10 February–15 April 2018


Matthijs de Bruijne: Compromiso Político

Also featuring works by Jeremy Deller, Piero Gilardi, and Mierle Laderman Ukeles

Opening: 10 February 2018, 17.00

  • Matthijs de Bruijne, Migrant Domestic Workers FNV demonstration: 100.000 families trust us, Amsterdam, 2013, photograph. Photo: Matthijs de Bruijne

  • Matthijs de Bruijne, 1000 Dreams, 2010, video still, courtesy the artist

  • Matthijs de Bruijne with Migrant Domestic Workers FNV, You are so nice! Could you work two more hours today?, 2011, notes handwritten by migrant domestic workers, detail, courtesy the artist

  • Piero Gilardi, Masso della crisi, 2012–2017, inflatable object, courtesy Fondazione Centro Studi Piero Gilardi

  • Mierle Laderman Ukules, Touch Sanitation Performance, 1979–1980, 21 archival pigment photographs. Photo: Robin Holland, courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts

At BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht we are proud to announce Matthijs de Bruijne: Compromiso Político, the first exhibition in our new venue. The exhibition features works by De Bruijne as well as Jeremy Deller, Piero Gilardi, and Mierle Laderman Ukeles. It takes place in a makeshift environment amid the renovation of our building, so that we share the experience of transformation with the public.

De Bruijne persistently challenges the borders of the art field with process-based, multi-authored, politico-artistic experiments. For more than fifteen years, he has negotiated his artistic practice in a variety of social contexts, and engaged in long-term collaborations with social movements, groups, and organizations outside of the traditional art institutions. Following his work in Argentina (early 2000s) and China (2007–2008), De Bruijne began a major long-term collaboration with the Union of Cleaners of the Netherlands Trade Union Confederation (FNV). A large part of Matthijs de Bruijne: Compromiso Político is dedicated to this cooperation (2011–ongoing), analyzing ways of bringing together art and social struggles, and searching for connections between artistic practice and grassroots political organizing in the underlying commonalities of precarity; forms of representation and protest; and desire for new images and imaginaries that work toward social justice.

The title of the exhibition—Compromiso Político—proposes to circumvent the English-language idiom “socially engaged art” and the compromises that it often ends up with when such art circulates languages and forms of social struggle almost exclusively in the realm of the artistic canon. Compromiso, in Spanish, means a commitment and obligation; a commitment to both politics and art. De Bruijne explains, “a compromiso político is a way of acting toward the same political goal and working together as part of both the movement and the institution of art.” It is quite opposed to the vrijblijvendheid of socially engaged art, as De Bruijne continues, in which “vrij means free and blijvend means to stay: to stay free, to stay loose; without obligation.”

The works by Deller, Gilardi, and Laderman Ukeles expand the exhibition in various directions. Gilardi’s works examine the notion of protest and how artists can shape its potentiality. Deller delves into the present-day phenomenon of the zero-hour contract, positioning it as a new barbarization of labor. Laderman Ukeles’s Touch Sanitation (1979–1980) reflects on the years she spent as an artist-in-residence at the New York Department of Sanitation. This work in particular is critical in De Bruijne’s genealogy, as it addresses the common space of cleaners, domestic workers, and artists as one of care, where the power relations that dominate life can be imagined and embodied differently.

A screening program of artists’ films complements Matthijs de Bruijne: Compromiso Político every Saturday and Sunday during the exhibition (except for 17 March and 1 April), from 14.–17.00 hrs in BAK’s auditorium. The program features De Bruijne’s film Het Museum van De Straat (The Museum of The Street, 2013); historical documentation of Laderman Ukeles’s performances Touch Sanitation (1979–1980), New York, and Vuilniswagendans (Garbage Truck Dance, 1985), Rotterdam; and Deller’s musical documentary Promotional Film for All that is Solid Melts into Air (2014). Entrance for any screening is free to those who have paid entrance to the exhibition.

Texts by artist Graciela Carnevale, researcher and NGO worker Lin Zhibin, and a conversation between the president and vice president of the Union of Cleaners of the Netherlands Trade Union Confederation (FNV) Khadija Hyati and Tim Edwards —De Bruijne’s collaborators on various projects—are available in the exhibition.

In addition, our Utrecht-based media partner Stranded FM—Unconventional Online Radio is dedicating on-air time to the exhibition. On 16 February from 18.–20.00 hrs, De Bruijne’s audio piece Radio Den Dolder (2004) will broadcast with an introduction and curated music selection, 10 Porciones (10 Servings), by the artist. On 24 January from 15.–16.00 hrs, the artist and BAK’s curator Matteo Lucchetti discuss the exhibition live. To follow these events or listen to the recordings, please visit www.stranded.fm or Stranded FM’s Facebook page.

Throughout the duration of the exhibition, the Union of Cleaners of the Netherlands Trade Union Confederation (FNV) uses the site for gatherings.

This exhibition is curated by BAK’s curator Matteo Lucchetti.

We are grateful to Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, Inc., New York and Museum Catharijneconvent, Utrecht for their help with this exhibition. Thanks also to The Modern Institute, Glasgow, and Fondazione Centro Studi Piero Gilardi, Turin.

Matthijs de Bruijne: Compromiso Político is part of the long-term research trajectory Propositions for Non-Fascist Living (2017–2020).

The realization of this project has been made possible through financial contributions by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the City Council, Utrecht.

