The constellation of artworks presented at Der Vitrine are the result of a weeks-long conversation around the topic of work, unacknowledged forms of labour, our currently altered working conditions, and forms of exchange. An essential aspect of these discussions has been the question: “what is work.” On one hand, it refers to the all-encompassing nature of the 24/7 economy, where it’s increasingly difficult to distinguish between work and leisure time and, on the other, questions of artistic authorship and modes of collective practice. Together the presented artworks aim to complicate the matter of work – on a theoretical level, as well as by way of materialising these ideas in space.
A lightbox indicates the 24/7 accessibility of der Vitrine, but also signals an accelerated dictate of commerce that never stop.
On the contrary, a set of modified documents seeks strategies to escape this perpetual rhythm and break with the confines of work. A “sick leave” can sometimes be the only justification to stop and allow an exhausted working body to get some rest.
Parallel to ideas about the 24/7 economy, a free delivery service operates throughout the exhibition’s duration. What is being brought to clients is, however, not an edible item or mail but a piece of stone. The transaction takes place via a phone call where any caller is asked to explain their reason for wanting a stone. This performative work calls to question the use value of art and the very essence of an artwork.
A two-part metal sculpture and affiliated photograph documents an artwork’s transformation and the artistic labour involved in this process. The sculpture, depicted in its original shape and now broken into two pieces, transmuted into a different artwork gaining an additional layer of meaning along the way. An object that used to carry and be carried has become a parenthesis to the other artworks on display.
Issues of care work and reproductive labour emerge from an unexpected angle: an “opening drink” or welcome cocktail are served in order to make one’s guests comfortable and at ease, while their preparation may follow strict instructions and careful manners of the feminised labour of the “good hostess”.
Working from our present restrictions and limitations that affect the working conditions of many, two participants collaborated in an exchange of their artworks that extends the physical space of Die Vitrine also to Berlin. A set of video works are screened there during the opening times at one of the participating artist's workplace at a vegetable stand. They depict carefree movement in a skate park. In exchange, faulty, broken bags from the vegetable shop flow in the exhibition space.
An audio recording spills from the space of Die Vitrine into the public space. It is based on notes that were taken during the preparatory online video conference meetings leading up to this exhibition. Note-taking as a task, as a way to archive and document the digital meetings, fell on one of the students as an additional responsibility. Finally, the notes became not only records of class meetings but also a narration that weaves together the single artworks in the exhibition space.
A text unfolding in the exhibition space is a presumed exemplary day of an art teacher. It depicts an ideal work day where ideas freely flow and administrative and other pressures are absent.
Another text, placed over the glass of der Vitrine, tells a story of a chance encounter with a painting and parallels its mythical account to our contemporary times. Essentially it is a tale of a historical quest for knowledge and salvation through work, and contemporary modes of exploitation.
A set of artworks engage with the invisible yet crucial network surrounding the exhibition space: its power infrastructure. This infrastructure is not supposed to be visible, and generally becomes apparent only when it malfunctions. A (dysfunctional) light switch placed inside the space refers not only to the day-and-night lighting in der Vitrine, which is not possible to switch off and control, but also to larger issues related to electricity and the power of this invisible network. More specifically, the related map depicts electricity use for bitcoin mining all over the world, in some cases causing serious power shortage for a region’s inhabitants.
On a similar note, an electricity socket inside a metal box points to the lack of access to electricity in public space. Initially planned to extend outside the gallery space, the object was to offer free access to electricity in exchange for time spent in front of der Vitrine, thus offering spectatorship as a form of labor.
Likewise, the commute, an activity often preceding work, is re-considered as work in its own right: one day, between 15th and 26th July a participant will make a 57km long journey on foot to arrive at the exhibition’s location.
(Text and Curatorial Labour by Kris Dittel, Rotterdam)