Narges Mohammadi, Invisible Hands: Photos: Marcia Shwetlica
Schiedam – Artist Narges Mohammadi (1993) created a space-filling installation for the Stedelijk Schiedam Museum entitled Invisible Hands. The museum asked Mohammadi to create a new work related to Scheidam. She chose to show a side of Schiedam that often remains invisible. In the summer she worked as a substitute in home care in Schiedam, following in her mother’s footsteps. She addresses her experience in artwork with invisible hands. Poem for home care help.
summer in home care
During her months as a domestic care worker, Mohammadi visited many Schiedam residents. It tests how heavy and meaningful work is at the same time, but also how home care staff and clients work and sometimes live in inhumane situations. She tracks her experiences – without naming names – in a log book that can also be read in the gallery. In it she describes how she carries out household chores with great dedication and accuracy, based on great responsibility for the task of care that she has done. At the same time, Mohammadi feels helpless, lonely and defeated. She experiences how impersonal work often can be, due in part to a lack of communication with and between the caregivers involved. Sometimes she is shocked by the circumstances in which she finds her clients physically or emotionally. The record provides special insight into a parallel world, which people are often unaware of until they need home care themselves.
While working in home care, Mohammadi thinks a lot about her mother’s life. After Mohammadi fled with her family from Afghanistan and arrived in the Netherlands, her mother decided to work as a domestic worker in care. Through her work in home care, Mohammadi has more respect for her mother and also understands better how her mother suffers from the biases within the home care system and the inconveniences in her work. Mohammadi and her mother are regularly discriminated against at work. Because of their cultural identity, but also in a broad sense in our society, this very important professional group is looked upon.
Hidden Hands Gallery. A poem about home care assistance can be seen in one of the two attic rooms of the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam. Spatial installation shows the features of the interior of a small house. All kinds of things are put into it. The things we touch a lot on a daily basis, but are forgotten when cleaning: the shampoo bottle, door and door handles, sockets and light switches. They knead into an eraser, a substance for the Muhammadi that symbolizes the removal of junk. The eraser not only removes, but also slightly disappears. Just like the cleaner, which remains invisible in society, which is left less and less due to thorough cleaning over and over again. Literally, because the work is so exhausting and exhausting that it takes a toll, but also because the cleaning is so fast. The hours put into it never come back, while the house gets dirty again in no time.
For the exhibition, Mohammadi and city history coordinator Meryl van der Vaart also covered the history of Schiedam and the many women who preceded her in the cleanup business. Several portraits from the 19th century from the city’s archives show domestic servants, or “girls of the day and night”. It was a poor profession, because it was done behind the front door and often without colleagues. Where there has been better protection for workers through legislation, this does not apply to this profession. The government did not want to interfere with what was happening within the family structure. Little information can be found in the archives about the Maids of Schiedam. As if their lives and stories had been erased from history.
On February 7, 2023, Entre Deux Mondes (2021) will be shown at Wenneker Cinema, especially on the occasion of the exhibition. French director Emmanuel Carrier painted a loving portrait of the invisible workers of society. The story is told from the perspective of a writer who began working as a cleaner on a passenger ship. A striking similarity with Narges Mohammadi’s project. Before the film, the museum will present a short introduction to the film in the presence of the artist.