibly moving story. He was very brave to overcome his fears and embarassment and come to speak with me.


.
2019, 27 March
MISSING PIECES
Today I had the feeling there are pieces of her story she has deliberately skipped over… either from shame, or from fear…

In my role as interviewer it must have been easy for her to feel like I am trying to set a trap, like the authorities that have interviewed them… yet I feel I cannot challenge them on the truth of the tale, or dig harshly into parts they want to remain silent about… still, it sometimes leaves me with a story that has so many missing pieces that I will not be able to work with it.

Despite her reticence with the story, she was happy to make a mask and be photographed wearing it.

.
2019, 20 March
AMAZING OPTIMISM
‘Queenie’ has managed to keep a huge smile and amazing optimism, despite having been betrayed on so many levels – by the grownups who were supposed to care for her, by the man who supposedly loved her, and by the Dutch judicial system which has meant she has spent 27 years in the Netherlands, first as a captive trafficking victim, and then, failed by the system, as an undocumented immigrant unable to build up her life.
She likes to read and would love some English books, those I can provide, so we will meet again soon.
.
2019, 19 March
LIMBO
She studied medicine and worked as a matron in the hospital until when her eldest child died as the result of burns when her house was deliberately set on fire, and then the woman whom she was staying with was shot… Here in Amsterdam she is undocumented and her skills not put to use, she cleans houses to survive, and to send money back to help her two daughters finish studying. Even with her mask on she was afraid to have her picture taken.

.
2019, 15 March
GUIDED TOUR
Tomorrow Rosalie van Deursen will be giving a guided tour of the exhibition Free Radicals at CBK-Zuidoost…


These great pictures of my videos showing there were taken by Les Adu.
(c) CBKZO/Les Abu
.
2019, 10 March
TOO MUCH HARDSHIP
She came to me after she’d been to church today.

Despite everything that’s happened to her – trafficked at the age of 16, lost a baby, her son lost an eye due to cancerous tumor, the insecurity of undocumented life – she has still emerged hopeful and strong, hoping to train as a nurse once her papers are in order.
Her mask looks shocked and young, the terrified 16 year old arriving in paradise only to discover hell.

.
2019, 9 March
NO HAPPINESS
Today I listened to a very sad story, a woman tricked into sex-slavery by a Dutch man promising to marry her.

Her whole life seems to have been misfortune after misfortune. And when I asked her what was the happiest moment in her life, she was silent, and finally said, that no, she could not think of one.

.
2019, 8 March
WOMEN’S DAY IRONY
Today is International Women’s Day and I went on two women-related outings – first to the Amsterdam Museum to catch the exhibition 1001 Women of the 2oth Century, before it ends in a few days. And secondly, how ironic… to some tourist shops on the edge of the red light district where I found some new souvenirs to add to my collection for my upcoming installation in that same museum.

Ashtrays… Fun for whom, we might ask…

Glasses with windows allowing you to view the woman once you’ve drunk up… One with an impossible thin waist, the other with a few more kilos on her, presumably catering to the S&M market – does this reflect something in the real world, does a prostituted women end up having to turn to S&M business once she has gained a few kilos (or years)?

Happy to have found this glass as it it has one of the few images of punters in my collection, two in fact, both looking horribly unsavoury – one with beer belly and beer, the other louche in an old mac.

Lastly two new fridge magnets, that section of the collection is really expanding.
.
2019, 7 March
AIRPLANE TO HEAVEN
Today the second interview with a trafficked woman with connections to the Amsterdam Southeast. When ‘Ocean’ took her first plane flight, she imagined she was going to European heaven in the hope of providing a better life for her four children. Instead she was trafficked into a hellish life being passed from one brothel to the other between the Netherlands and Germany. It has been 14 years since she last saw her kids.

Her mask has both teeth and tears, anger and sorrow.

.
2019, 6 March
BIJLMER SURVIVORS
This morning the first interview with a trafficked woman connected to the Bijlmer, let’s call her Joy – not her real name, she needs to remain anonymous. A tragic and harrowing story, but she has managed to find strength to keep going and support not only her three children here in the Netherlands, but her other four in Nigeria.
I think some of that determination speaks from the self-portrait mask she painted.

.
2019, 1 March
NEIGHBOURHOOD ETIQUETTE
Wonderful sign in the stairway of my BijlmAIR flat. Very p.c. in terms of colour, but gender bias… hmmmn… no women are doing anything naughty, but they are busy cleaning!

.
2019, 28 February
BIJLMER!
Starting my residency at BijlmAIR – thanks to CBK-Zuidoost – and looking forward to working on my new project Number One Tourist Attraction!
This is the view from my workspace…

.
2019, 3 February
TALK at CBK-ZUIDOOST
Yesterday’s talk during Free Radicals at CBK-Zuidoost was very well attended and a good discussion ensued. Here are some photographs of the discussion, and of the audience watching my video works.


Thanks to CBK-ZO for the photos.
.

2019, 28 January
ARTISTS’ TALK
Coming Saturday together with other artists from FREE RADICALS – Tyna Adebowale, Patricia Kaersenhout and Ephrem Solomon Tegegn – I will be be talking about my work during the Kunstcafe at CBK-Zuidoost (Anton de Komplein, metro BijlmerArena). Presenter will be is writer/journalist Babah Tarawally. Entrance is FREE!
2 February from 3-5pm.


2019, 26 January
GOOD START
2019 off to a good start with sessions in the studio recording the last two monologues of the current series. With the quintessentially English Philippa Collin, and natural talent, Karoenja Woudenberg.


.

2018, 31 December
FREE RADICALS in JANUARY
Looking forward to being part of the FREE RADICALS exhibition at CBK Zuidoost.

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

Poster designed by Victor Levie and Marit van der Meer
Opening Saturday, January 19, 2019 from 3pm – 6pm at CBK Zuidoost, Anton de Komplein 120, 1102 DR Amsterdam
Exhibition runs until March 2019. Closes 30th March withperformance Mariëlle Videler.
Curators: Rosalie van Deursen (Urban Africans) and Renske de Jong (CBK Zuidoost)
Artists: Tyna Adebowale (Nigeria), Raul Balai (NL), Stacey Gillian (Uganda), Jimini Hignett (UK/NL), Patricia Kaersenhout (NL), John Kamicha (Kenya), Ephrem Solomon Tegegn (Ethiopia) and Mariëlle Videler (NL).
.

2018, 27 December
ENDLESS EDITING
Spending the end of the year editing the recently recorded Prostitution Monologues. Here’s a still from Yael
.
.2018, 28 November
‘ARTIST ABOLITIONIST’
In connection with Handle With Care at Kosovo 2.0 in Pristina, I was interviewed by Cristina Marí resulting in this in depth article… thank you!
Photo:_Majlinda Hoxha / Kosovo 2.0
ONE-ON-ONE | SEXUAL VIOLENCEJIMINI HIGNETT: “IN THE SEX INDUSTRY, WE NEED TO PROSECUTE THE BUYERS”
By Cristina Marí – 26.11.2018

http://kosovotwopointzero.com/en/jimini-hignett-in-the-sex-industry-we-need-to-prosecute-the-buyers/?fbclid=IwAR0VqQ2rAvO22GndN-FgYQgDz0I2m5njzqzDw-UE8qvtYaGrhXgjHY_LXZ8
.

2018, 20 October
MOVING ON
Handle with Care will be on its way to other cities in Albania, so today Patricia and I had the last morning of discussions with the panel of local experts, students and other interested parties.

The best gathering yet, lots of passionate audience comments, and at last the men are speaking out too.

Watching one of the video testimonies together with the audience had many people in tears.


Will be leaving Tirana feeling satisfied that the work has stirred things up a bit, and that prostitution and trafficking will perhaps no longer be such taboe topics.

Photos are by Edi Prifti.
.
.
.

2018, 19 October
DISCUSSING PROSTITUTION
We are receiving daily visits from students and other young people at our installation Handle With Care in the National Historical Museum here in Tirana.

Each day a different panel of speakers involved in some way with the issue of trafficking and human rights brings their expertise to the discussion. We have a Dutch public prosecutor specialising in trafficking, the director of the refuges for survivors of trafficking, chief ombudswoman, and many others.


It’s hard to get the students to speak out, especially the boys, but once the microphone was turned off there was a lot of discussion, and it was clear that the stories have affected them, and that awareness about this issue had been raised.


Tomorrow we will have our last group of visitors before the intstallation moves on to Shkoder, Berat and Vlore, then, after that to Macedonia and Kosovo.
Photos taken by Edi.
.
.
.

2018, 17 October
OPENING TIRANA
Handle With Care opened in Tirana tonight. The Dutch embassy suported this project and the ambassador was present to open the event.


The ambassador also kindly encouraged the rather reticent Albanian audience to join her in sitting on the carpet of red, worn women’s clothing, made by my colleague Patricia Kaersenhout, to watch three of the Prostitution Monologues as performed by wonderful Albanian actresses Erjona, Ema and Raimonda, who had me, as well as the audience in tears with their moving performance.


Photos taken by Edi (whose surname I don’t know!)
.
.
.

2018, 16 October
HANDLE WITH CARE
Back in Tirana with Patricia Kaersenhout to install our exhibition Handle With Care in the National History Museum…

Lots of technincal complications but at the end of the day everything looking really good.

Nice to have space to display so many self-portrait masks, each one painted by a survivor of trafficking.

2018, 14 October
IT’S a WRAP!
The last of this run of recordings, today with dancer/perfromer/artist Alice Pons in the studio, performing the sad story of ‘Day-of-Joy‘…

The final video will be shown (with others) at Free Radicals, which opens in the CBK- Zuidoost, in January 2019.
The extended series can be seen in the Amsterdam Museum toward the end of 2019.

.
.
.

Thanks to the Mondriaanfonds for supporting this project!

2018, 13 October
3-in-a-ROW…
Working for the first time with a performer who is not deliberately dis-similar to the protagonist being portrayed…. Oliva who is Hungarian and pregnant, performing the gruelling testimony of a pregnant Hungarian woman survivor of trafficking…

The final video will be shown (with others) at Free Radicals, which opens in the CBK- Zuidoost, in January 2019.
The extended series can be seen in the Amsterdam Museum toward the end of 2019.

.
.
.

Thanks to the Mondriaanfonds for supporting this project!

2018, 12 October
EXTENDED FAMILY
In the studio with the extended family to film a second Albanian story – a fifteen year old trafficked and sold to men in old-people’s homes… My ex-step-son Joep Meilof in front of the camera and son Flint taking over from Hannah assisting. Another very satisfying day!

The final video will be shown (with others) at Free Radicals, which opens in the CBK- Zuidoost, in January 2019.
The extended series can be seen in the Amsterdam Museum toward the end of 2019.

.
.
.

Thanks to the Mondriaanfonds for supporting this project!

2018, 11 October
GREAT STUDIO DAY
Wonderful day in the studio today for another round of recordings, this time with multi-talented singer/actor/song-writer Easy May Walker performing the script taken from the testimony of Senegalese womens’ rights activist.

The final video will be shown (with others) at Free Radicals, which opens in the CBK- Zuidoost, in January 2019.
The extended series can be seen in the Amsterdam Museum toward the end of 2019.

.
.
.

Thanks to the Mondriaanfonds for supporting this project!


2018, 23 September
MARATHON
And the last of this marathon weekend of recordings, with super-young actor Tex Fonds who did a wonderful job of interpreting the story of a young Senegalese girl who an away from her abusive aunt… out of the frying pan into the fire.

