Residents of New York could receive an hour of free help as an attempt to save the Dutch social reputation. During the public art and performance festival ‘Art In odd Places’ 2014, in collaboration with performance artist Marieke Warmelink, I offered free help on and from Union Square. On the spot we gave help and took bookings for help for the week after the festival. As ‘fighters for the national reputation’ we tried to use populist rhetoric in a fruitful and playful way.
For ten days we helped a wide variety of people in different parts of New York. Rather than adding a work of art to an environment that is unfamiliar to us, we elevated our service to a form of performance art in order to gain deeper contact with the new environment.
By offering genuine help, doors open that normally remain closed to temporary visitors and newcomers. Offering help is a signal to the people that social artists want to get their hands dirty, rather than remaining a spectator of the world’s misery. For us, engagement is about translating “major societal” issues into actions that can be realized at a personal and local level.
In 2015, “One Day of Free Help” was selected among the best performances of the past ten years by New York based Art In Odd Places, by curators Kendal Henry and Sara Reisman. Once again we have been invited to come to New York.
This project has been supported by The Netherland America Foundation and the Dutch consulate in New York.