Download the press release

Made possible by

Suggestions from the archive

public editorial meeting

16-17 May 2014

Other Survivalisms

Under the title Other Survivalisms, on 16 and 17 May 2014 BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht hosts the second installment of its public editorial meetings geared towards the realization of the forthcoming FORMER WEST publication

BAK Summer School 2018

16-20 July 2018

BAK Summer School: Art and Practice in the Otherwise

The BAK Summer School: Art and Practice in the Otherwise is an advanced, interdisciplinary course that brings together those involved in arts, academia, and activisms to collectively think through, learn about, and imagine critical, politically-informed artistic practices that grasp and influence our dramatically changing times.

BAK Summer School 2017

17-21 July 2017

BAK Summer School: Art in a Time of Interregnum

The BAK Summer School: Art in a Time of Interregnum brings together artists, curators, art theorists, and academics to collectively think through, learn about, and imagine critical, politically-informed artistic practices that work to grasp and influence our dramatically changing times.

Performative conference

17 March 2018

Unpacking Aesthetics and the Far Right

Propositions #4

This is the fourth performative conference within the series Propositions for Non-Fascist Living (2017–2020). With contributions by Larne Abse Gogarty, Kader Attia, Angela Dimitrakaki and iLiana Fokianaki, Morgan Quaintance, Ana Teixeira Pinto, Harry Weeks, and Giovanna Zapperi.

Educational platform

Educational platform

Educational platform

Educational platform

Educational platform

Talks and conversations

10 February 2018

Art as Commitment

Propositions #3

Propositions #3: Art as Commitment is the third convening platform in BAK’s long-term research series Propositions for Non-Fascist Living (2017–2020), prompted by the dramatic resurfacing and normalization of historical and contemporary fascisms in our present.

13 February–28 December 2014


The project Future Vocabularies is initiated in 2014 with an opening vocabulary entry on survival. It is envisioned as a foundational sequence, evolving over the course of the full year and made up of multiple conceptual narratives from which to draw the subsequent themes and methods for both thinking and acting.

05 February–29 November 2015


Realized in collaboration with BAK Research Fellow Rosi Braidotti and the BAK team, this semestral program outlines potential artistic, intellectual, and activist itineraries of working through the contemporary realities, and attempts to create an understanding of the altered meanings of art vis-à-vis such critical present-day developments.

23 September 2014–01 May 2016

Future Collections

A long-term collaboration between BAK and Centraal Museum exploring various collaborative possibilities to rethink the mission of the art institution in today’s rapidly changing global condition.

08 September 2015–24 June 2017

Instituting Otherwise

In 2016–2017, BAK dedicates a series of discursive, educational, and exhibitionary projects to the notion of the institution and how to, amidst contemporary challenges, “institute otherwise.”

Performative conference

25 November 2017


Propositions #2

Propositions #2: Assemblism is a day-long gathering that addresses the current rise of the new authoritarian world order, and the millions of bodies that have gathered in resistance in liberated autonomous zones, occupied buildings, city squares, prisons, and cultural spaces to collectively enact a different demand for egalitarian society.

Performative conference





4-5 November 2017

Faust 3

Have we entered into a pact with the devil?

On Saturday 4 November and Sunday 5 November, Frascati hosts performances of the play Faust 3, written by Bread and Puppet Theater founder Peter Schumann, and produced and performed by Bread and Puppet Theater and local artists with migrant backgrounds. The event is a Frascati Session at Frascati and part of BAK’s long-term research project Propositions for Non-Fascist Living.


Education Program, Exhibition


Education Program

17-24 February 2017

The Southern Summer School

The Southern Summer School is a collective project that brings together art practitioners and cultural workers based in South Africa, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. It begins from the acknowledgment that the colonial involvement of the Dutch and the British empire in South Africa is not only a historical fact that may be consigned to the past, but that coloniality continues to operate in the present.

Education Program

Discursive, Conversation

Lecture-Performance, Performative

7 October 2017, 20.00-20.30

Whatever Floats Our Boats, 2017

Whatever Floats Our Boats sketches a decolonial positioning of Curaçao on the world stage in the twentieth century. Artist and BAK 2017–2018 Fellow Quinsy Gario presents three instances of resistance to colonial and dictatorial practices on and via the Dutch Caribbean island that had international consequences.

Discursive, Performative

7 October 2017, 21.45-22.15

Conversational Tones, 2017

Without any wish to undo difference, contradiction, or distance, artist Charl Landvreugd and artist and BAK 2017–2018 Fellow Wendelien van Oldenborgh generate a discourse through a playful “battle” made of musical and visual interactions, with a wide variety of questions, fragments, and choices from their respective and specific idioms: filmmaking, visual arts, theory.

Discursive, Performative

7 October 2017, 22.15-22.45

Germination, 2017

In the performance Germination, Otobong Nkanga evokes the previous phases of Carved to Flow and meditates on the networked geographies, traditions, histories, and people engaged in the production of soap, proposing it as a model of social, economic, and conceptual circulation.


7 October 2017, 22.45-23.30

Protest Forms: Memory and Celebration (Sonic Version), 2016–ongoing

Marinella Senatore brings together an impromptu assembly of Utrecht-based musicians to test questions concerning protest as part of her project Protest Forms (2016–ongoing). It is a modest way of continuing the legacy of the center of world cultures RASA, which formerly inhabited the venue at Pauwstraat 13a in Utrecht, and of connecting it to the site’s current endeavor as a platform for the contemporary.



Panel Discussion




7 October 2017

What If Women Ruled The World, 2016

In the film Dr. Strangelove (1964), Stanley Kubrick foresaw a post-apocalyptic future in which dominant male leaders would repopulate the Earth, with ten women allocated to every man. The neon sign by artist Yael Bartana presents the opposite scenario; imagining a condition in which women are in charge of a world in desperate need of a new vision.