Three of the final videos will be shown at Free Radicals, in the CBK- Zuidoost,in January 2019.
And the extended series in the Amsterdam Museum toward the end of 2019.

.
.
.

Thanks to the Mondrianafonds for supporting this project!


2018, 22 September
TEARS
Day two, with British actor William Sutton, who managed to move me to tears with his performance of a Dominican woman’s testimony.

Some of the final videos will be shown at Free Radicals, in the CBK- Zuidoost,in January 2019.
And the extended series in the Amsterdam Museum toward the end of 2019.

.
.
.

Thanks to the Mondriaanfonds for supporting this project!


2018, 21 September
DANIEL
In the studio for the second of this series of recordings… this time with French actor, Daniel Rovai performing a tale of violent misogyny in northern Argentina.

2018, 20 September
BACK in the STUDIO
Recording another of The Prostitution Monologues – one of the testimonies from trafficking survivors from Albania, in the studio with Tara Margo.

2018, 30 August
The PROSTITUTION MONOLOGUES
Hurrah!
The Mondriaanfonds has honoured my application for funding for my ongoing project, The Prostitution Monologues. So the coming months will be fulltime busy making eight videos of the stories of prostituted women from Senegal, Paragay, Dominican Republic, Albania, Rumania, Argentina and the Netherlands.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

2018, 27 July
PUBLISHED PIECE
Nice that my piece about the research in Senegal has been published in the current issue of BK-Informatie magazine for artists. (in Dutch)

2018, 11 July
SURVIVORS of TRAFFICKING
Have managed, here in Albania, to interview five survivors of human trafficking, with the aid of an interpretor. Each individual story both heartbreakingly personal as well as encompassing many of the standard elements of abuse, lack of support, unplanned pregnancy and violence… but above all, abusive, callous, misogynistic men…

Here is one of the young survivors painting her self-portrait mask so that she can be photographed anonymously. At the last moment she decided to add a crown, to make herself a princess – beautiful!

2018, 9 July
RELICS of COMMUNISM
Our work Handle With Care is to be installed in this magnificent building, the National History Museum. Opening date, sometime in October, to conincide with international anti-trafficking month.

(Thanks to Jona Dividi for the photograph.)
.
Everywhere there are relics of Albania’s once die-hard communism still visible in Tirana and the surrounding countryside.

Wayside monument to the ‘resistance’…
And what appears to be the old Socialist Party headquarters (if my non-existant Albanian is to be trusted!) now crumbling.


2018, 7 July
PREPARATIONS in TIRANA, ALBANIA
In Tirana Albania with Patricia Kaersenhout to prepare the ground for the revival of an enhanced version of our joint installation Handle With Care.

2018, 15 May
1st INTERNATIONAL ABOLITIONIST CONFERENCE
Very honoured to have been invited to present work at this important international conference in Buenos Aires, the first of its kind. (Abolitionist as pertaining to prostitution, for those of you who weren’t clear.)
Abolicionist-congreso
.
As part of the symposium on Prostitution and Trafficking in Europe, two videos from the ongoing series The Prostitution Monologues, are being shown, as well as a shorter video introducing the topic op trafficking and a video introducing me and my work. Delighted to be in such good company – the other names on the Friday evening programme are Ingeborg Kraus (psychotherapist specialisig in trauma), Amelia Tiganus (survivor, activist, founder of femicidio.net), and Angela Vallina (member of the euopean parliament).
If you’re in Buenos Aires on Friday night, May 18th, you can check the conference’s Facebook page for details.
.
.
.
web roze-85px My current project, with the working title Collapse of Justice
is supported by the Mondriaan Fund.
.
.
.
.
.

2018, 14 April
MAGIC WOMAN

Today a different kind of visit… to a woman who has, or at least channels, magic powers. One of the Lebou fisher-people. As well as performing ceremonies to appease the sea gods, she also throws cowries as a guide to giving device about which sacrifices are needed to asuage maleveolent spirits.
The skills are passed down the generations and the little girl next to her is the child expected to follow in her footsteps. Girl-power in a society where women are relatively powerless.
IMG_4399

P1170848

P1170843

P1170803

P1170784

P1170819

2018, 13 April
2 x BARAK OBAMA!
Wonderful wall-of-fame at the photo-lab to print photographs to distribute to my collaborators.
P1170862

And two more random street signs…
P1170857

P1170854

2018, 12 April
ISLE de GORÉE
A rare day with no commitments so a day spent on a touristy outing to Isle de Gorée with its dark slave-trade history – now an overabundance of souvenir touting women with baskets of beads or young men with maracas, but also no cars, beautiful colours and crumbling architecture.
Goree1170752

Goree-1170765

Goree-1170754

Goree-1170753

2018, 11 April
CITY LIFE
Although after only three weeks, things which at first were so surprising have become commonplace – children leading blind beggars to beg from car windows at traffic lights; horses and carts on the multi-lane highway; blue and yellow car-rapides belching black smoke around their conductors hanging on to the ladder on the back; sheep that look like goats, tehtered by one leg under a washing line full of brightly coloured clothes, chewing on cardboard boxes, in the middle of the city; the amount of plastic rubbish disfiguring the landscape is still horrifying.

Thies-1170704

2018, 10 April
ON THE ROAD AGAIN…
Back inland for an interview with a woman for whom, ultimately, prison has meant some education and a chance for independance on her release. She now batiks and dyes fabric and also teaches these skills to other disadvantaged women.
180410-4295

2018, 9 April
YEARS IN CUSTODY
Despite all the copies of passports, official applications and assurances, I have still not had any direct contact with the prison authorities nor any indication that permission is imminent. Somewhat frustrating. Nevertheless, I have managed to interview lots of other women this week. Women who have been forced through poverty to sell their bodies in order to buy food.
180406-4253

180408-4286

180411-4346
Others have been imprisoned for up to 5 years for having an abortion or a stillbirth and had been reported to the police by neighbours. Some of these women were even later declared innocent having spent years in custody awaiting trial before being sent home.

2018, 7 April
BOABABS UNDERFOOT
My neighbourhood is called Baobab, after teh national tree that is aid to be growing upside down, its roots in the air, its branches to the ground, supporting the world, and occasionally, where the pavement is not red sand, rubble, or mosaic of broken bright coloured tiles, there are sections paved with appropriate baobab paving stones.
Baobab-1170698

2018, 5 April
STILL WAITING
…for permission to interview women inside the jail. Meanwhile each day we have had a visit from a woman who is part of And Soppeku, a group helping (often illiterate) prostituted women to understand their rights, and with information about HIV…
Stories and masks.

Small_4181

2018, 1 April
BACK IN DAKAR
There is a message from Mami, who was to translate for me, she has had to go to Abuja for an ‘urgence’. Abuja turns out to be in Nigeria… so I am are left without an interpretor and have to cancel today’s planned interview. Instead, I go to take photographs of the outside of the Ancien Palais de Justice on Cape Manuel peninsula.

ADJ-2_4079

2018, 31 March
GOODBYE DIOURBEL
The end of the course is a sad moment, they have to return to the rejections and cruelties of their regular lives. For many of these women it will have been one of the most enjoyable weeks of their lives, and I feel very lucky to have been there to share it with them and touched that they have shared so much with me. Here are some last photos from the town – roadside stalls selling, among other things, dried animal parts to be used for magic…
P1170483

P1170485

P1170470

2018, 30 March
TRANSLATOR IN TEARS
Aissatou is the indefatigable initiator of this project, and she arranges for me to record each of the women’s stories, as well as translating for the ones who speak no French, only Wolof.

IMG_3953

The stories are heart-rending and although Aissatou has heard them before, she is often brought to tears.

P1170517

IMG_3860

Many of the women accept the proposal of painting a self-portrait mask, but some are too shy to share their unfamiliarity with a brush.

P1170527

IMG_3304

IMG_3463

IMG_3448
Thanks to Hannah Manneke for the extra photos.

2018, 29 March
MAGIC
My hotel is the white building on the right. The room has crumbling plaster and cockroaches, but there are fancy curtains and a view of the beach!
P1170630

P1170544

P1170547
As the women have to concentrate on their ‘instruction’ in the mornings, there is time to dawdle, going through the street where there are all kinds of items being sold for use in ceremonies or magic charms.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

There are lots of wonderful painted signs.

P1170466

P1170467

P1170575

The prison is next door and the main door-guard wants his photo taken.

P1170611

P1170463

At the end of the week there is a diploma ceremony and the director of the prison is invited.

IMG_3998
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

At least half of these women have never learned to read or write and this is the first diploma they have ever received.

2018, 28 March
OUR STREET
A lot of activity – dish washing, cauldron-boiling, etc. – takes place on the sandy area in front of the building, and even across the road, where there is leafy shade from a tree and a kind of temporary lean-to that is used as an extra on-site ‘office’.
P1170558

P1170562

P1170548

P1170567

IMG_3643
The street has a constant coming and going of hawkers of all sorts, people on their way to market with things to sell, and people looking for a hand out.
The building seems to have acquired a personal beggar who now sits in the same spot at the roadside in the burning sun, receiving an occasional helping of leftovers heaped on a sheet of cardboard torn from a box of tiles.

P1170588


2018, 27 March
SEATING ARRANGEMENTS
The women have to move out of the cultural centre, which is needed for Independence Day rehearsals. The project has received funds from the US embassy to build their own one-room building on the corner next to the prison and the inauguration is to be today, with deputies from the embassy coming to check that their money has been appropriately spent. More lime juice is prepared, the produce so far is put on show, and there are best dresses…
IMG_3129

IMG_3100… and a lot of waiting whilst the delegation finds an appropriate place for a toilet break as the centre’s toilet was initially built in the room, as opposed to as an add-on, so it had to be demolished and is being re-built but is not quite finished. Indeed all week there are builder’s mates in cementy work shoes traipsing back and forth to provide materials to the masons, tilers and plumber.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
Once the US delegation has left, all the chairs have to be returned to the cultural centre, so, in return for all their kindness and help with my project, I contribute a dozen chairs. These are sent by horse-taxi from the shop to the centre.
P1170537P1170607

2018, 26 March
PROJECT PRISON
There are ten women, ex-prisoners from three different prisons. This course is to teach them to turn seasonal fruits of vegetables into saleable products that can be kept longer, for sale out of season. When I arrive they are making orange juice, peeling ginger for ginger drink, and preparing hot chilis for sauce. Unsure is photographing them is ok, I take only pictures of their working hands.
IMG_3904
.
P1170426
.
IMG_3161
.
IMG_3215
.
IMG_3221
.
At first, most of the women are quite withdrawn and most of my contact is with the numerous entourage of people who work either for Tostan – the NGO that set up the project – or else in the prison, as wardens or as social workers.
IMG_3502

IMG_3526

IMG_3797

IMG_3786

Only very few of the women speak French, the rest only Wolof, so we are limited in our communi- cations. I draw a few of the women in order to remember their names.
.
IMG_3752
.
IMG_3507
.
IMG_3838
.
Lunch is cooked in the corri- door of our hotel and arrives per taxi in huge aluminium bowls. These are dished out onto huge aluminium communal plates around which 5 or 6 people sit dipping in with their fingers or a spoon. Couscous with fish and hot onion sauce – a recurring theme.
P1170419
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

2018, 25 March
HEADING INLAND
After only three days in Dakar, headed inland to Diourbel where I have been invited to visit the first in a series of Project Prison, a project is aimed at helping women who have been incarcerated to become self-sufficient when they return to life outside the prison.
On a friend’s recommendation a taxi is called for, the railway has ceased to work, and by the intersection where we leave the motorway toll-road and turn inland, there are piles of uprooted rails and sleepers.
The route continues along the main road heading East from Dakar.
P1170388adj
All along the roadside there are village women plying their wares.
P1170390
These photographs were taken from the window of the moving taxi.
P1170406adj
Beautiful baobab trees.
P1170410
Herds of cows alongside the main road, and…
P1170371
… horse driven carts.
P1170376
Lots of great shop signs – marabouts,…
P1170382
… hairdressers and beauty parlours.
P1170391
Plastic rubbish is a HUGE problem!

