Spin[Freee]oza (Shop Windows and Balloons) is a Freee project commissioned by SMART Project Space as part of the exhibition On Joy, Sadness and Desire which took place within the framework of My name is Spinoza, organized by the Amsterdam Spinoza Circle and SKOR (Foundation Art and Public Space), commissioned by Foundation Spinoza Centre Amsterdam, to mark 400 years of Spinoza’s philosophy.

For Spin[Freee]oza the Freee art collective created updated quotes from the philosopher Spinoza (1632-1677) and printed these statements on shop windows in the vicinity of SMART Project Space as backdrops for photos published as billboard prints on the gallery walls. The slogans also appear on 1000 coloured balloons that were available for gallery visitors to take away for free as a memento.

The shop windows were photographed and three of the photographs were produced as billboard poster prints for the exhibition space. In each photograph / billboard poster the artists are shown visiting the retail outlets that have become temporary hosts for their slogans. Shopkeepers who had agreed to participate in the project were asked to choose one slogan for their shop window. Each has their own reason for choosing the slogan, some because they agree with it but others because it alludes to something more personal. The slogan balloons are intended to address people in the same way: some may take a balloon because the slogan expresses something they agree with, while others may make their selection according to colour or just to be part of the event. Thus, the billboard images are the culmination of a series of negotiations, exchanges and context shifts that might not always be visible but are always essential to their logic.

Freee is interested in the traffic between the gallery and the street, between art’s institutions and everyday culture, and between art and politics. The vinyl texts on the street in Amsterdam are not the original works neither are the billboard sized posters that appear in the exhibition space a document of these texts. Each version is simply another instance of the very same work, like a song performed at various venues, or more pointedly, like a slogan appearing in a pamphlet, on a badge or in a chant.

Freee’s slogans based on Spinoza’s philosophy address the current state of democratic thinking and therefore do not exist in a vacuum; Freee is interested in how philosophical arguments enter the world of work, commerce, consumption and everyday life. Spin[Freee]oza uses philosophically constructed sentences to raise issues about democracy, consensus and power. In fact, Marxist intellectual and historian Perry Anderson has argued that “the systematic induction of Spinoza into historical materialism by Althusser and his pupils was intellectually the most ambitious attempt to construct a prior philosophical descent for Marx.”[1]

(Marxist) philosopher Etienne Balibar says that one of the key points of Spinoza’s philosophy is to demonstrate that ‘the difference between those who rule and those who are ruled … finally comes to focus on a monopoly of knowledge at the level of the State, in whose name obedience is demanded. This intrinsically ambivalent situation can easily be reversed, for the insecurity of the State is bound up with individuals’ ignorance of who they themselves are, and of how they are affected by their mutual dependency”.[2] Freee believe that if today the key question about democracy is how to stop it from becoming the professional activity of a small minority, Spin[Freee]oza‘s model of utopia is of people

discussing democracy while doing their shopping, having a coffee or walking down the street.

Sharing and contesting opinion through acts of publishing is central to all of Freee projects. Making ideas public by printing them on shop windows or on balloons carried by passers-by is intended to trigger thought and debate.

 


[1] Perry Anderson, Considerations on Western Marxism, New Left Books, London, 1976, p.65

[2] Etienne Balibar, Spinoza and Politics, Verso, London, 2008 (1985), p.123

Thanks:

Photography: Freee, Alice Evans

Thanks to SMART, Hilde de Bruin

Special thanks to Pottery Dorje; Dish – Global Kitchen; Kinki Kappers; Pied a Terre Geografische Boekhandel; Odds & Sodds; Piu; De Koffiesalon; Louise Banket en Bonbons; Bloemenboetiek Arjan.




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