The project Zitten is een werkwoord / Sitting is a verb, takes the famous Crate chair, designed by Dutch architect and designer Gerrit Rietveld, as a starting point. The crate chair was one of Rietveld’s many explicitly copy free designs. Taking Rietveld’s drawings as an invitation, I initiated Sitting is a Verb – Rietveld for IMPA in 2010.
IMPA is a metallurgic factory in Buenos Aires. After closing down in the Argentine economic crisis in the late 1990s, it was the first factory to be reclaimed by a cooperative of former employees and re-opened as a functional factory, run by the workers. This became a social phenomenon in the years to come known as the ‘movement of recovered factories’.
Alongside the production the workers at IMPA initiated an educational project. In June of 2010, with the help of teachers, local residents, and artists, a university known as the University of the Workers was founded within the factory walls; intended for those who do not enjoy the benefit of secondary education in the conventional school system. The University of the Workers already had the space as well as the skills to form the basis of the university. What it lacked, however, were practical elements, such as chairs for the future students to be able to sit in as they begin their studies. As a reaction on this I initiated Zitten is een werkwoord / Sitting is a Verb.
During a 4-day workshop, utilizing donated labour and materials, the workers of the factory and more than 80 volunteers from different backgrounds built a 100 Rietveld Crate chairs for the University of the Workers.
Zitten is een werkwoord / Sitting is a verb became an ongoing project and took place several times in different contexts and locations since it first started. Alternative spaces, as well as art institutions and schools in The Netherlands and abroad have became part of this ongoing ‘social sculpture’ using Rietveld’s chair as a tool to create communities and dialogue.
The second edition, Sitting is a Verb took place at a children’s building playground in Utrecht. In the context of Trade Show at East Side Projects, Sitting is a Verb took place as a weekly workshop. While a projection of images of previous workshops mirrors the “body at work” of the builders in Birmingham. By connecting the different contexts and people’s backgrounds the project proposes an extended notion of cooperation.
As part of the outcome I developed a publication that documents the project and reflects on the relation between labour, education and art. With contributions by: artist Wendelien van Oldenborgh, curator Ida van Zijl, artists Frank Mandersloot, workers of the IMPA factory Vasco Murua and Marcelo Castillo, argentine sociologist Horacio Gonzalez, and artist Luis Felipe Noé. It is a Dutch/English/Spanish publication and was designed by Lesley Moore.