press release

Matthijs de Bruijne: Compromiso Politico
Also featuring works by Jeremy Deller, Piero Gilardi, and Mierle Laderman Ukeles
10.02.2018 - 15.04.2018

Propositions #3: Art as Commitment: February 10, 1:30–5pm, Talks and conversations on the role of art in social movements

At BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht we are proud to announce the first exhibition in our new venue Matthijs de Bruijne: Compromiso Político. The exhibition features works by De Bruijne as well as Jeremy Deller, Piero Gilardi, and Mierle Laderman Ukeles. It takes place in a makeshift environment amid the renovation of BAK's building, so that we share the experience of transformation with the public. The opening takes place on February 10, 2018 at 5pm. The exhibition will be opened by Kees Diepeveen, Deputy Mayor of Utrecht. Prior to the opening, on February 10, 2018 from 1:30–5pm, is Propositions #3: Art as Commitment, with talks and conversations on the role of art in social movements.

De Bruijne persistently challenges the borders of the art field with process-based, multi-authored, artistico-political experiments. For more than 15 years, he has negotiated his artistic practice in a variety of social contexts, and engaged in long-term collaborations with social movements, groups, and organizations outside of the traditional art institutions. Following his work in Argentina (early 2000s) and China (2007–2008), De Bruijne began a major long-term collaboration with the cleaners’ chapter of the Netherlands Trade Union Confederation (FNV). A large part of Matthijs de Bruijne: Compromiso Político is dedicated to this cooperation (2011–ongoing), analyzing ways of bringing together art and social struggles, and searching for connections between artistic practice and grassroots political organizing in the underlying commonalities of precarity; forms of representation and protest; and desire for new images and imaginaries that work toward social justice.

The title of the exhibition—Compromiso Político—proposes to circumvent the English-language idiom “socially engaged art” and the compromises that it often ends up with when such art circulates languages and forms of social struggle almost exclusively in the realm of the artistic canon. Compromiso, in Spanish, means a commitment and obligation; a commitment to both politics and art. De Bruijne explains, “a compromiso político is a way of acting toward the same political goal and working together as part of both the movement and the institution of art.” It is quite opposed to the vrijblijvendheid of socially engaged art, as De Bruijne continues, in which “vrij means free and blijvend means to stay: to stay free, to stay loose; without obligation.”

The works by Deller, Gilardi, and Laderman Ukeles expand the exhibition in various directions. Gilardi’s works examine the notion of protest and how artists can shape its potentiality. Deller delves into the present-day phenomenon of the zero-hour contract, positioning it as a new barbarization of labor. Laderman Ukeles’s Touch Sanitation (1979–1980) reflects on the years she spent as an artist-in-residence at the New York Department of Sanitation. This work in particular is critical in De Bruijne’s genealogy, as it addresses the common space of cleaners, domestic workers, and artists as one of care, where the power relations that dominate life can be imagined and embodied differently.

A collection of texts by artist Graciela Carnevale, president of the cleaners’ chapter of the FNV Khadija Tahiri-Hyati, and research coordinator of the Beijing Migrant Workers Home Lin Zhibin is also part of the exhibition. Throughout the duration of the exhibition, the cleaners’ union of the FNV uses the site for gathering.

Propositions #3: Art as Commitment
February 10, 2018, 1:30–5pm

On the occasion of the opening of the exhibition, a series of talks and conversations on the role of art in social movements takes place under the title Propositions #3: Art as Commitment, as part of BAK's long-term research trajectory Propositions for Non-Fascist Living (2017–2020). It includes contributions by Matthijs de Bruijne, Graciela Carnevale, Femke Kaulingfreks, Sven Lütticken, Merijn Oudenampsen, and Cecilia Vallejos, as well as a screening of De Bruijne’s work Het Museum van de Straat (The Museum of the Street, 2013).

This exhibition is curated by BAK’s curator Matteo Lucchetti. The realization of this project has been made possible through financial contributions by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the City Council, Utrecht. BAK’s main partner in the field of education and research is HKU University of the Arts Utrecht.