Video work of alumna Verena Blok is acquired by the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

28 February 2019

KABK alumna Verena Blok (BA Photography 2013) is among the 20 selected artists who were invited to participate in the exhibition 'Freedom of Movement' at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (25 Nov 2018 until 17 Mar 2019). Her video work is as of today also acquired in the museum's collection.

Verena Blok, Robota (2018)

Verena Blok, Robota
© Verena Blok, Robota, videostill, 2018

Though trained as a photographer, artist Verena Blok uses video to capture the lives of a pair of young migrant workers from a small Polish village where her family spent their summers. The two brothers featured in Robota have known the artist since childhood, and while she films them painting houses, mixing concrete, going swimming, and preparing for a cousin’s bachelor party, the three discuss immigration, belonging, and national identity. Their proud displays of physical strength contrast with their vulnerable economic position; working freelance, they are constantly on the move and live in a permanent state of precarity. Their political beliefs destabilize the cliché of the migrant laborer as a victim of nativist governments, as they actively and eagerly support the same xenophobic policies that limit their freedoms. For Blok, they illustrate the paradoxical nature of Poland’s right-wing government, which antagonizes the European Union while benefiting from its investment, and vilifies immigrants even though its own citizens take advantage of Europe’s open borders.

Freedom of Movement is the latest edition of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam’s Municipal Art Acquisitions, a biannual exhibition that features recent work from artists living in the Netherlands. The Municipal Art Acquisitions always focuses on a different discipline, and this year’s version brings together artists who work within the field of time-based media, which includes film and video work, internet art, performance, choreography, sound art, and workshops.

Artists in the Netherlands were invited to submit work to Freedom of Movement via an open call. Out of 399 submissions, the jury—which consisted of choreographer Ligia Lewis, curator and Shadow Channel director Juha van ’t Zelfde, artist Harm van den Dorpel and curator Susan Gibb, led by Karen Archey, curator of this show and of time-based media at the Stedelijk—selected twenty artists to be featured.

'Freedom of movement' is a phrase that describes the right of a person to travel within a country, or to go abroad, whether as a refugee, immigrant, or vacationer. The twenty artists participating in the exhibition Freedom of Movement: Municipal Art Acquisitions 2018 take varying approaches to this theme. While several focus on how the act of crossing a border has changed due to advancements in technology, others look at the daily lives of immigrants and how the body itself can limit mobility. Other works consider the legacies of migration, genocide, and statelessness, and the cultural biases embedded in disciplines such as mathematics. Artists also examine the creation and expression of cultural identity through objects, folk songs, and language. All of the participants in this exhibition ask viewers to reconsider their assumptions about civic engagement and responsibility, and to think about how we understand our neighbors, our environment, our world, and ourselves.

The exhibition is on view until 17 March 2019.