Lisa Sudhibhasilp, 'YOU HAVE OUR FULL ATTENTION' at The Balcony

Micro Art Initiatives #36 – The Balcony & Susan Bites in The Hague – window-shopping redefined

Issue no5
okt-nov 2020
Wat is Nederland

Two years ago four KABK students transformed the window-shop of a violin maker in The Hague into art-space The Balcony. From then on, artists reflected on the vitrine-as-exhibition space, questioning the city as a commercially oriented environment. How do Valentino Russo and Arthur Cordier, two of the initiators of the space, want to address the passer-by’s in the street?

—Lotte van Geijn Let’s start with the beginning, how did you came up with the idea of exhibiting works in a window-shop?

—Valentino Russo Arthur, Ioana Ciora, Matthew James Lanning and me knew each other form the KABK where we studied in different departments. After a long day at the academy we often ended up in the Irish pub just around the corner of the window-shop. Back in December 2017 we therefore decided to organise a small art event in the pub, and this collaboration tasted like more.

—Arthur Cordier Walking around, we noticed that the same painting was hanging in this window-shop for ages. We decided to ask the violin shop and –atelier owner Willem Bouman if we could use this space. He was immediately very enthusiastic and since that moment we have organised many presentations in the vitrine.

One of the things we like best about the vitrine is its permanent visibility and accessibility. It addresses not only people already interested in art, but anyone who passes by

Lisa Sudhibhasilp, 'YOU HAVE OUR FULL ATTENTION' at The Balcony

Niels Post, 'On Spam Comment Spam' at The Balcony

—Lotte van Geijn On the website of The Balcony you describe the vitrine as a self-reflective object. Could you elaborate on that?

—Valentino Russo One of the things we like best about the vitrine is its permanent visibility and accessibility. It addresses not only people already interested in art, but anyone who passes by.

—Arthur Cordier We invite artists to response to the space of a window-shop itself and doing so, to also reflect the use of public space and broader economical issues. The vitrine lends itself for reflecting on our urban and commercially oriented environments and the new form of labour under late-capitalism. For the first presentation back in 2018 we invited artist Michael Mönnich, whose exhibition fits well in this approach. His video On-demand Workforce shows a man jumping up and down. Using Amazon's ‘Mechanical Turk’, a web-based platform which offers ‘access to a global, 24/7, scalable workforce’, Mönnich offered one dollar to a worker to jumpfor ten minutes. Mönnich wrote: ‘Even though I hired the worker from a country that has a legally binding minimum wage, this doesn't apply for crowdsourcing workers. They are considered individual contractors by Amazon. In this digital labor market I gave a task and it was executed. No negotiations about the price. No questions about the sense or purpose of the job. And once this work was done, all the worldwide ownership rights of it were given to me.’ With this artwork Mönnich questioned if there is any free choice in neoliberal capitalism.

—Lotte van Geijn What about the current financial situation of The Balcony itself?

—Valentino Russo We have been supported by Stroom last year for six months, and currently we are funding The Balcony ourselves, with our savings. Ideally we would like to be able to always pay the artists we invite, but in any case we are always open about the current possibilities upfront. We try to treat the artists the way we would like to be treated ourselves, facilitating as much as possible. We make the posters and flyers. Graphic designer Eva Rank has also collaborated with us in designing the visuals for the exhibitions.

The vitrine lends itself for reflecting on our urban and commercially oriented environments and the new form of labour under late-capitalism

—Lotte van Geijn You do put a lot of effort in the initiative yourself, time and even money-wise. Why?

—Valentino Russo For use it’s a way to start a valuable interaction with artists who are outside of our usual circle of friends and colleagues. Extending our network we get the chance to meet people whose work we’ve seen around for a while already. As most artists invited to exhibited are from abroad, The Balcony is often their first opportunity to exhibit in The Hague or even the Netherlands.

—Arthur Cordier Next to The Balcony we also run Susan Bites. With Susan Bites we organise group shows and screenings in our own studio, which is just like the vitrine-space not a typical white cube. The program of Susan Bites takes more time to organise, but is also more flexible. During the screenings, often on Sunday afternoons, we show videoworks, preferably works that are not finished yet. Afterwards we discuss the work together. There is a lot of enthusiasm for this and we hope to get this started again soon after the break we've had due to the lockdown.

Giacomo Layet, 'Captivity' in 'The Town Mouse and the Country House'

Katerina Konarovsk in 'The Town Mouse and the Country House'

—Lotte van Geijn Did the lockdown affect you and the initiative in other ways as well?

—Arthur Cordier In April and May we happened to be in the countryside of Belgiumwith The Balcony collective to organise a group exhibition The Town Mouse and the Country House. Because it was of course not possible for artists to come over we decided to ask them to send us their artworks instead: actual physical objects, not digital files.

—Valentino Russo And we kept using our website and Instagram account on a daily basis, to keep up the spirit of the fun of getting together with people during the lockdown. We naturally adjusted to the situation of organising a group show in those circumstances. In the end of June we had a spin-off of the exhibition in the vitrine in The Hague with a selection of the artworks from the group show in Belgium.

Gabriele Dini, 'Avenir Avenir' at The Balcony

Gabriele Dini, 'Avenir Avenir' at The Balcony

Gabriele Dini, 'Avenir Avenir' at The Balcony

—Lotte van Geijn What are your current plans?

—Valentino Russo Avenir Avenir by Italian artist Gabriele Dini will be on display at The Balcony until the 15thof October and this presentation will be also part of Hoogtij #62 (The Hague’s art route) on September the 25th. And on the 17thof October we have an opening of a new exhibition by artist Harriet Rose Morley.

—Arthur Cordier And we are participating in the art fair SWAB in Barcelona from 1-15th of October. This art fair is focussing on experimental platforms. Unfortunately this also cannot proceed in a physical way. The organisation has created the entire art fair into a video game-like world. So you will be able to walk digitally through the art fair. Let’s see how that will work out.

The Balcony & Susan Bites facilitated by Arthur Cordier (BE) & Valentino Russo (IT). Current: Gabriele Dini (IT), ‘Avenir Avenir’ until 15th of October 2020, also part of Hoogtij #62 The Hague’s Art route on the 25th of September 2020. More info at: https://thebalconythehague.com

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Metropolis M Tijdschrift over hedendaagse kunst Nr 5 — 2020