2018, 24 March
DAKAR !
First three days, and already seem to have got lots done. Today, unexpectedly, an initial meeting with the director of a ‘Sex-workers’ Rights Organisation’ turned into a first interview for the Collapse of Justice project and for the ongoing prostitution monologues. She talked for so long that we had to arrange for her to come back another day to paint her mask… so no pictures yet!

2018, 10 March
READING, READING, READING!
In preparation for my research trip to Dakar I am reading all kinds of interesting articles and wonderful books by Senegalese authors.
Reading-matter
(Thank you Mondriaan Fund for supporting this project!)

2018, 27 February
HUMAN TRAFFICKING
Tomorrow evening I will be doing a short lecture performance as my contribution to a evening about human rights and human trafficking, in CREA, Amsterdam (Nieuwe Achtergracht 170), starts at 8pm.
human-trafficking-crea
There will be two other speakers on the panel with me.
Click here for more info via the FB event

2018, 18 February
THANK YOU !!
Logo downloads EN web rood
Just received notice that the Mondriaan Fund have responded positively to my subsidy application for support for my research project plan with incarcerated women in Dakar, Senegal – yeah!!! More on this plan soon.

2018, 11 February
INTENSE ENCOUNTER
My very last days in Buenos Aires I met up again with someone I encountered in Chaco during the women’s gathering. We spent an intense afternoon and evening talking and recording their very moving life-story.
C-102-1
The mask that was painted has beautiful bright red lipstick!

2018, 15 January
NEW INTERVIEW & MASK
Step by step my circle of contacts is widening, and last week I was able to interview another survivor of prostitution, and current activist, who is visiting Buenos Aires from another province. Today she returned to paint a self-portait mask.
MM-608
Her dream is for a world without prostitution, a world in which land is distributed more equally, a world in which she will have time, away from the abolitionist struggle, to learn to paint pictures, of the mountain landscapes surrounding her home.

2017, 20 December
GIANT PENIS!
I received this new fridge magnet for my collection of red-light souvenirs from a friend here in Buenos Aires who had bought it in Amsterdam with me specially in mind…. What a funny surprise!
Below is the provisional catalogue entry.
74-Magnet-1160591
Collection item nr.74: Fridge magnet: This row of faceless, interchangeable white women, differentiated only by their hair colour, posing as if being tortured, with their hands raised permanently above their heads, their legs cut off by a row of condoms, emphasising their bare buttocks. The condoms, in contrast to the undistinguishable women, are multi-coloured and form a festive streamer – Prostitution is fun… a party! To the sides, the women are framed by a dark column and an enormous, erect, brown penis which dwarves the women, hanging over them, hemming them in. Its dark colour and size refers us to another cliché, that of the oversized black member, and is a reminder of the exoticisation of black bodies of both sexes.

2017, 16 December
NEW INTERVIEWS & MASKS
Just arrived off a 14 hour bus journey back from another province (Argentina is so huge) where I met with Elena Moncada, author of the book, Yo Eligo – contar mi historia – who also introduced me to two other women, survivors of prostitution, with whom I spent the day talking and painting self-portrait masks. Mask-SantaFe-1
Now to start the huge job of transcribing the interviews…

2017, 30 November
SPEED READ
Prostitution in 25.000 Words – for the man in a hurry.
I finally found a copy of this little book. It’s one of an endless series, which includes Slavery in 25.000 words, and Capitalism in 25.00 words!
73-25000words-1160063

2017, 19 November
BELLE IN BITS
Blimey…! Trying to get my sculpture, Belle Revisited, back from Buenos Aires to Amsterdam is proving incredibly difficult… I have already sawn her in half (!!!) to be able to transport her from storage in one friend’s house to another, but still the dimensions are too big, and it’s too heavy, to be checked as extra luggage, even if I pay through the teeth… belle-pedazos-(1)Other airlines make exceptions up to 45kg (which is what the body weighs) as long as you pay. Musical instruments, cellos and the like, can simply be bought an extra seat… but so far I haven’t found a way to persuade dear old KLM…
Shipping her (I can’t bring myself to say ‘it’) would be the obvious option, but all the customs papers would add up to more than simply flying my friend Gabriel over and paying him to help me make another one! I might have to take an extra trip back and forth with a more amenable airline, pfffff! Meanwhile, her upper body is standing proudly in the corner of my room whilst her legs are lying on top of the kitchen cupboard!

2017, 15 November
FIELDWORK FRUSTRATIONS
My mum, who is aware of the difficulties of pace (or lack of it!) in my work with women in situations of prostitution, whose lives are mostly precarious and thus it is often difficult to actually arrange anything, so that much of the time it looks like I am producing nothing at all despite feeling I haven’t taken a break in months… sent me this quote from the Innocent Anthropologist by Nigel Barley:
anthropology quote

2017, 18 October
32nd ENCUENTRO NACIONAL de MUJERES
AS part of my ongoing research into the issue of prostitution, I joined the National Gathering of Women in a town called Resistencia, in Chaco, an under-resourced northern province. Over 60 thousand women! Very empowering. The town opened up the schools so we had somewhere to sleep, and there was free public transport. Thank you Chaco! There were over 70 different workshop topics each day, as well as presentations and performances, everything organised totally non-hierarchically. I participated in the one on prostitution.
mujers1
.
mujeres2

2017, 4 October
WORKING ON ‘THE PROSTITUTION MONOLOGUES’
Having spent the lat months transcribing, translating, editing the recordings I made with survivors of prostitution, to produce scripts, I have finally been in the studio these last weeks with the actors. Performing these latest scripts from The Prostitution Monologues, my ongoing series of videos with testimonies from survivors of prostitution are Tom Pasman and Yael Grunwald, reading the stories of women from Hungary and from Dominican Republic.
tomstudio2
.
yael-studio-2
Huge thanks to Martijn Grunwald, and to Carlos at Teater Munganga, and Phronaise Jacobs at Pakhuis De Zwijger, for their generosity in helping this project.

2017, 21 September
HAPPY FAMILIES
I think this pack of red-light district Happy Families cards is an appropriate image for what will be an intimate presentation in a domestic setting.
On Monday, October 1st, Amsterdam, there will be a last chance to see something of my recent work from my ongoing project on prostitution before I return to Buenos Aires to continue my research there…
40-Cards-1160054
If you aren’t on my mailing list for invites, send me a message to receive details.

2017, 28 March
ONGOING RESEARCH IN BUENOS AIRES
Working in Buenos Aires with survivors of prostitution here. Finally managed to arrange a first, long interview this week. And this afternoon, a lovely self-portrait mask session. mask2
.
mask1

2016, 21 October
TODO SIGUE IGUAL (BUSINESS AS USUAL)
Para CASTELLANO… CLIQUEAR AQUI!
The solo exhibition Todo Sigue Igual (Business as Usual) revolves around the theme of prostitution as a worldwide phenomenon promoted by an industry that earns huge sums of money from the use (abuse) of women’s bodies.
flyer-059-3
In Amsterdam, brothel-keeping was legalised in 2000, cleverly packaged as part of a liberal, forward-thinking attitude toward sex in general, and the antipathy of prim moralism, this move reinforced the country’s dubious honour of being the torch-bearer for liberalised prostitution laws and consolidated its reputation as a centre for sex-tourism. The exhibition uses video, photos, texts, and sculpture to navigate the haze of subtle propaganda concerning prostitution – imagery that promotes and reinforces the view of the prostituted woman as the self-reliant, strong, independent, ‘happy hooker’ – a notion that makes perversely clever use of the feminist principle of female autonomy whilst protecting the sex-industry’s interests and preventing us from seeing the very real pain and distress that exist.
Museo de la Mujer – Pasaje Dr. R. Rivarola 147, Buenos Aires

November 2016 – Tuesday – Saturday 15-20h
and on Museum Night – October 29th, 20-03h

CLICK HERE to SEE MORE about the exhibition.

2016, 23 September
WORKING ON BELLE REVISTED
Working in La Plata with Gabriel Adrian Piñero to carve a sculpture for my upcoming exhibition in the Museo de la Mujer in Buenos Aires, opening 29th of October.
Now that it’s starting to become visible what this tree trunk will become, it’s time to explain what the sculpture is about… Belle Revisited is a replica, a response to a smaller statue which stands in the centre of Amsterdam’s infamous red light district. The original is entitled Belle, and portrays a prostituted woman standing in a door frame – strong, self-sufficient and in control – sex-industry propaganda, the lie of the so-called independent sex-worker.
I am making a life-sized reproduction in wood will be life sized, and visitors to the exhibition will be invited to use a knife to carve their initials, and perhaps a heart, into the body of the sculpture – indicative of the very real pain suffered by the real women in the world’s red light districts.
The statue is also a response to a remark in Albert Londres’ book The Road to Buenos Ayres which so strongly influenced European perception of Buenos Aires in the early 2oth century as the centre of the so-called ‘white slave trade’. Londres scornfully suggests that a statue should be erected to the French prostitutes, as having supported the construction of the city more than anyone.
belle-day1
Day 1
belle-day3
Day 3

belle-day4
Day 4

belle-day5
Day 5

belle-day4-2
Day 5
belle-day6
Day 7

belle-day7
Day 8

belle-day8
Day 9

belle-day9
Day 11

belle-day10
Day 12

belle-day11
Day 14

Belle-day14
Day 18

bellefinished
Off to the Museo de la Mujer in Buenos Aires

2016, 26 May
IN DAKAR, SENEGAL
Now you can read the BK-blad article (in Dutch) about my visit to Dakar with Patricia Kaersenhout to present Handle With Care in the residency of the Dutch abassadeur there.
Click here for the link: Handle With Care, Dakar
Handle-with-care-Landsc-perf-med-1661

2015, 27 May
HONEY TASTING EVENT in MILAN
Yesterday was the honey tasting event with experts which Doris Denekamp and I organised as the culmination of our residency at CareOf in Milan.
milantasters
.
milanexpert
.
milanexpertsmap
.
As well as the honey tasting, where we invited experts to determine the origins of the different honey we presented them with, I also read aloud from Simon Ings story from out book If Bees Are Few… in, occasionally hilarious, mispronounced, Italian. I can now have a conversation in Italian, as long as it is on the subject of bees and honey and nothing else!
milanstory

2015, 22 May
BACK IN ITALY
with Doris Denekamp to close our period of residency at CareOf. Arranging a honey-tasting event, meeting honey-tasters, and preparing the map to anonymise the locations or the origins of the honey we collected. One woman is a professional honey, wine, olive oil and water taster, whilst others are simply apiarists who have developed a this as a side-line.
honeytasting1

