Fellows

Matthijs de Bruijne, Cecilia Vallejos

Take a Risk and Explore: The Visualisation of the Dutch Cleaners’ Movement

Excerpt from the article:

On a summer’s day in 2011 a large group of workers gathered at the entrance of the headquarters of the Federation of the Dutch Trade Unions (FNV) in Amsterdam. The workers, all FNV members, were there to show their dissatisfaction with the negotiations for a new general pension agreement. It had to do with the way in which the union officials were handling the future of their pension.

In the same year there was also a severe clash being played out surrounding the workers’ issues between the more radical and moderate union members. More important, however, was the background conflict between the idea of a union as a movement of empowered members or as one that functions as a kind of insurance company.

Around the FNV building there was a group of up to one hundred men and women all of whom carried protest boards with slogans such as, “Listen to us, Agnes”. This demonstration forced the chairman of the federation, Agnes Jongerius, to emerge and face to the protesters.

The FNV headquarters are located on the outskirts of Amsterdam, in an area of employment agencies, accountants’ offices, and insurance companies. Next to the entrance of the building is an abstract sculpture depicting a torso without a head or arms. This large stone figure, with its powerless spirit, reflected the tone of the workers’ message—they were a voiceless and powerless presence in the union. The contrast of the monumental sculpture with the workers’ powerful attitude produced a strange paradox.

As artists we asked ourselves what could have been a more representative work of art for the workers of the FNV and the entrance to their union? How could the role of active union members find a more accurate expression; a voice?

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“Take A Risk and Explore: The Visualisation of the Dutch Cleaners’ Movement” by Cecilia Vallejos & Matthijs de Bruijne first appeared in YES & NO 01:03, published on 31 November 2017.

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