In August 2008, Ronen Eidelman, known as The Artist, was invited by the Van Abbemuseum to conceive an art project for the Be(com)ing Dutch exhibition. Through bronze plaques, which he has created and installed throughout the city, he highlights the means of survival of people who are excluded from Dutch society. He aspires to portray them as heroes, resisters to an unjust system, political subjects who fight for their dignity, rights and freedom. The Artist received an honorarium from the museum. By working on these bizarre projects, and through journalistic work he does part time, he manages to live a happy and modest lifestyle in his base in Tel Aviv.
The project can be seen by those willing to explore city of Eindhoven and locate the series of plaques in the sites where these stories were told by their heroes. Hints on the locations can be found in the pictures.
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The stories on the Plaques:
Near here, a great man of Liberian origin known as Joseph, after escaping death and massacres, risking his life crossing oceans and crossing borders, obtains electric appliances such as washing machines, refrigerators and ovens. These appliances are usually found in big trucks and poorly guarded warehouses. By sending containers full of these goods to his country of birth he clears the Netherlands of superfluous appliances and forces the purchase of new ones, thereby assisting the local economy. Simultaneously he supplies much needed equipment to a war stricken country, as well as providing a means of survival for himself and his family.
CÃ©cile Fan TourÃ©
In this square works a miraculous woman, CÃ©cile Fan TourÃ©, whose commodity is sex, which she sells to the men of this city and despite the terrible toll on her body and soul, she manages to save money for her future. She knows that she cannot work like this for many more years, so she is very concerned as it is with her earnings that she provides food, health care, clothes and education for over twenty-three of her family members living in poverty in her place of birth, Guinea. This reality forces CÃ©cile to work even longer hours. When needed, she also works for her cousin who requires a female voice when he performs cell phone and email scams.
On this site Julio, a remarkable native of the Dutch Antilles, collects and recycles garbage. His expertise is bicycles. He fixes neglected bicycles he finds on the streets as well as building new ones from found parts. Julio, who is also a great rapper and in the past released a hip hop album, suffers from mental illness and cannot hold a steady job, resulting in the loss of his home. He now lives on the street. Neither can Julio afford medication for his illnesses, driving him to self-medication with alcohol and various drugs.
On these streets, Leonid Karetnik, who deserted the Red Army more than thirty years ago but still fears return to his home in Ukraine, survives by begging and selling smuggled cigarettes when they are available. In the past he traveled all over Europe collecting and selling scrap metals such as copper, aluminum, brass and bronze. The prices of these metals have risen dramatically, and brought in more aggressive competition and means less scrap metal to be found. This has forced him to retire from this occupation. In addition, stricter border controls make black market cigarettes harder to obtain, leaving him to get by on peopleâ€™s good will.
In this neighborhood lives Umar, who immigrated to the Netherlands over twenty years ago form Morocco. Despite working all day at a factory, he still finds it hard to provide for his five children in addition to sending money to his parents and brothers in his home country. Therefore, at night with the help of his eldest son, he makes copies of movies, music and video games â€“ the titles most desired by the people of Eindhoven. His son distributes the discs to different shops around the city who sell them under the counter or he himself sells them at weekend open-air markets.
photosÂ by Gemma Medina EstupiÃ±Ã¡n and Pery van Duijnhoven