2015, 30 March
LAST DAYS IN DAKAR
On my free day I went sightseeing to Gorée, the island with a terrible slave trade history.
goree0
.
As well as the Slave Museum this, wonderfully car-free island is now also home to an artist colony, many of whom live in these disused wartime bunkers.
goree1
.
goree5

goree3

2015, 30 March
SPECIAL VISITORS
The Dutch embassy has been great in arranging for various groups to visit our exhibition. These included groups of women survivors of prostitution who are organised and helping one another, including running a soap factory to provide cheap soap, as washing clothes is one of the few ways to earn money for uneducated women who can no longer rely on their families. Here wit their back to the camera for anonymity´s sake.
dakarvisti2
.
Another group were disadvantaged girls from a school in a difficult area of the city.
dakarvisit1

2015, 26 March
´UNDERWEAR AMBASSADOR´!
Woken by a phone call from the Dutch ambassador this morning to inform me of a radio interview he held to discuss the exhibition and which has earned him the nickname of ´The Underwear Ambassador´ in the Dutch tabloid the Telegraaf!
Slipjesdiplomaat-schokt-Senegal-_-Binnenland-_-Telegraaf
.
Luckily that´s been balanced by a good, long, intelligent review by a woman journalist, in Dakar paper today. dakarreview

2015, 24 March
PRESS
Short review (in French, obviously), in Dakar newspaper, the main news today being that the ex/president´s son has been sentenced to jail for six years.
dakarpaper2

2015, 24 March
OPENING of HANDLE WITH CARE in DAKAR
dakaropening3
.
Big crowd for the opening yesterday. And the performance went really well, two of the women had even learned their texts by heart!
Handle-with-care-Landsc-perf-med-1661

2015, 21 March
INSTALLING HANDLE WITH CARE in DAKAR
Last couple of days spent installing this work, made together with Patricia Kaersenhout, in the residency of the Dutch Ambassador.
dakarembassy
.
The wood (to protect the floor from the staples holding Patricia´s carpet down) was delivered, and sawn, by hand.
dakarwood1
.
dakarwood
.
Patricia and I took turns stapling the carpet down.
dakarpatstapler
.
Adding some extra names to the embroidery cloth for the performance at the opening.
Dakarsewing
.
Finally finished subtitling the videos in French…
dakarvideos
.
Exhausted and taking a nap in the heat of the day!
dakarpatfloor
.
dakarjimifloor

2015, 18 March
FINAL REHEARSAL!
The last rehearsal for the live try-out performance of the Prostitution Monologues.
dakaarrep10
.
The actrices have made some changes to the French translations, for which I am very grateful.
dakaarrep8
.
Also, after a heated discussion, they decided it would be best to scrap the part which could construed to imply that the village priest was complicit, rather than accidentally responsible, for passing one of the women into the hands of the traffickers. The discussion was heated because it two of the women wanted the church to be implicated, whereas the others thought it would be detrimental in that often the church is the only place a woman in danger can go.
dakaarrep9
.
Whilst recounting their individual stories the women will be embroidering a white cloth with Senegalese women’s names. A reference to the white headscarves, embroidered with the names of ‘the disappeared’ which the protesting ‘Abuelas del Plaza de Mayo’ in Buenos Aires wear.
dakaarrep7
.
They decided to embroider their own names as well.
dakarrep4
.
Mami was concentrating so hard she accidentally stitched the cloth to her dress!dakarrep3

2015, 15 March
REHEARSALS
All the efforts of the last weeks translating scripts into French are coming into fruition…. Rehearsed today with wonderful Senegalese actrices for the first live performance of some of the Prostitution Monologues.
dakarrehearse0
.
Meanwhile our wonderful fix-it man, Cheik, has quietly made dinner for everyone!
dakarrehearse1

2015, 13 March
IN SENEGAL
In Dakar with Patricia Kaersenhout where we have been invited by the Dutch Ambassador to install a version of our work ‘Handle With Care‘ in his residence. First few days figuring out logistics, and, as I don’t feel I can photograph people, instead taking shots of the beautiful signs which are everywhere…
dakarsign2
.
dakarsign4
.
dakarsign6
.
dakarsign1

2015, 6 March
OPENING at CARE/OF MILAN
Our installation Mappa Sensoriale di Milano, in collaboration with Doris Denekamp as part of our residency at CareOf in Milan for The Grand Domestic Revolution goes on in Milan, which opened yesterday. mappasensoriale1
The public could taste the many different honeys we collected from the Milan urban area.
mappasensoriale2
Above the map we projected a video loop with over 350 different terms used by experts to describe flavours and smells of different honeys – in the photographs, ‘Of Rotten Wood’and ‘Of Celery and Toast at the Same Time’ !
mappasensorial3

2015, 1 March
MAPPA SENSORIALE DI MILANO
In Milan with Doris Denekamp for a residency at CareOf to make work for part of the Grand Domestic Revolution goes on in Milan. Researching into urban bee-keeping in the greater Milan area. Italy turns out to be way ahead of almost anywhere in terms of research into, and knowledge about, honey. There is a good bike-share scheme here so we spend much time cycling between urban-beekeepers and market places where their honey is sold. milanbeehives
Doris is working on mapping our finds, whilst I am also spending some days in the agricultural library dredging through huge books for terms used to describe honey taste and smell – there are many! Like the apples in our supermarkets all tasting the same, generic, watery apple-ish, honey too is being homogenised, and much (most) supermarket honey has been mixed in factories and so the various, distinct tastes ensuing from the different plants from which bees have collected, is lost. Our plan centres around the abundance of different origins, tastes and smells, even within a relatively small, and relatively built-up area. milandorismap
The Grand Domestic Revolution goes on in Milan opens on the 5th of March.

2015, 22 February
MULIER SACER PROMO VIDEO!
The English publication came out last year, now we are looking for the means to have the book translated into Dutch.
Coming soon to a bookshop near you!
Watch this space for more info or click the link below to pre-order your copy…

Mulier Sacer – Disposable Women from Jimini Hignett on Vimeo.

The Red Light District, Amsterdam tourist attraction, appears to be something taken for granted. Many people seem to have blinkers on – despite no-one being able to imagine that they themselves, or their mother, daughter, sister, would enjoy doing the work, they accept what the sex-industry wants them to believe – that it’s a ‘normal job’, that the women have all chosen to do it, and are earning buckets of money. It is as if prostitutes are not considered as people but, rather, as a kind of sub-class, for whom normal, human values do not seem to count.
(The title is taken from the Latin term Homo Sacer, one who is deprived of his or her full humanity, a non-citizen who does not enjoy the protection of the law and who can be killed without legal consequence.)
When I found myself having to explain Amsterdam’s red-light windows to my (then) seven year old son, I began to question this widespread acceptance of prostitution. I volunteered to help at a hostel for women who had escaped from forced prostitution in the Netherlands – the stories of these women form the basis of the book Mulier Sacer.
The English publication is already out. Now we are looking for the means to have the book translated into Dutch.
Soon there will be a link to the publishers webpage, but meanwhile… Pre-Order your copy here now!

2014, 24 September
A MOMENT FOR ART
On October 10th in Diepenheim as part of their Kunstmoment event, on October 10th I will be at the Bijentuin, our monument to declining bee populations, to discuss the work and do a performative presentation. There are lowers in the bee field now, and other works to see and other artists to speak with too!
bijentuin-30-web

2014, 26 May
OPENING NON-URBAN GARDENS
Our sculptural work, If Bees Are Few… (in collaboration with Doris Denekamp) opened as part of the Non Urban Gardens project in Diepenheim this week.
diepenheimbeehives
.
Unfortunately it rained like crazy so the bees sensibly stayed in their hives!
diepenheim-14-web

2014, 14 May
IF BEES ARE FEW… THE BOOK!
The second part of my project with Doris Denekamp, If Bees Are Few… is a book. if-bees-are-few-still-1-webThis publication together with it’s companion piece, the installation in the landscape near Diepenheim, is our contribution to the ‘Non Urban Gardens’. Half of the book is formed by pictures, and archive about bees through the ages – photos, drawings and etchings, showing beekeepers, hives, honeycomb, pollen and much more.
beekeepers
.
beestings
But nowhere is there a picture of an actual bee – they have already disappeared form the archive. We sent the compiled archive to prize-winning British science, and science-fiction, author, Simon Ings, with the invitation to write a story based on a future… If Bees Are Few… His short story, Jerk Dance, weaves three story lines together to reflect on a changing society in which humans are becoming organised like bee colonies in order to survive in a world where nature has been exhausted. As well as Simon’s story, the book contains an essay by Doris, The Beekeeper’s Veil – how our gaze became shrouded, on the changing relationship between man and bees, and a reflective bee text, Augury, by me.
if-bees-are-few-still-11-web
The cover of the book is made from special paper saturated with seeds… plant it to grow flowers for bees! The wonderful Swiss graphic designer Anna Haas collaborated with us for the deign of this book.if-bees-are-few-still-16-web
Doris has made a great VIDEO of the book, see it here.

2014, 10 May
THE NON URBAN GARDEN BOOK
Doris Denekmap and I are included in the book, The Non Urban Garden –BoekTHUG Gardens of the 21st Century, with our work If Bees Are Few… It’s in Dutch and English and is part of the project at Kunstvereniging Diepenheim.
BoekTHUG
The book includes work by the artists as well as a number of experts (Peter Sonderen, Joop Hoogeveen, Ann Meskens, Erik A. de Jong, Sakia de Wit, Piet Oudolf en Jorrit Noordhuizen) who explain their vision on the topic.

2014, 3 May
BEEHIVES IN PLACE
Finally the concrete beehives and the information tables have arrived in Diepenheim. Yesterday Doris and her team of helpers installed them. (I have injured my foot so I couldn’t be there.)
diepenheim-7
.
diepenheim-6
.
diepenheim-2
.
diepenheim-1
.
Sometime soon, once the weather has warmed up sufficiently (it’s a windy location until the trees mature) the live beehives will be delivered…

2014, 8 February
CONCRETE BEEHIVES
Some photos of the concrete beehives being made for the sculptural part of If Bees Are Few… on which Doris Denekamp and I are collaborating for the Non-Urban Gardens project at Kunstvereniging Diepenheim.
COncretebeehive1
.
concretebeehive2
.
concretebeehive3
.
concretebeehive4
Exciting!

2014, 7 February
BEE ARCHIVE
Doris Denekamp and I have selected 250 photographs of bee-related images and printed them as photographs to send to Simon Ings, the prize-winning, British science and science-fiction author who will use them as inspiration to write a short story for our book as part of the If Bees Are Few… project.
beearchivedrawer
We will send them off in this antique archive drawer. None of the pictures show actual bees… they have already disappeared from the archive…

2014, 16 January
ON THE ROAD with DORIS DENEKAMP
For our project If Bees Are Few… Doris Denekamp and I have been on the road, visiting the Bee Museum (Bijenteeltmuseum) in Lanaken, Belgium, where we took photographs of the plethora of wonderful bee-related objects stored there. Here Doris is photographing a basket-work St. Ambrose, patron saint of beekeepers.
Beemuseum-2014

2013, 24 December
NEW BOOK, MULIER SACER
MULIER SACER is out! Order your copy at Books.
Also on sale now in Amsterdam at the Stedelijkmuseum bookshop, Tropenmuseum shop, International Bookshop Fort van Sjaako, Boekhandel van Pampus on de KNSM-laan, and of course, San Serriffe Art Bookshop at 30 St.Annenstraat where the launch took place on Thursday January 16th.
Books-0148The title is taken from the Latin term Homo Sacer. Giorgio Agamben in, Homo Sacer, takes the definition from Pompeius Festus’ – “the one whom the people have judged on account of a crime,” and who can be killed without legal consequence. Slavoj Žižek defines today’s homo sacer as “the privileged object of humanitarian biopolitics: the one who is deprived of his or her full humanity being taken care of in a very patronizing way” – a ‘fugitive’, ‘outsider’ or ‘non-citizen’ who neither makes, nor enjoys the protection of, the law.

