Since yesterday Kanaleneiland is covered with pure white snow - which gives the neighborhood a wholy new appearance. More quiet and cheerful. Yesterday we spent the day with bringing the IKEA uniforms to two different apartment blocks in Kanaleneiland South. Ringing the bell in front of the outside door is the most difficult part. As soon as we stand in front of the apartment door, people are often willing to make an effort in helping us out. But when we are still on the sidewalk, outside of the semi private stairways, they don't really feel the obligation to deal with us.
Our experience with the residents in these apartment blocks are quite different from what we have experienced the first day. It seems that people are more careful and maybe even more afraid of things they don't know. Even though we still found many people who where willing to hang the uniform. An other thing that attracted our attention is that the residents where more curious of our project and our intentions and it was a lot easier to communicate with them. Partly because there where more Dutch people living here.
One man didn't want to hang the IKEA suit, because he was part of the football club next to the store. Due to the upcoming enlargement of the IKEA, its playing fields will be put on the roof of the new building. An other women was very much interested in our project and she agreed with our proposal that if IKEA is growing so much bigger they should also employ more people out of the neighborhood. She stated that it is quite difficult for Maroccan boys to get jobs as soon as they tell they live in Kanaleneiland. She likes the IKEA because it is a nice place to go with the kids - it is a real outing. And moreover she often goes for the €1 breakfast in the IKEA restaurant with a group of women after they dropped their children off at school. We gave her, and a few other interested people the address of this blog, and maybe we can contact her in a later stadium to talk more about the IKEA and the neighborhood.
At the moment we are packing our stuff - after one week of walking up and down Kanaleneiland we will go home again. We collected most of the uniforms from the neighbors. While folding them we realise these trousers and shirts have been handled by very different people in the last days. Somehow the impersonal uniforms had a very private treatment - when we handed them over at the front door, they travelled deep into the apartments and where hung intimately next to the other laundry on the balcony. Although most of the residents of Kanaleneiland have their curtains shut day and night, these back site balconies offer an informal insight into their lives.
Today we started with the second intervention - we picked an apartment block in Kanaleneiland Noord and asked the residents to hang out our IKEA uniforms. This is our first selection of the pictures we made. We are very happy the people are willing to help us out and hang the clothes - even if it is hard for us to explain what we want to achieve. Most of the people probably think we are some kind of advertisement campain of IKEA - and it proves to be difficult to explain them our intentions, both because a part of the neighbors don't speak sufficient Dutch and next to that our artists practice doesn't seem to fit into their reality.
With this intervention we recreate the image of a community in the beginning of the industrial revolution - a time when big factories didn't only take care of the jobs, but also of the social reproduction of the community. For example Philips in the early 20th century built a neighborhood around their factury in Eindhoven, where they did not only create social housing for the employees, but also education and health care.
In Sweden, home of IKEA, industrialisation was different from the rest of Europe. Here the factories where built in the countryside and around them communities of workers formed, called bruks. The spirit of these communities stood at the basis of the Swedish socialist politics in the '50 - the starting years of IKEA.
With these series of pictures we question the role of IKEA as a growing power player in Kanaleneiland, planning to double in size. Is IKEA's direct environment prospering of it's wealth? Will there be more jobs?
The uniform is a symbol of equal rights, income and working hours, while also leveling out the individual. This makes the pictures we took utopian and distopian at the same time.