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On Mobility

Dirk van Weelden

In the essay he wrote for the On Mobility catalogue Van Weelden re-enacts 16th century rascal Tyl Uilenspiegel like an artist whose work he encountered during his travels to the exhibitions in Amsterdam, Berlin, Vilnius and Budapest. Van Weelden questions their balancing between artistic, individual freedom and social engagement. In his search for playful metaphors he is the fellow traveller of the reader and hands the essential luggage on this ongoing mental journey in a 21st century parable. The On Mobility catalogue contains images of the work of all 21 participating artists.

Tiong Ang Bik Van der Pol Castro/Olafsson Banu Cennetoglu Miklós Erhardt Alicia Framis Yona Friedman Patricija Jurksaityté Leopold Kesslerm Andrew Miksys Multiplicity Marjetica Potrc Tomas Saraceno Tomo Savic-Gecan Sean Snyder Asa Sonjasdotter Nasrin Tabatabai Javier Tellez Patrick Tuttofuoco Judy Werthein Xu Zhen

In the summer of 2006 (15 Jul — 27 Aug) De Appel in Amsterdam had shown the last stop of On Mobility, a series of exhibitions realized with the cooperation of European contemporary art institutions in Central and Eastern Europe, initiated by Saskia Bos, former director of De Appel. On Mobility was an ever-changing collection of works by artists that are concerned about recent developments in society. In their work migration and mobility, assimilation and translation, are key issues. They examine and analyse these issues in unconventional and imaginative ways, as demonstrated by two examples chosen from the projects shown in the venue at the Nieuwe Spiegelstraat in Amsterdam. The act of crossing the border from Mexico into the US is known as ‘brinco’, jump in Spanish. Judi Werthein’s ‘crossing trainers’ prepare illegal migrants for this journey. The shoes include useful items such as a compass and a torch, as most of the migrants cross at night. Inside are painkillers, as many suffer aches and injuries during the journey, pockets for money and the insole features a map of the most popular border crossing points for illegal immigrants between Tijuana and San Diego. Embroidered on the heel is an image of Santo Toribo Romo, the official saint of the Mexican migrants, and on the front of the toe in the direction of their dreams is the American eagle. To comment on the contradictions between fashion, manufacture competition, migration and labour flow, Werthein’s sneakers have been sold as unique art objects at the American side of the border. And at the Mexican side they were freely distributed amongst would-be illegal immigrants. The project caused a great deal of controversy in the United States. Werthein was invited for many news and talk shows, but she also received a lot of hate mail. Documentation of press coverage and webforums is included in the exhibition.

Text by Dirk van Weelden in English, Dutch, German, Lithuanian and Hungarian.