“As an inhabitant of this city, which generates such a large proportion of its income through the prostitution industry, the issue is one I feel compelled to tackle with my work, but I struggle to find a way to approach it as an artistic project… so many feminist controversies, so many complexities ­ I am wary of the battleground. How to make art from something this desolate, this vulnerable?”

In Mulier Sacer I juxtapose the fragile stories and photographs of women who have escaped from forced prostitution in the Netherlands with other pieces of writing – ­ an essay about the uneasy relationship between prostitution and feminism by Professor Maggie O’Neill, a selection of blog entries by an ex-prostitute turned abolitionist, an interview with a sociologist who procures sex-workers for her handicapped clients, and a proposed change in Dutch legislation by a crown prosecutor specialising in human trafficking.

Read more…

afk_logo_rood cultuurfondsvierkant

2013, 6 November
HANDLE WITH CARE
Duo-exhibition with Patricia Kaersenhout, in the Amsterdam Tropenmuseum
In conjunction with Black & White, the Tropenmuseum’s exhibition commemorating the 150 years since the abolition of slavery, Patricia Kaersenhout invited me to be her partner in dialogue for this exhibition. Our joint installation is entitled in Handle With Care and deals with the existence of present day enslavement, a brutal reality for the women who have fallen victim to human trafficking and the sex industry.
HandlewithcareuitnENG-AFK

My contribution to this duo-exhibition is a video installation entitled Mulier Sacer, a title meaning the disposable woman: a person who has so few rights left in society that the wrongs that are done to her are no longer seen as crimes. The work has been made as part of an ongoing project about prostitution and has been produced in collaboration with women who have escaped enforced prostitution here in the Netherlands.

Read more…

afk_logo_rood cultuurfondsvierkant

2013, 6 November
NON-URBAN GARDEN
Non-Urban Garden in collaboration with Doris Denekamp
Our design for a Non-Urban Garden as part of the project Gardens of the 21st century at Kunstvereniging Diepenheim has been accepted. Hurrah!
The title for our project has been taken from a line in the poem To make a prairie by the American poet Emily Dickinson. The line, If Bees Are Few… used thus, as an unfinished sentence, raises questions about the far-reaching consequences of a seemingly frivolous statement. What happens if bees become few? This question, one of increasing urgency, has inspired our thinking about the design of a garden for the 21st century.
We have had to veer away from our original plan… a number of logistical factors, in particular the difficulty of finding a large location for the fantasy plan we had initially envisaged, as well as the problem of upkeep, have now prompted us to develop a new plan for this garden relating to the issue of worldwide bee deaths…
The definitive plan for If Bees Are Few… consists of two complimentary parts – a book and a sculptural work in the landscape.
The work in the rural landscape of Diepenheim will be a row of beehives, two of which are inhabited by bees and buzz with life, the others, their companions, are silent, fossilised. These other (five) hives have been cast in concrete and form a kind of burial monument for the honeybee. The row of hives will be situated on a ‘terp’, a raised mound of earth, and surrounded by a meadow of flowering plants which are useful to bees, either for their nectar or their pollen, or for bee well-being. hives1
The second part of If Bees Are Few… will be an artists’ book. This publication, together with the hives, is the ‘Non-Urban Garden’. In collaboration with Swiss designer Anna Haas (alumna Werkplaats Typografie) we will develop a book that propagates the story of the bee. The project’s title forms the premise for the book – what if bees die out, what is lost if bees are no more? Not only in the practical sense – the pollination of plants, the consequences for food and the economy – but also in the imaginative or symbolic sense – bees having had such a prominent place in mythology and legend, etc. As the book should encompass not only the past and the present in terms of bees, but also the future, we have decided to ask the British science and science-fiction author Simon Ings to write a fictitious story relating to the idea – If bees are few…
No-bees-pics-0536

We will send him a collection of ingredients relating to bees, a kind of ‘time-capsule’ that could have been launched in order to explain bees to some future generation at a time when bees no longer exist, as the basis for a story from the perspective of a future (or even from the perspective of the almost extinct bee in the future…) when this scenario has become reality. The contents of the capsule will function as a collage through which, in an associative fashion, the history of the bee from mythical creature to its marginalisation in current society. This archive of images, artefacts and articles will form the background for the story. In addition to this, the cover of the book will be impregnated with the seeds of plants propitious to bees, in this way the book If Bees Are Few… itself, when planted, really does become the Non-Urban Garden.

2013, 15 January
MULIER SACER – IN PROGRESS
mask552mask530

Couple of photos made in the workshop during preparations for a new video project to be exhibited, with Patricia Kaersenhout, later this year, for the Tropenmuseum (Tropical / Colonial Museum) here in Amsterdam, reflecting on 150 years since the abolition of slavery.

2013, 20 February
IF BEES ARE FEW…
Non-Urban Garden in collaboration with Doris Denekamp
Invited by Kunstvereniging Diepenheim to respond to the questions, ‘What is your vision for a garden of the 21st Century? Would you design it for us?’, and to submit a proposal for their project the Non-Urban Gardens.
Diepenheim is a rural village, in an environment nowadays dominated by large areas of maize, grown as cattle feed. This agriculturalisation of the landscape has formed the backdrop for our Non-Urban Garden.
In recent years, an alarming increase in the death of bee populations has been observed worldwide. In Europe, the Netherlands has the highest recorded percentage of bee deaths. The reason behind the deaths has, for a long time, been unclear, but now more and more independent researchers point at a connection with a relatively new insecticide: imidacloprid. This systemic insecticide, though not intentionally aimed at honey bees, is nonetheless absorbed by them. It affects the bee’s nervous system and causes a severe weakening of bee populations, which makes them vulnerable to moulds, mites and viruses. Despite partial banning in several European countries, the Dutch government, kowtowing to an aggressive lobby by pesticide manufacturers, has not taken any steps to prohibit these dangerous insecticides.Preliminary-design-booklet

For our Non-Urban Garden we are therefore planning a garden specifically for bees.
Our idea involves a garden filled with plants that that can provide food for the bees or that have other properties beneficial to them. The layout of the garden would follow the molecular structure of the insecticide imidacloprid, and refer to the tradition of geometrical floral clocks. Six beehives, cared for by a local bee keeper, would be painted with the portraits of people who ‘have bees in their heads’, people committed to the honey bee’s well being – Emily Dickinson (poet and gardener), Rachel Carson (writer and eco-activist), Henk Tennekes (toxicologist specialised in bee deaths), Jan Rabe (local bee keeper), St Ambrose (patron saint of bees and bee keepers) and Bhramari Devi (Indian bee goddess). With time, the geometric shape of the ‘enemy molecule’ would gradually become diffused and ‘conquered’ – a symbolic victory for nature.

Doris Denekamp and I will be presenting this plan at Kunstvereniging Diepenheim on March 6th… you are welcome to come!
The proposal comes accompanied by a small booklet of the design.

2013, 14 January
DIEPENHEIM
Collaborating with Dutch-Art-Institute colleague Doris Denekamp of Informal Strategies on an assignment to design a ‘Non Urban Garden’ for Kunstvereniging Diepenheim in the wilds of Twente close to the German border. Diepenheim-619This project, whereby six different artists are designing Non-Urban Gardens, is curated by Joop Hoogeveen (Kunstvereniging Diepenheim) and Peter Sonderen (Lectoraat Theorie in de kunsten van ArtEZ hogeschool voor de kunsten) for Kunstvereniging Diepenheim which aims to develop into a national centre for the investigation of the relationship between nature and art, with particular emphasis on gardens designed by artists. The project is part of the concept ‘Gardens of the 21st Century’ and presentations of the six design sketches will take place in Diepenheim at the end of February, four of which will be realised during 2013.
More on this project soon…

2012, 7 March
‘THE OLDEST PROFESSION’
As part of the Occupy Campaign in the Jan van Galen neighbourhood last weekend, we ‘occupied’ the news & opinion website Joop.nl with a series of twelve Occupy-related articles. You can access all the articles (in Dutch) on the Occupy Campaign site under the heading press. English versions will (hopefully) follow at some point. Meanwhile, here’s the English version of my contribution…

The Oldest Profession
Although much of the media attention seems dedicated to painting the Amsterdam branch of the Occupy movement as nothing more than a haven of criminal activity, grime and menace, care for co-Occupyers was precisely one of the most positive aspects of life on Beursplein. It was ensured that no-one became under-cooled, or over-upset, that food was distributed to one and all, etcetera. During the night the de-escalating tactics of the ‘peacekeepers’ maintained a level of quiet and safety (both, in fact, mainly threatened by outsiders, in particular visitors to the red Light District and the nearby student societies, who were often particularly aggressive)…
Read more…

2012, 28 February
OCCUPY CAMPAIGN
OCCUPY CAMPAIGN: Call for volunteers
Occupy Campaign is advancing – from the squares and into the streets – and your help is needed!
On March 2nd and 3rd, in the Jan van Galen neighbourhood of Amsterdam, an Occupy-inspired campaign modelled on the grass roots campaigns in the U.S., will take place.
occupy-campaign-logo
Occupy Campaign is not selling anything, nor is it a political party. Occupy Campaign aims to bring politics back to their source: to the neighbourhood and the street. We have no influence on many important decisions in our lives, and current politics have taught us to accept this. Politics have been reduced to casting your vote once every four years. The Occupy movement shows that politics cannot be claimed by politicians alone, but that they are a part of everyone’s lives – that everyone has the right to play a role. With this in mind, Occupy Campaign wants to give form to a new type of politics together with the largest possible group of people.
For this we need your help – in our neighbourhood teams, phone teams, writing teams, and hands-on teams making banners etcetera.
Occupy Campaign comprises different teams – a team that goes from door to door to discuss the relevance of Occupy is at street level, a team that makes banners which show the ideas and suggestions coming from the neighbourhood, and a ‘phone bank’ team that calls people in the neighbourhood to discuss the future of democracy.
Are you curious about Occupy Campaign? Do you want to debate, to bring politics back to the streets and give form to them? For a day, or even just for an hour? Then come to Smart Project Space in Amsterdam on Friday 2nd or Saturday 3rd of March between 10am and 8pm. Or contact us at occupycampaign020@gmail.com (with “volunteer” in the subject line).
We’re looking forward to it!

