Social Dynamics as Agents for Artistic Practice
Mariette Dölle,artistic director of TENT, Rotterdam

Published in: Gil & Moti: Available for You, project publication, 2009, Kunsthallen Nikolaj, Copenhagen/TENT., Rotterdam

Gil & Moti have lived in the Netherlands and in Rotterdam for around ten years. they are aware of the discussion that relates to artistic and social engagement. In which arena is the work relevant, and where does it intend to be? As soon as an artist takes a step outside the white cube, much of what he does is received with a certain suspicion – the advice is to go back to where you came from. And yet, much of the innovative art in recent decades came into being far from the conventional gallery or museum halls.
Artists working in the grey area between art and cultural activism developed new forms of collaboration with the public and with communities. In Rotterdam, a port city where many people come and go, social engagement has become an important basis for the work of many Rotterdam artists, of whom Jeanne van Heeswijk, Bik van der Pol and joep van Lieshout are well-known examples.
Available for You – Rotterdam focuses on the district of South Rotterdam, where a large-scale urban redevelopment project is underway. A specific metropolitan situation is visible in South Rotterdam, which may in a certain sense be regarded as exemplary for the development of contemporary Dutch society. our cities are being transformed as a result of larger developments that can be summarized in concepts such as migration, cultural differentiation and globalisation. In that respect, Rotterdam is on the threshold of one of the biggest transformations: over the course of several years, virtually the entire southern section of Rotterdam is being re-organized in both urban development and social-economic terms. South Rotterdam is
the place where important issues of our time are on prominent display. It is the Netherlands’ youngest city district with a majority of its residents under the age of eighteen and more than sixty percent of migrant origin.
It is an area with low incomes. Local and national governments are investing heavily in housing projects and public facilities in order to revitalize the district. Can art and culture play a role in that infrastructure? According to Richard Florida, the presence of a creative professional group helps foster greater social tolerance and this creative class has a positive effect on attracting middle class residents to the area. In an area such a Charlois, a network of artists’ initiatives has emerged in a short period of time around the large studio complex Stichting BAd. the Creative Factory and de Player established near the Afrikaanderplein. And three of Rotterdam’s art institutions are programming exhibitions together in ’t Gemaal, an arts podium that reveals the cultural dimension of the changing district. ’t Gemaal (the Pumping station) is the name of a typically dutch substructure that ensures our feet remain dry. It is the name of a magnificent complex of buildings on the vibrant Afrikaanderplein in South Rotterdam. And it is the denomination under which kosmopolis, TENT. and the Historisch Museum Rotterdam are developing a two-year programme of art and culture. In the spring of 2009, TENT. presented the first project in South Rotterdam: Gil & Moti with Available for You. the core of Available for You consists of Gil & Moti who offer their services free of charge to immigrant residents – and the encounters they have as a result. In Available for You, I see an investigation that initially appears innocent and generous, but which raises the issue of the complexity of coexistence in an intelligent and stratified manner. the postmodern city has increasingly large contrasts on a social and cultural level. It is, of course, hospitable that Gil & Moti offer their services free of charge to their Arab neighbours. Certainly in combination with the words ‘give’, ‘share’ and ‘love’. And yet this has something unsettling about it when you are aware that the social reality in which their project takes place is often classified in very different terms, terms such as exclusion and mutual distrust. In my opinion, this contradiction, the fact that the artists’ good intentions actually make the dilemmatic context visible, creates new perspectives on social constellations. the photographic portraits of Mohamed, Mahir and Bouchra, flanked by Gil & Moti, are loaded with symbolism: the cheerfully smiling identically dressed lads are the outsiders in the photo; while in everyday reality exactly the opposite is the case. the rather slapstick video in which Gil & Moti spiritedly paint Bouchra’s garden wall with a decoration she designed herself is comical and hilarious, and lightens up a loaded debate.
For Gil & Moti it is essential that Available for You be seen as a serious attempt by two Israeli-dutch artists who wish to make a gesture to the immigrant Arab fellow man, and as a serious attempt to extend the artistic discourse to other areas in society. Many immigrants begin their dutch lives in South Rotterdam. As Gil & Moti observe, they are fighting hard from day to day for a position in dutch society and, in a broader sense, in European society. Gil & Moti’s diaries, notes of conversations, videos and photos make engaging portraits of these people, and it is immediately apparent that the connection to (dutch) society is a daily topic for them. The jeweller Mahir is worried about the fact that he has not yet reached Level 2 (the level of language required for a dutch passport), Mohamed the optician is struggling with his health and Bouchra is frequently faced with unexpected personal questions in her work as a course instructor. the power of Available for You lies in that everyday, that smallness of scale. Gil & Moti have met many people during the three months they worked in South Rotterdam – at the Afrikaandermarkt, in the shops on the Groene Hilledijk, in ’t Gemaal over delicious Israeli Breakfasts – and yet, the project has not become an encompassing manifestation in which large groups have participated. Rather, the project was personal and precise, whereby the contacts also continue longer than just the duration of the presentation in ’t Gemaal. Large (macro) political and social issues are addressed on a personal (micro) level. And by actually placing personal experiences above collective assumptions – ‘you’ instead of ‘your sort’ – Available for You poses the question of what it means to form a community, who is included, and which opinions play a central role in that.



Selected Essays
Mariette Dölle- Gil & Moti: Future Line Tours
Catrin Lundqvist- When Personal Becomes Political
Hans Günter Golinski- Who Makes Whom the Minority?
William Easton- Gil & Moti in the Kitchen
Elisabeth Delin Hansen- The Triple Heart
Tali Tamir- (Israeli) Artists at Your Service, or In Praise of Exile
Maaike Bleeker- Let’s Fall in Love: Staging a Political Marriage
Selected Reviews