The power of culture
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 january2005
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2003
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----Migrantsoul

Oldham in the UK has been the site of race riots in the past and has a large migrant community. Brought over during the early 1950s to provide cheap labour for the Lancashire cotton mills, the early migrants barely spoke English, and worked very long hours for little pay and were ghettoised. The younger generations, however, play a more
active role in Oldham. These children in Belmont Street are British, and seem comfortable with their dual identities.

Photo from Migrantsoul, Shahidul Alam / Drik

Freedom Means Having to Compromise

Visual artist Inti Hernandez (Cuba) came to the Netherlands one year ago. Meanwhile he has been selected for a residency at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten, starting in January 2005. What is his perspective on the Netherlands and how does his situation, in between different cultures, influence his works of art?

‘My work is not separated from my life’, says visual artist Inti Hernandez. ‘In my art I try to find answers to issues that I want to solve in life. When I first came to the Netherlands, I was overwhelmed by the possibilities here. What struck me was the fact that given all these opportunities, people did not appear to be particularly happy. Whenever I speak to Dutch people about this, they often say they realise that they are spoiled. Having lived here a bit longer, it strikes me that this idea of living in spoiled circumstances is a normal idea that many Dutch people have. I think that they are blinded by this idea. The situation here is not easy but actually very challenging, particularly because people are spoilt for choice.’

‘In Cuba the problems are right in front of you. It immediately becomes clear that life is a challenge. What I learnt from that is that whatever I choose to do is fine as long as I believe in it. To become happy and to be alive is to keep yourself going. In the Netherlands, people are much more focused on results, on goals they want to reach.’

‘These days, many people complain about their lives or about the Dutch situation. Perhaps they do not realise what real freedom is. Where freedom begins, compromise starts. If you are completely free there is nobody else you can blame for your own failures and incapacity to lead your life. ’

‘These issues I encounter here play a major role in the works of art that I make. My work is often about the miracles of life and about the fact that life is directly in front of you. One idea I had was to draw a sun in the dirt on the glass roof of Amsterdam Central Station. Thousands of people are waiting for the train every day, looking at the dark, dirty glass ceiling. I wanted to use this dirt as material for the sun, which would then shine through an image of itself. The roof has recently been cleaned so the concept cannot become reality. However, I see this as a gift from reality: it made my work unnecessary.’

‘As a resident artist at the Rijksakademie I hope to be able to explore these issues further with people from other backgrounds: scientists, philosophers, technicians, and others. I believe that the Rijksakademie will provide the necessary institutional framework which justifies my work, making me a trustworthy partner. It is not enough here to believe in yourself’.

Gertrude Flentge

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Project Inti Hernandez, spring 2004, Gasworks London

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Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten

 

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