Occupy Campaign
Jan van Galen neighbourhood

For more information and to stay up to date with our various activities:
www.occupycampaign.nl
Smart Project Space- Events
www.facebook.com/occupycampaign/
www.twitter.com/occupycampaign/

2012, 16 February
ARTISTS IN OCCUPY AMSTERDAM, AT THE RIETVELD

2012, 23 January
MICHAEL HARDT – OCCUPY and the POLITICS of the COMMONS
Coming Saturday, Michael Hardt will speak about Occupy and the politics of the commons. Elke Uitentuis and I have been invited to contribute to the discussion with our experience of Occupy Amsterdam.
michael-hardt
In the last year, the Occupy movement has emerged as a global critique to austerity politics and corporate democracy. With the end of the financial crisis nowhere in sight, the question of alternatives and strategies of resistance is more relevant than ever. Is there some path out of this crisis? What next for the occupy movement? What are the commons and what role can they play in a new political practice beyond state and market?
We will discuss these issues with the internationally acclaimed scholar Michael Hardt, co-author (with Antonio Negri) of Empire (2000) Multitude (2004) and Commonwealth (2009).
Introduction by Fabiola Jara (Seminar of the Commons).
Location: Social Center De Valreep, Amsterdam Oost, Polderweg 120.
Time: 16:00 – 18:00
Entrance is free

2012, 1 January
NOOD BREEKT WET
Literally translated, Nood Breekt Wet means Emergency Breaks Law – in other words, if it’s an emergency, then breaking the law may be necessary. NoodBreektWet445
We hung this banner – a collaborative effort by Doris Denekamp, Elke Uitentuis/Wouter Osterholt and me – between a tree and a lamppost above the remains of Occupy Amsterdam on Beursplein. NoodBreektWet439
Unfortunately, no sooner had we tied the last string and I was slithering back down the rain-wet, art-deco ironwork, than a police van screeched across the square at exaggerated emergency speed to instruct us to remove it, or else it would be removed. Nienke Jansen, with whom I was hanging it, put up a brave round of stroppy argument but in the end we resigned ourselves to moving it to a less prominent, less legible, position along the side of the big tent.

2011, 3 December
REVOLUTIONARY KARAOKE
Here’s a first photo of the karaoke with protest songs, the lyrics being beamed onto the wall of the stock exchange at Occupy Amsterdam on Beursplein. Karaoke-Beurs-2dec2011
(Thanks to Taf Hassam for the photo)

EVOLUTIONARY KARAOKE EVENING at OCCUUPY AMSTERDAM
2011, 29 November
Please join us on the Beursplein to sing along with protest songs, in the big tent on Friday December 2nd at 20:30 (bear in mind that non-hierarchical organisation means things sometimes run a little off schedule…)
The wonderful Lennie St. Luce will be presenting the evening, and all are welcome to come along and sing.
protest mic
The list of karaoke songs is still being added to and will be updated – at present it includes:
Am I Black Enough for You
Bandera Rossa (IT)
Bella Ciao (IT)
Ben ik te Min (NL)
A Change is Gonna Come
De Bom (NL)
De Dievenwagen (NL)
Don’t Stop Til You Get What You Want
Do-Re-Mi
Don Vito y el Revuelto en el Frenetico (SP)
Eyes on the Prize
Guantanamera (ES)
Guns of Brixton
If There’s Hell Below…
If You Tolerate This….
Invincible
Know Your Rights
Le Triomphe de l’Anarchie (FR)
Menheer de President (NL)
Mississippi Goddam
Now (is the Time)
Red Flag
Someday We’ll All be Free
Turn Me Around
We Shall Not be Moved
When Will We Be Paid
Which Side Are You On?

Thanks to all those who have supplied songs – in particular Taf Hassam & Kees Smallegange.
Venceremos!

2011, 16 November
OCCUPY UTOPIA!
We hung up the new banner this morning outside the entrance to the stock exchange at Occupy Amsterdam on Beursplein…
Occupy-utopia94

2011, 14 November
ZWARTE PIET IS RACISME – ARRESTS!
ARTISTS wearing T-shirts bearing the text Zwarte Piet is Racisme were arrested yesterday in Dordrecht during the Sinterklaas parade in a disgraceful display of police brutality. A Danish researcher and a journalist were also arrested.
zartepietisracisme1
PROTEST! – get a T-shirt here.
More information (in Dutch) on Zwarte Piet is Racisme site.
Watch on Youtube here.
zartepietisracisme2

2011, 29 October
DETROIT DIARY NOW ON SALE IN AMSTERDAM
The Detroit Diary is now available from the Fort van Sjakoo bookshop in Amsterdam (Jodenbreestraat 24).
It’s also still on sale in Berlin at Pro qm (Almstadtstr. 48-50), in Paris at the Librairie du Centre Culturel Suisse (32 rue des Francs Bourgeois), and in 2 bookshops in Zurich – Edition Fink (Waffenplatzstrasse 39a) and Motto (Langstr. 84)

Photo: Scheltens & Abbenes

Photo: Scheltens&Abbenes – The Most Beautiful Swiss Books

And this month The Detroit Diary is featured in Graphic, a Korean quarterly graphic magazine, with an interview between me and designer Anna Haas. Graphic19_cover
Publication supported by the Stokroos Foundation
stokroos-cmyk

2011, 7 Sept
ALCEDO ATTHIS
I have finally managed to stop sobbing. For an hour I sat with the still warm body of a kingfisher in my hand, its blood slowly sticking my fingers together.
A special bird, its splash as it dived after a fish from its perch on the toppled velvet tree which overhangs the water, announced its presence more often than the treasured sight of its blue flash as I sat drinking early morning coffee under the larch.
But now it’s dead. kingfisher

I was drinking coffee indoors this time, for the morning was a bluster of showers, when there was a loud thud against the glass doors, very close, making me jump. I didn’t expect a corpse, I imagined the bird – I hoped a stupid bloody wood pigeon – to have flown off a little dazed perhaps, but not seriously harmed, so I finished the page I was on and then, as the sun appeared, stepped out to open up. There, lying on the ground was a bright turquoise bird. Why why why? Why must it be the kingfisher? I spend the next 10minutes clutching its warm limp, body to my breast, rocking it back and forth, stoking its tiny head.

I am aware that my distress is out of proportion, that somehow the death of this tiny, precious bird has triggered something else. Perhaps somehow connecting to a sense of the death of small and precious things on a larger scale.
Read more…

2011, 29 May
SAD AND BAD NEWS…
Some bad and sad news from Detroit – the Catherine Ferguson Academy which enables the majority of its teenage mothers(-to-be) students to aim for college education and a life after teen-motherhood, is threatened with closure.
fightback-cfa
There’s a video piece on the Rachel Maddow blog which goes further into the reasons why this closure (and others like it) is synonymous with the way in which basic tenets of democracy are being side-stepped when they prove a stumbling block for efficient power misuse (particularly in poor neighbourhoods), thus why Michigan is ground-zero for the politics of the USA today.
rachelmaddowshow
Also a report from the school at the time of the student sit-in in the Voice of Detroit independent news.
Direct support is difficult from this side of the Atlantic, but here’s a petition to sign, and those in possession of a credit card can donate to By-Any-Means-Necessary who are, among other things, providing the arrested teenaged girls with legal support.
banner-bamnleft8

2011, 14 May
DETROIT DIARY WINS AWARD!
BELATED NEWSFLASH!!
My book The Detroit Diary has been chosen as one of the winners of The Most Beautiful Swiss Book award – thanks to designer Anna Haas, herself Swiss, who submitted it for the competition.
detroitdiary
Anyone who happens to be in Zurich toward the end of June could visit the exhibition which will be at the Helmhaus Zürich, from 24th to 26th June 2011, following that the exhibition will then travel to Lavin/Engadin, St. Gallen, Bienne and Geneva. For more information, and the complete list of winners, Swiss Design Awards
Thank you to the Stokroos Foundatin for supporting the publicatin of this book
stokroos-cmyk

2011, 19 May
MTVS BROADCAST – LAST MINUTE!
This evening (sorry for the late post), Saturday 19 March, the opening of ‘From the Relative Truth to the Absolute Error’, at SMART project Space in Amsterdam – 19.00 hrs
(Text below courtesy of SMART)
ERRORIST NIGHT
Join Etcetera… during the opening for a very special Errorist Night of performances, music and screenings presented by Federico Zukerfeld and Loreto Garin Guzman special guests include Sebastián Díaz Morales and a presentation of his film Oracle and Lado Darakhvelidze presents Museum TV Station (MTVS) with an international guest line up: Martijn Duineveld, Jimini Hignett, Irakli Kakabadze, Zurab Rtveliashvili, Julio Pastor and Eric von Robertson.

21:00 Screening Oracle (11 minutes) a film by Sebastian Diaz Morales in the Auditorium
21:10 Museum TV Station (MTVS) session by Lado Darakhvelidze at the Errorist Kabaret
22:00 Open Stage at the Errorist Kabaret

From the Relative Truth to the Absolute Error by the Argentinian collective Etcetera… Resisting the passivity and skepticism of relativist postmodernism, Etcetera… unlock their labyrinth of errors through an appraisal of the triumph of failure. The group exploits the exhibition stage as a temporary platform for the International Errorism Movement that was established in 2005. From the Relative Truth to the Absolute Error is the concluding contingent of the Statement exhibition What is to be done between Tragedy and Farce? by Chto Delat?. Both collectives share common ground in their approach to political issues based on theatricality, estrangement, humor and self-irony. They also carry with them a profound responsibility embedded in local and international activist politics. The exhibition incorporates Chto Delat?’s new film The Museum Songspiel: The Netherlands 20XX.

2011, 19 April
ROYAL WEDDING RETRO
Well, in keeping with the upcoming royal nuptuals on April 29th, here’s a look back to the date of the last really big one – Charles and Di – just three months short of thirty years ago, on July 29th 1981. This one was The Royal Drag – Topo Grajeda marrying me, Jimini, in an irreverent drag wedding on St Marks Place in New York City. The fantastic photos are by Jo-Ann Porter and the late Timothy Greathouse, and the wonderful cake by Sur Rodney Sur.

2011, 15 March
MUSEUM SONGSPEIL – THE NETHERLANDS 20XX
Don’t miss the premiere of ‘Museum Songspiel – The Netherlands 20XX’ – new film by Chto Delat? whom I have been working with over the last few weeks – tomorrow at 8pm!
Some pictures taken on the set…
chto-delat-decor
Dmitry arranging the decor/costumes
chto-delat-huip+william
Security Guard & Museum Director
chto-delat-asya
Asya on the set
chto-delat-danielrovai
An injured Daniel Rovai
chto-delat-artemdimaolga
Cameraman, Producer & Director in Van Abbe Museum.

Text below courtesy of SMART Project Space…
‘Museum Songspiel: The Netherlands 20XX is a powerfully evocative film, set against the backdrop of the Dutch political scene in the year 20XX, it tells the story of a group of immigrants fleeing deportation by the authorities. Having escaped transportation, the film follows the immigrants struggle as they seek refuge in the museum, under the assumption that this safe haven is the last bastion of free speech and supports the politically oppressed. When the refugees are discovered a cogent, stimulating conversation develops between the director of the museum, the curator, the artist, a t.v reporter and the museum attendants. The film is an eerie reminder that any system can become monstrous if its masters seal it off from challenge and change and if popular belief in it is blind and fanatical.
Chto Delat? draw on the mode of ‘songspiel’ employed in musical theatre developed by playwright Bertolt Brecht and composer Kurt Weill in the early twentieth century, which presents political and social concerns through the accessible and often humorous form of song. In this manner Museum Songspiel reframes the profound discrepancy between arts’ inherent elitist discourse and proletarian resistance deftly accomplished in a circumspectly choreographed dance by the migrants. Unity and cohesion are achieved through an elegiac music score composed by Mikhail Krutik and performed by the museum attendants. The film presents diametrically opposed positions in what can be described as the force between individual and collective reason, between individual expression and community.’

