ideology of working class doesn't impose any boundaries on love

performance
duration: June 2018 - September 2018
Amsterdam - Moscow - Amsterdam
*Phrase from «Make Way to Winged Eros» by Alexandra Kollontaï

curator Jan van Esch 

I take the red curtains out of a building of a former window brothel in the Red Light District in Amsterdam and set them on a journey through different socially acclaimed, international premium cultural environments in Amsterdam and Moscow to get them back to the building of the former brothel. Its interior is most likely to disappear together with the curtains as the building will be passed to a real- estate investor. The brothel has long ago ceased to exist and the building has been expropriated within the municipal program of revitalization of the city. 

stages:

  1. Brothel on Saint Anna Street, Amsterdam

  2. Hermitage Museum, Amsterdam

  3. RAI conference center, Amsterdam / International AIDS conference

  4. Museum of Architecture, Moscow / International Biennale for Young Art

  5. Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Moscow

  6. Brothel on Saint Anna Street, Amsterdam 

context

Operation 1012 is a municipal program which was supposed to focus on rebranding the image of Amsterdam to attract upper-scale cultural tourists, on reduction of criminal activities and on the economic upgrade through gentrification based on public-private partnerships. Although it is celebrated that prostitution is tolerated and socially recognized in the Netherlands, the Operation 1012 regarded it as the main target for displacement from its historical area of De Wallen, which used to be a symbol of tolerance, transparency and freedom known as the Red Light District.

Since 2007 window working places are reduced by third through exchange, sale or expropriation. Most of emptied brothels stand idle for 

already ten years. Ineffective and shady as perceived by sex workers, this sanitizing transition in moral geography seems to indicate through political decisions a shift in attitude to sex work from normal as integral part of labor market to as a marginal social activity.

Artists, designers and other creative class actors were invited through different channels to impel the ‘sanitization’ of the area. This instrumentalization of art was supposed to add value to the ‘working class’ district and upgrade it from once a space of sin to a place for wealthy, worthy citizens. I was assigned to work in this context as artist in residency supported by AFEW, a local NGO, in order to reflect on the Dutch approach to sex work 

stage one

the former brothel on Saint Anna Street, Amsterdam

stage two

Hermitage Museum, Amsterdam 

stage three

RAI conference center, Amsterdam 

stage four

 

Museum of Architecture, Moscow 

stage five

 

Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Moscow 

stage six

 

Brothel on Saint Anna Street, Amsterdam 

Taking out the curtains

Once used as a tool of communication defined by the architecture of the sex service, the curtains are now not used anymore, they are testimonies of a particular epoch, with the history of private transactions inscribed in them through the public use. Not anymore transgressions between the private and the public, I perceive them as simultaneously a relic of something that is no longer there, and a remnant of something that is not there yet. Due to expropriation during gentrification program, the brothel windows are now covered with 1012 posters, impenetrable for the view from the outside - you can see through them, but you can’t be seen. It is not anymore a live communication and a practiced space, but an ambush, a point of control. 

1/2

I’m sewing the curtains together during a special VIP event in the Hermitage museum, that is a fruit of 2000’ optimism in international relations: inaugurated in 2008 by the president of Russia Medvedev together with the Queen of the Netherlands Beatrix it used to be a symbol and celebration of friendship, kinship and belonging.

The sewing is happening in one of the halls of an exhibition «Classic Beauties», a neoclassical collection of masterpieces of a man’s gaze on what is the ideal of a woman’s beauty. Neoclassical era was particularly fascinated with ruins since Winckelman began to reveal Pompeii in the 18th century. Long thought as invention of the 16th century, the first curtains were discovered at a Pompeii brothel, Grande Lupanare. 

1/2

Attended by 18000 visitors, the AIDS conference at the RAI is where the object was installed in the center of the exhibition hall of the Global Village. A place for cultural exchange, the Global Village showed much diversity and effort to celebrate it. Fighting all kind of stigma was also claimed as one of the goals. 

1/2

I take the Object to Moscow to show it at the exhibition ‘Portal Zaryadye’. It is set to reflect on the recently constructed Park Zaryadye, the newest incorporation to Moscow’s central cityscape, touching on the symbolism and mythology of physical landmarks in relation to the Russian public imaginary, contemporary urbanism and shifts in social-political context. The Museum’s ‘Ruina’ building, where the exhibition was held, is symbolic in itself and invites to think about processes of abandonment, displacement, transformations and changing landscapes in relation to power structures. 

1/2

A place of honor, refined protocol and of worldly communication in search for dialog, the Embassy is a portal par excellence. It is here where the Object’s transformation is finalized and fully achieved. I pass on the Object to the Embassy, after which the Object travels back to the former brothel in the Red Light District, De Wallen, 1012, Amsterdam. 

1/2

After completing all stages of transformation the Object is unsewed. The curtains are hanged back to the building of the former brothel.