Ode aan een Mens (Ode to a Human)
Proposition for a statue
Plan of Arnhem city center with marked location of the statue 'Ode aan een Mens'.
In 2009 I was one of the three nominees for the 'OKA Kunst-Intern Cultuurprijs' (Entrepreneur Network Arnhem Art-Intern Culture Prize). Part of this prize was an invitation to do a proposal for an artwork for the OKA in 2010. Every year one of the companies connected to the OKA has the honor to be chosen as the frame for the propositions. This year that company was Lucas Berger, a regional service company which offers other companies technical service, team lunches and as core business cleaning service.
Unfortunately I was unable to attend when the presentations were to be held to the commission in Arnhem. Therefor I turned to the blessings of modern day technology. With the help of Leonora Reynaldos Rojas I made a film of my presentation, which I showed the commission by beamer on big screen via YouTube. Hereafter we did the Q&A online as well, through a live-stream video connection via Skype.
The jury commission will announce its decision at the start of the cultural season at the Arnhem Culture Ball 2010 in September.
Concept Summary (full concept orated in the film, see below)
Undervaluation of people
For many branches the done labor is undervalued by society. This results in under appreciation, which is manifested in low wages, poor contractual rights and lack of respect for the labor, and for the laborers. These laborers are people, so in an indirect way there is an undervaluation of people. All of this has recently come to show in The Netherlands with the necessity for the cleaners to go on a 9 week strike, the longest since 1933, to draw attention for their labor to regain some valuation. Since labor is, next to love, one of the most important aspects to give meaning to our life, the importance of being valued by society for the labor one does should never be underestimated.
Art to remember what is of value
Art classically has had the role to visually remember people about what is of value, as seen for millions of years with i.e. the Ancient Egyptians and Greeks, religions worldwide or more recently the tradition of public artworks to honor certain people, laborers or classes until the beginning of 1900. But the last decades the autonomy and commodification of art has separated it so far from society, that it has lost this function. Nowadays almost only companies still understand and use the power of visual art to remember people about certain (though in this case deformed) ideas.
I think there is a direct connection between the lack of art that honors that what is of value and the current undervaluation of people and labor.
Symbol of honor
My proposition for the OKA Art-Intern Culture Prize is a statue of a cleaner, as symbol for all invisible laborers who are the heart of our society, to honor them. The statue will be placed on the intersection of two main shopping streets in Arnhem, because since shopping is the most popular hobby in The Netherlands, this is the best stage to draw attention to the value of this cleaner, a laborer, a person, a human.
Value conditioning awareness
Also, the place of the statue will obstruct the main routes for the trucks that supply all the stores in the center. In first instance many will think this cleaner in standing in the way and should move aside. This perfectly shows the way we are conditioned to put the effectiveness and profit optimalization of our system on the first place, for which people have to move aside, instead of putting the people by who this system functions and for who we do this all on the first place. The statue shows us how we are stuck in a dogma of adjusting our lives to the system, instead of adjusting the system to us and the way we would like live a meaningful life. By its location the statue will make us aware about the priorities that we have and makes a statement about what we should have as prime value in our thoughts and in the way we organize our society.
Image impressions of the statue 'Ode aan een Mens'
Front view, as seen from Grote Oord
Back view, as seen from Weverstraat
Presentation of the proposal (three parts, total time 21m36s, spoken in Dutch)
Part 1 of 3
Part 2 of 3
Part 3 of 3
Sincere thanks to:
Leonora Reynaldos Rojas (film)
Pauline Waltmann (info & technical setup presentation)
Pim Schrier (surroundings photo's)