2011, 15 March
CHOMSKY IN CHURCH
Managed to battle my way through the hoards of Amsterdam Lefties to get into Noam Chomsky’s lecture – Contours of Global Order: Domination, Stability, Security in a Changing World and the rise of Xenophobia in the West – in the Westerkerk.
Great setting – Chomsky preaching from the pulpit as it were. chomsky-church chomsky-close
Here’s the link to the full text of the lecture.

2011, 8 March
MUD
So, between all the politics, an old-fashioned exhibition… a number of squished creatures from my series of ceramic Roadkill are joining MUD – in the newly renovated Glazenhuis in the Amstelpark in Amsterdam. Opening Sunday March 13th 2011 at 3pm. Exhibition curated by the indefatigable Alite Thijssen of Stichting ZET, co-exhibitors are Gijs Assmann, Chris Baaten, Mirjam Oosterbaan, Ulrike Rehm & Det Smeets.
A4095 BlackBourtonRd 19-12-2005
The premise for the show, I quote: ‘For various reasons a revaluation of traditional techniques seems to be a topic currently attracting quite some attention. Is the gap between such things as the extraction of raw materials, transparency surrounding the flow of money, and commitment to production, at the root of the widely experienced sense of powerlessness apparent in large sections of the population? Is there, underlying this insecurity, a basic longing for a return to a time in which craftsmanship and identity – Carpenter, Potter – formed a natural unity? Within the visual arts there is also renewed attention for this idea of expertise, and ancient techniques are being reinserted into the discussion concerning contemporary developments. A possible response to the credit crunch in which all credible relationship to the product has gone up in smoke… Richard Sennet, in his book The Craftsman (2008) suggests that craftsmanship not only produces something in a concrete sense, but also offers possibilities for giving form to meaning(s). Reason enough for ZET to invite, for this exhibition, six artists who utilise their engagement with the material/technique (ceramics) to confront and give form to urgent current and personal questions with their work.’

2001, 19 February
LECTURE PERFORMANCE – ‘SPECIAL ATTENTION’ in AMSTERDAM
As part of the International “Practicing Theory” Workshop organized by the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis, I’ll be doing a lecture performance on Wednesday March 2nd at 5pm. The location is the University Theatre, Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16 in Amsterdam, that’s more or less next door to Grand Cafe ‘De Jaren’. There are a whole lot of other interesting lectures going on too – including Marxist art philosopher Jacques Ranciere, and cultural therorist and video artist Mieke Bal – so I’m keeping good company these days!

You can download the programme for the 3 days here. pdficon_small

asca-jimini

2011,5 Feb
CHTO DELAT – NOW WITH VIDEO!
Just spent a very intereseting and enjoyable two days at SMART Project Space participating with the Russian collective Chto Delat (means What’s to be done – in other words… How to go on!) chto-delat-wakeupThe event was 48 Hour Communal Life Seminar based around the idea of the didactic performance model by Bertolt Brecht, the ‘learning play’. A weird mix of avant garde reenactment, and kitsch agitprop.
chto-delat-oxana
Resembling a political seminar, the play came together during 48 hours of communal dsicussion, eating, sleeping, dancing and, being Russian… drinking. Title of the learning play – Where has Communism gone? chto-delat-artemy
As a participant it was a great experience, and for those of you who missed the live event, more photos by clicking here and here.
And here’s the video edited by Dmitry Vilensky…

where has communism gone? The learning play from chto delat on Vimeo.

2011, 12 January
POLITICAL INCLINATIONS…
Prompted by the Open Call for the 7th Berlin Bienniale‘s request to be informed about artists’ political inclinations, I have managed to reduce the passionate and subjective rant of my MFA thesis to 1000 words of passionate and subjective ranting.
Same old title – here it is…

HOW TO GO ON Making Art When Everything is All Fucked Up…

My politics are feminist, anarchist, humanist, passionate, radical and green – both in my artistic practice and my personal life. I believe in resistance, and although my gestures may not be grand, these basic tenets underlie everything I do.

The question of how to be an artist in the circumstances of today’s world is for me an ongoing struggle. The ecological catastrophe and the unchallenged rule of neoliberalism make this a period in history different to that facing previous generations of artists attempting to establish their role in society. Given the urgency of these times, can art have any significance, can it have a role as a tool for radical change for a better world?

“Without the possibility of action, all knowledge comes to one labelled ‘file and forget’, and I can neither file nor forget.” – Ralph Ellison – Invisible Man 1

Cursed with an inability to submit to a blinckered view, I feel I have a responsibility to act. As one of the first generation of women who have had access to education, birth control, and economic independence – things which have given me the ability to act – I feel this is also my moral obligation. We have an extraordinary combination of factors creating the situation now facing us, and we have never before been qualified to acknowledge, understand, and tackle them. Under these conditions, is being an artist an ethical choice – and if so, what kind of artist do I need to be?

How can I go on making art when what’s happening in the world around me is so calamitous? How can I conquer that sleazy feeling that it’s totally decadent to be an artist when the Amazon is vanishing, whales are extincting, people are starving, child prostitutes being scarred, the Enrons of this world unscrupulously undermining any remaining business ethics to profit at all costs, and the country I have lived in for the last twenty five years disappearing as the sea rises?

I can convince myself that art, under these circumstances, has any significance, only if I can believe in the power of art – in its power to effect change in the fucked-up-ness of things – if not directly then obliquely, effecting a chain-reaction, a little less aimlessly than butterfly flapping its wings. If I cannot believe this then I should stop being an artist, become a farmer, a nurse or an assassin, or set off to save the Amazon, the ice-cap or the child prostitutes (how to choose?!)

Art, manipulated into a corner where it is no longer taken seriously, is allowed, expected even, to say or do something, anything, outrageous, to be critical and to subvert, and yet this criticism should remain within accepted bounds. Like the court jesters of old, it is okay to lightly mock, to poke fun at the established order, to show, as it were, that there is space for criticism, that this belongs within the co-ordinates of democracy, yet the jests should be just that, lightweight and not taking themselves too seriously. Any real criticism of the fundaments of the ruling ideology is out of bounds, and ‘off with their heads!’

Art’s value (and by value I mean inherent value not monetary) is diminishing, disappearing, as art becomes just another word meaning design, or fashion or decoration, leaving artists as nothing more than providers of consumable ideas for articles of fashion, design and decoration. Art, like an old-fashioned girl-child, is being told that she must return complacently to a predetermined place in the corner and look pretty, speaking only when spoken to. We must resist this. And in order to do so we need to operate from a position of resistance to the all-encompassing neoliberal paradigm which threatens art’s very existence – in that art will be subsumed into the commodifying concept of capitalist economy as just another product, devoid of any magic, reduced to just another marketable design or marketable designer. Art will simply succumb, will lose its power.

If art is to retain any worth, any strength, in a world where value has increasingly become defined in terms of consumption and ownership, where things have become more important than the people they are supposedly produced for, and the fetishization of commodities taken on a new desperation as we attempt to fill the bottomless pits left by relinquishment of control over our own production of fulfilment, then resistance is the only way to go on.

If we do not resist, then soon there simply will be no more place for art. So we artists – if art is what we do best – need to fight for its survival, to prevent art itself from becoming extinct, and in doing so, work as an unpredictable, un-expected vehicle to a life somehow richer, clearer, more just, closer to humanity – a catalyst which could not have been predicted. Art at its best can have an inexplicable power, a kind of magic. Because when art works it works in ways which are often indefinable and unfathomable – but being indefinite and unfathomable it may perhaps be able to reach depths which other, more traditionally efficient methods for radical change may not.

Art can still find cracks in the system where its voice is neither unheard nor prone to wilful misinterpretation, and can make subversive use of its privileged position and ‘Yessah ’em to death’2 for as long as the disguise holds – after all, as long as it’s just art then we can hide behind that cover. My own work, which comprises various strands – objects or interventions, often in public space; performance lectures combining written texts with photographs and video; and installations juxtaposing compositions of individual video pieces – is both an ongoing attempt to create ‘meeting places’, and to ‘make sense of life’s brutalities’3

Yet the dilemma remains if it is possible to retain some credibility as a truly engaged artist and still maintain an ongoing relationship with the minefield of the contemporary art world… It seems to me that it is essential to keep in mind the challenge to channel art-related skills and perceptions in such a way that they empower rather than impress people. When negotiating the dangerous waters of the art world and in staying out of the mouths of the sharks without ourselves becoming predatory, we have to keep a critical eye on the balance and ensure that, whatever compromises we make, it weighs out on the side of empowerment. And, in order to turn back the tide of objective non-commitalism, however we decide to go on, we need to do so with a passionate and radical subjectivity.

Onwards, comrade artists!
Jimini Hignett – Amsterdam, January 2011

NOTES:
1. Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man, 1953, Penguin, Harmondsworth, England, p.467
2. Ellison, 1953, p.409
3. John Berger, “I can’t tell you what art does and how it does it, but I know that often art has judged the judges, pleaded revenge to the innocent and shown to the future what the past suffered, so that it has never been forgotten. I know too that the powerful fear art, whatever its form, when it does this, and that amongst the people such art sometimes runs like a rumour and a legend because it makes sense of what life’s brutalities cannot, a sense that unites us, for it is inseparable from a justice at last. Art, when it functions like this, becomes a meeting-place of the invisible, the irreducible, the enduring, guts, and honour.”

2011, 8 January
IN REMEMBRANCE
Upsetting news – Mieke Van de Voort (1972-2011) comitted suicide on Tuesday. Dreadful loss of a talented and fragile soul. In remembrance these words which she herself once quoted from a note she’d found on the wall of the house of a person whom had recently died …

‘and when I am dead
don’t be sad
for I am not really dead
you should know
it is only my body
that I left behind
dead I am only
when you have forgotten me’

Rest In Peace Mieke

2011,3 January
LIVE on MUSEUM TV STATION
Last week a live presentation via Skype for Lado Darakhvelidze’s Museum TV Station at PS2 Gallery at 18 Donegal Street in Belfast. The exhibition continues until January 8th 2011 and you can watch recorded versions of all four live broadcasts – Irakli Kakabadze (New York), Zurab Rtveliashvili (Stockholm), Pamela Renner (New York) and me, Jimini Hignett (Amsterdam). rundle-street
My presentation included a short piece about the visit to Birkenhead to photograph my grandmother’s house before it gets demolished plus a clip from an absurd, crass American cartoon which came up when I tagged Belfast into Youtube – Captain Planet saves Belfast. To see a recording of the Skype presentation, click here.

2010, 31 October
BACK FROM MANIFESTA-8
Our Temporary Art Souvenir shop in Murcia turned into quite a sucess – press coverage in the papers and even on the telly! Here’s a couple of pictures of Hedwig Feijen, Manifesta’s director, visiting the shop. Hedwig-Jimi
And here carefully avoiding the busts I made of her…
Hedwig-busts
Although the shop’s finished, maybe my souvenirs of Ibn Arabi orange papers will have an extended life as on the very last day of the shop in Murcia a chap showed up asking lots of technical questions about them and it turned out that he was a specialist in printing orange papers, with a factory in Murcia – the bloke I’d been seeking for the last 3 months! I’d ended up printing the papers myself using rubber stamps I made on the laser cutter at Protospace which is a very labour intensive process, and prone to a lot of mis-prints. orange-tu-ojo
Anyway, this chap is happy to collaborate by letting me print less than the standard 200kg minimum (which is two-hundred-thousand papers!), per design, and by helping arrange distribution on fruit through a Murcian grower, and I even hope it will be possible to distribute an Arabic version via a Syrian fruit merchant too (Damascus is the site of Ibn Arabi’s tomb). Would be nice as I feel the plan has more potential than has been got out of it so far.
More photos of the project at Manifesta-8 on the TEMPORARY ART SOUVENIRS page.

