Narges Mohammadi


See you on the other side!, social sculpture made out of metal situated in between an art institution and a playground used by the children around the neighborhood, Helena van Douverenplantsoen 3 (The Hague), 2019.

The building at the Helena van Douverenplantsoen 3, also called The Helena, a former high school now hosts the artist-run-gallery Billytown and the artist initiative Stichting Ruimtevaart. The Helena is located at the borders of the city center and Schilderswijk, one of the known neighbourhoods in the Hague housing many different migrant communities. Wandering around the neighborhood, I sensed a particular ‘fourth wall’, a social and cultural distance that seemed to divide the neighborhood from the established art institution The Helena. The two worlds seemed to move almost independent, separated and unaffected.

Being touched by this so-called invisible fourth wall, I wondered if the kids from the neighborhood had ever been invited to the art institution, if they would have ever felt the freedom to enter the building at all actually. With recreating a functional and recognizable replica of one of the swings from the playground, I hoped to engage with the neighborhood communities in a natural and honest way. My cultural background, skin color and gender enabled me to playfully move around the so-called fourth wall through personal engaged encounters. Making a life size replica of the swing with metal, was an opportunity to ask for help from boys chilling around the playground. With putting myself in a vulnerable position – it was truly impossible to install the swing myself – I hoped to establish a first contact based on care and support.

The resulting encounters were of a kind and engaged nature. We talked, sometimes for hours, about (art) school, their lives and my life as an (female) artist and DJ. Funnily, many really hadn’t expected me, a small woman, to be able to build such a heavy metal construction. Over the course of a few days, we bonded more than I could’ve imagined. And, indeed, most of the children and youngsters hadn’t set a foot in The Helena. They were curious nevertheless, interested to know what the building was and what the people working in it were doing. They accepted my invitation to show them around with great enthusiasm. In turn, it was a true joy to guide them around the exhibition and The Helena. And, at times, they would even enter The Helena on their own, wandering through the exhibition and enjoying the art works.

This social sculpture embodies an act of movement, metaphorically swinging the neighborhood over the imaginative fourth wall inside The Helena and swinging the art audiences out of its safe dwellings into the real world.

In turn, replication, recognizability and representation enabled sincere and engaged encounters. My functionable and site-specific handmade object in-between a sculpture and a playset, placed in-between the art institution and the playground, was built as a means for communication and engagement. More than the object itself, the encounters and the shared stories should be seen as ‘the work’. My swing, a social sculpture, took place in the social realm, and was built around social engagement and the participation of the audience.

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