Cracking Concrete


Letter to gallerist Fabia Calvasina, distributed to the audience

Oslo, 3/7 – 99

Dear Fabia!

As you know, I’ve moved back to Norway to sort my life out. Returning back home went well, but after more than 10 years abroad, the country was almost foreign to me. I think Norway must be one of the safest countries in the world, it’s almost unbelievably rich and economically stable. This of course influences all aspects of everyday life. People here do not talk about economic problems; they seem not to have them.

Since I had lost almost every useful contact, I was worried about my chances to find work. I feared having to do a lot of research, sending applications and CVs everywhere, only for them to remain unread under piles of paper on someone’s desk. Going through endless interviews ending up, as I so often had done in the past, doing long periods of unpaid work ‘just to see how it works out’. In the past I nearly always ended up working illegally with no holidays, health insurance or other social benefits. But Oslo turned out to be a city apparently unaffected by the unemployment problem. I arrived on Monday, and by Tuesday I had already signed a contract for a job doing secretarial work at a hospital. To me, this seemed like an incredible strike of luck! Of course, it wasn’t the job of my dreams, but it was fine to start with, and at the end of the month the paycheck was the biggest one I had ever received, even though no experience or particular qualifications were required.

This kind of work is considered badly paid by Norwegian standards and has low social status. Many of my colleagues (nearly all women) have to be very careful about how they spend their money to make ends meet. Many of them are single moms or foreigners who send part of their wages back home. They often have another couple of jobs on the side. Based on this experience I got the idea for a project, and I would like to know what you think about it and eventually if you would consider presenting it in your gallery. I started to apply for all kinds of work: Waitress, receptionist, cleaning, making photocopies and school assistant jobs. I accepted all the work that was given to me. After all taxes were paid, I put the money in the bank account with the highest possible interest. I work double shifts up to three times a week and every Saturday and Sunday. The final amount will be the result of months of heavy work.

I want to create a small room inside the gallery, surrounded by heavy curtains. The audience will be invited to enter it one at a time and stay there in complete privacy. In the room they will find all my money, cash, in bank notes of 1000 lire placed on the floor. I don’t want to find out where the money goes if it disappears, or who takes it, I don’t want anybody to pay me back or explain what he or she did inside the room, and there will be no selection of who is admitted. I think the most interesting aspect of the project is the confrontation between people and their reaction to the pile of money available without any effort, a bit like winning the lottery. At the same time I want to be very clear about where and how I got the money. Knowing the work behind earning it will force the viewer into taking a stand. It will seem tempting and unavailable at the same time.

Please let me know!

All the best