During four weeks, Stephanie Kiwitt resided in 019 in Ghent, visited the surrounding parking lots on a regular basis, stayed to observe the dynamics within a very defined and universal space. Starting, halting, moving – presence, leftovers, absence.
‘Close in open’ is the fifth instalment of P, a series of exhibitions and events on the idea, the functioning and the aesthetics of the parking lot, curated by De Cleene De Cleene. As an area where cars or other vehicles can be left temporarily, the parking lot is a site that stockpiles potential. It is an aside to the road and to the romantic idea of travel, and a necessary counterpart to the modern preoccupation with speed. It is a secondary place that often goes unnoticed, a landscape at the service of a department store, an amusement park, a factory, a journey. Once an ‘enclosed preserve for beasts of the chase’, it has become an increasingly questioned, regulated yet volatile landscape. It is a patchwork incessantly formed by aesthetic, functional, ecological, political and economic strategies. It is a place of temporary stagnation at the service of movement, a grid that gathers and structures objects, people and stories in a continuously changing puzzle.
The line that connects A to B, pauses at P.
The Aanwervingslokaal (recruitment office) is a building in the old harbour area of Antwerp. It was constructed in 1936 on the initiative of the trade unions by the Central organisation of employers in the port of Antwerp (Cepa) in order to regulate job search and recruitment. To this day, the dock workers are still day laborers.
The Aanwervingslokaal was the meeting place between dock workers, casual employees, employers and the trade unions. Workers registered there when seeking work, presented themselves in person to companies, and where selected. This recruitment took less than ten minutes. Just before, dockworkers and employers met at the hall or in nearby cafes, standing around and talking.
On the first of June 2018, the building’s function has been discontinued. In order to save costs and to be able to control job search and recruitment even better, workers have received iPads from Cepa. From now on they get hired and have to register daily via an app.
The work was photographed in the last weeks before the closure of the building. Is shows the waiting (Wachten) and hiring (Aanwerven) of the dockworkers, the party in the bar (Afscheidsparty) on the last day, the empty building (Gebouw), and the workers’s introduction to digital hiring (Digitale aanwerving).
Máj/My, Spector Books, 2018
Co-published by Akademie der Künste, Berlin, and Camera Austria, Graz
128 pages, 87 black-and-white photographs, softcover with flaps, 18,5 x 26 cm,
Czech/English, typography: Markus Dreßen, Spector Bureau
On the Národní Třída (Avenue of the Nation) in Prague stands a department store that opened in 1975. Until the fall of the socialist regime it was called “Máj”: the month of May. Nowadays the fifth month of the year is referred to in Czech as “květen”. “Máj” is an older word that has a romantic quality and is closely associated with a famous poem of the same name by Karel Hynek Mácha written in 1836.
In 1996 the British supermarket chain Tesco purchased the store, renaming it “My” in 2009. If this name is interpreted as an English word, then it refers to an individual. It is surely no coincidence that this English name sounds much the same as the old Czech one. If pronounced, however, according to Czech phonetics, which no one ever does, it sounds quite different. Then it means “we” and refers to a collective.
Since 2017 Tesco has been selling off some of its stores in the Czech Republic because of financial losses. In spring of 2018 the department store “My” was also sold.
Photographed in Prague from November 2015 to June 2018
The title ‘Máj/My’ is inspired by the name of a department store in Prague, which was called ‘Máj’ –
Czech for ‘May’ – from the 1970s until the collapse of the communist regime, and which is run under
the name ‘My’ since 2009. Both words are pronounced identically. The phonetic consonance becomes
a marketing strategy: the old name resonates inaudibly in the new one. The spring month as well as
the socialistic May both mutate into the neo-liberal use of ‘My’, the English possessive pronoun of
the first person singular.