a river
plus a river
are not
two rivers

Available and the Rat
Rotterdam 2021

I lived with my family for a short period of time in the Gouwstraat number 21, while we were moving between places. Lily then invited us to do a show at the space, may reflecting on this experience of living in the house-artist run space.

My response, to open up a “A temporary support office for those who fear closed envelopes” had to do with the bureaucracy of the everyday in Dutch government: informing that you are moving, applying for that, etc. In that time communication never stopped, and envelopes started to pile. Then they even started to accelerate in rhythm and grow in size. When I finally brought myself to open them, I had acquired a debt with the King, I was notified that my state and salary could be confiscated until I pay the debt off.

At some point in this process I started noticing the inside of the envelopes. Their design had many parallel blue waves, it was like a river in an envelope.

That design served many purposes, noticeably it was a security pattern intended to block the content of the envelopes being read by backlighting. But its symbolic purpose was aligned with the brand of the Gemeente Rotterdam, whose logo symbol is water running through a capital R. In that sense, and after contacting the image team of Gemeente, the envelopes in fact did represent the waters of the Rotter river.

The association between the power of the state and the image of the river worked in perfect harmony in this case. Like rivers, the communication of Gemeente flows only in one direction, and it is unstoppable, a force of nature.

I had a pile of envelopes that kept stalling, and the toeslagenaffaire hit the fan.

Talking to others about all of this, I realized many people were doing different things with the envelopes: collage, wall paper, origami, cassette covers. I started understanding these gestures as personal ways of coping with Fakelophobia (online neologism): the phobia of closed envelopes.

Then the image of bringing all these individual rivers together made sense, to weave a river together. To open up a space to talk about these feelings. And finally, to propose to others a collective gesture of poetic justice, to make something impossible, to reverse the flow of the river, to send it back where it came from. A reversal of the logic of that power dynamic.