2010, 16 September
STUDIO VISITS BARCELONA
In my new role as guest curator for the 3rd edition of Se Busca (a project by Maribel Perpiña of laPinta in Barcelona, a project which brings together 14 artists with as many curators from around the world in an extended collaboration) I’ve been doing studio visits with participating artists doing residencies at Hangar in Barcelona. This weekend there’ll be an intermediary presentation of the book of the previous edition and the programme for the presentation in the Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA) which will happen on October 6th and 7th.
Here’s a photo of the programme poster in Hangar.
SeBuscaPoster

2010, 8 September
BAG OF BUSTS
As preparation for the project ‘Temporary Art Souvenirs‘ which is being set up as a parallel event in Manifesta-8, I’m dragging 20kgs worth of plaster busts of Manifesta director Hedwig Feijen, to Barcelona as extra luggage on their way to our souvenir shop in Murcia. The busts are one of my souvenirs and the moulds were completed this very afternoon, ready for the first rounds of casting. There’s a bit of concern that the plaster busts might cause embarassment, so our original poster has already been banished from the press-pack and replaced with one where the bust has had a picture of a T-shirt stuck over it… Here’s a bootleg copy of the ‘banned’ poster – banned tas poster small
Oh well… controversy is probably good news rather than bad… maybe if the product itself gets banned that means I’ll be able to sell them for a decent price on the black market… So order your Golden Bust here while you still can!

2010, 17 August
POST-DORDT 2010 EXHIBITION
As preparation for the project ‘Temporary Art Souvenirs‘ which is being set up as a parallel event in Manifesta-8, I’m dragging 20kgs worth of plaster busts of Manifesta director Hedwig Feijen, to Barcelona as extra luggage on their way to our souvenir shop in Murcia. The busts are one of my souvenirs and the moulds were completed this very afternoon, ready for the first rounds of casting. There’s a bit of concern that the plaster busts might cause embarassment, so our original poster has already been banished from the press-pack and replaced with one where the bust has had a picture of a T-shirt stuck over it… Here’s a bootleg copy of the ‘banned’ poster – banned tas poster small
Oh well… controversy is probably good news rather than bad… maybe if the product itself gets banned that means I’ll be able to sell them for a decent price on the black market… So order your Golden Bust here while you still can!

2010, 1 July
BOOK LAUNCH!
The Detroit Diary is here at last!
detroitdiary
There’s going to be a launch of all this year’s DAI publications on Saturday July 3rd, at The Ateliers in Amsterdam.

‘PERFORMING REALITY’ Saturday 3 July 16.00 – 19.00
Exhibition Werkplaats Typografie, De Ateliers, Stadhouderskade 86, 1073 AT Amsterdam

BOOK LAUNCH
12 Artist’s books, 16.00
PUBLIC LECTURES, 17.00 Seth Siegelaub will speak about copyright and economic issues concerning independent radical publishing, including art books, based on his publishing experience with the Chilean book ‘How to Read Donald Duck’, the so-called ‘Xeroxbook’ and the ‘Artist’s Contract’. He will specifically address free access to information and the practical problems of distribution in a world of dominated by capitalist property values.
Daniel McClean will discuss copying in art, copyright law, and his role as both a curator and a lawyer, focusing on the tension between practices of copying in art and the constraints imposed upon these practices by copyright law. The recent project ‘Free Sol LeWitt’, which McClean co-curated with Superflex at the Van Abbemuseum questions models of authorship in art. He will also discuss important trials involving artists, including Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons.
Q&A with Seth Siegelaub, Daniel McClean, Delphine Bedel, James Goggin, Aernoud Bourdrez [Use-IP] & Yannick Bouillis [Shashin], 18.30
Drinks, 19.00
More info about the Publications Project, see DAI website
stokroos-cmyk
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

Thank you to the Stokroos Foundation for supporting my publication.

2010, 25 May
BREAKDOWN OF CONTROL
An evening of ideas, discussions, presentations and more, on the topic of, The breakdown of control and surveillance situations – Detroit, The Netherlands and Karachi for example. From the viewpoints of technology, art and self-organising.
On Thursday June 3rd 2010, OT301, Overtoom 301, Amsterdam, at 20.00u
rubbish-strike
Rob van Kranenburg will discuss ‘The breakdown of control and surveillance situations, Police 3.0, the Facebook Generation and Garbage 3.0… What does
it mean?’
Suzanne Hogendoorn with a small presentation compiled around the mirror that the global south mega-cities hold up for us to imagine the future of our own mega-cities in terms of self-organisation.
And Jimini Hignett with a presentation, centering around the abandoned police station in Detroit, from the angle of my ongoing theme of ‘How to make art when everything is all fucked up?’
Click here for more details.

2010, 13 April
SE BUSCA CURATOR
In Barcelona visiting my good friend Maribel Perpiñá. She has just published a great book – ‘Se Busca Curator’, an overview of the curatorial practice in contemporary art. Wrapped around the cover is a poster mapping the topography of verbs used to describe the activities and responsibilities of curators by 99 respondents to questionnaires.

Se Busca Curator - Maribel Perpiñá, La Pinta

Se Busca Curator – Maribel Perpiñá, La Pinta

2010, 4 January
THANKS
Big thank-you to The Stokroos Foundation! stokroos-cmyk
They have agreed to support my
upcoming publication.
This means that the photographs
can be printed in colour…
Hurrah!
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

2010, 15 March
OLD NEWS
Whilst looking for something else, I came across this news item made by Anne-Marie van Oosteren for an exhibition I took part in last year…

2010, 3 March
HANDS UP FOR READYMADE
ReadyMade Magazine published a piece about art in Detroit which includes photos of my work and of Tyree Gruyton’s Heidelberg project – entitled Hands Up For Detroit – I feel honoured to be sandwiched between him and old friend Philip Petit. readymadelogo
There’s actually a second version of the Speramus Meliora work on a house already claimed with one of Tyree’s famous painted polkadots. So it’s interesting that even without knowing the geographical link, the author has brought the work together here.
Also an interesting comment by Christian Ernsten on the piece on the DUEA-blog, questioning issues raised by the article.

2010, 14 February
JOURNEY TO THE END OF THE NIGHT
Reading through this pile of books by Loïc Wacquant for the upcoming publication – I couldn’t help be reminded of Céline… here’s a quote – this is written in 1932:

…We have got into the habit of admiring colossal bandits, whose opulence is revered by the entire world, yet whose existence, once we stop to examine it, proves to be one long crime repeated ad infinitum, but those same bandits are heaped with glory, honors, and power, their crimes are hallowed by the law of the land, whereas, as far back in history as the eye can see—and history, as you know is my business—everything conspires to show that a venial theft, especially of inglorious foodstuffs, such as bread crusts, ham, or cheese, unfailingly subjects its perpetrator to irreparable opprobrium, the categoric condemnation of the community, major punishment, automatic dishonor, and inexpiable shame, and this for two reasons, first because the perpetrator of such an offense is usually poor, which in itself connotes basic unworthiness, and secondly because his act implies, as it were, a tacit reproach to the community. A poor man’s theft is seen as a malicious attempt at individual redress . . . Where would we be? Note accordingly that in all countries the penalties for petty theft are extremely severe, not only as a means of defending society, but also as a stern admonition to the unfortunate to know their place, stick to their caste, and behave themselves, joyfully resigned to go on dying of hunger and misery down through the centuries forever and ever …

Louis-Ferdinand Céline – ‘Journey to the End of the Night

2010, 20 January
THE SKY IS FALLING…
Wednesday, May 26th (2010), in the Waag, Amsterdam, Rob van Kranenburg’s arranging an evening to juxtapose some stuff – probably bits of my abandoned police station, Detroit project, ‘Special Attention’ – Rob’s rant ‘The end of the Netherlands in twelve steps’ – and something to do with somewhere beginning with a ‘K’ in India (he told me but I can’t remember, sorry). Watch this space for more details!
Meantime here’s another Detroit snap, (read the small print…)
JiminiHignett-skyisfalling

2010, 18 January
BAD NEWS LEADS TO DOUBLE GOOD NEWS!
Just when I thought I’d found the perfect writer for my ‘Special Attention’ publication, there was an email from Michael Uwemedimo saying that he regretted having to cancel but that he was locked in a car-boot somewhere in England as part of a Hostile Environments Training which his subsidy-givers have insisted he take before returning to his filming in the depths of the Niger Delta and therefore wasn’t able to write… (Still, perhaps he will find a way to collaborate on the wider ‘Special Attention’ project when he’s escaped his kidnappers…)
JiminiHignett-SpecialAttentionStamp

Anyway, in my ensuing panic (the deadline is hurtling towards me at breakneck speed) I mailed the first names relating to the relevant topics that I could think of and, amazingly, Loïc Wacquant has offered to collaborate by allowing me to use texts excerpted from his writings (on incarceration, the penal state, race as a principle of social vision and division etc).
Plus today, Rob van Kranenburg is going to write a piece centred around the photos of the abandoned police station – incorporating his work on biometrics and his rant ‘The end of the Netherlands in twelve steps’.
So politically the project is in really good hands!
Now just need someone to write something relating to the art side of the project, but now I don’t need them to deal with the other socio-political issues that ought to work out. Meanwhile, big grin on my face about the way this is going, and I have to get back to reading my way through Loïc’s books…

2010, 6 January
THE WAY IT IS
Here’s a short clip from an ongoing project – the story of Adam and Eve, as told by my homeless collaborator, Barbara.

[ Javascript required to view QuickTime movie, please turn it on and refresh this page ]


(It takes a minute or so to load, particularly if your computer is as turgid as mine!)

You can see the complete, 6minute film on the The Way It Is page.

Thinking about ‘tools’ which I use to work with, for the (Un)Solicited Advice brief – manifestaplatform, and notice embedded in this clip a number of key elements, perhaps not tools as such that I might apply them consciously, but things such as a sense of inclusion/ exclusion, feminism, humour, story-telling/language, which feed my work through a kind of informed intuition.
For more of Barbara see GODSEND

2010, 5 January
THE GUIDE
‘The Guide’ issue of Volume magazine – #22, December 2009 – has a section entitled Atlas of Love and Hate, on the Detroit Unreal Estate Agency. volume22-150x267
There are 4 pages dedicated to my work – diary excerpts from the days leading up to the interventions on burned out houses, plus photographs.
And Lado Darakhvelidze’s ‘Future Postman’ project is in there too.

2010, 4 January
UNSOLICITED ADVICE
The Platform for (Un)Solicited Research and Advice is a project attached to the Manifesta Biennial which I’m involved with through the Dutch Art Institute. Each month there’s a specific aspect related to biennials which is being addressed. Last month, relating to the question of personal attitude as an artist toward the biennial phenomenon, I made this sketch…
Abu Dhabi Biennial

For more click here – Platform for (un)Solicited Research and Advice

2009, 29 June
LA MAISON DE POUPEE
Several pieces of my ceramic roadkill can be seen in the exhibition ‘la maison de poupee’ curated by Suze May Sho in the Historisch Museum in Arnhem (NL) as part of the 2009 Fashion Bienial – runs until 16/08/2009Roadkill in Historisch Museum Arnheme