The work "Division of Labour" was part of "Voyage through a gallery's skin", an exhibition organized during Kunstlijn Haarlem by Karien Beijers, with Daan Brouwer, Erik de Bree, Karien Beijers, Liza Prins, Lucas Hoeben, Ralph de Jongh, Vincka Struben and myself.
The following text accompanied the installation:
"Observe the accommodation of the most common artificer or day-labourer in a civilized and thriving country, and you will perceive that the number of people of whose industry a part, though but a small part, has been employed in procuring him this accommodation, exceeds all computation. The woollen coat, for example, which covers the day-labourer, as coarse and rough as it may appear, is the produce of the joint labour of a great multitude of workmen. The shepherd, the sorter of the wool, the wool-comber or carder, the dyer, the scribbler, the spinner, the weaver, the fuller, the dresser, with many others, must all join their different arts in order to complete even this homely production. How many merchants and carriers, besides, must have been employed in transporting the materials from some of those workmen to others who often live in a very distant part of the country! How much commerce and navigation in particular, how many ship-builders, sailors, sail-makers, rope-makers, must have been employed in order to bring together the different drugs made use of by the dyer, which often come from the remotest corners of the world!
What a variety of labour too is necessary in order to produce the tools of the meanest of those workmen! To say nothing of such complicated machines as the ship of the sailor, the mill of the fuller, or even the loom of the weaver, let us consider only what a variety of labour is requisite in order to form that very simple machine, the shears with which the shepherd clips the wool. The miner, the builder of the furnace for smelting the ore, the seller of the timber, the burner of the charcoal to be made use of in the smelting-house, the brick-maker, the brick-layer, the workmen who attend the furnace, the mill-wright, the forger, the smith, must all of them join their different arts in order to produce them. Were we to examine, in the same manner, all the different parts of his dress and household furniture, the coarse linen shirt which he wears next his skin, the shoes which cover his feet, the bed which he lies on, and all the different parts which compose it, the kitchen-grate at which he prepares his victuals, the coals which he makes use of for that purpose, dug from the bowels of the earth, and brought to him perhaps by a long sea and a long land carriage, all the other utensils of his kitchen, all the furniture of his table, the knives and forks, the earthen or pewter plates upon which he serves up and divides his victuals, the different hands employed in preparing his bread and his beer, the glass window which lets in the heat and the light, and keeps out the wind and the rain, with all the knowledge and art requisite for preparing that beautiful and happy invention, without which these northern parts of the world could scarce have afforded a very comfortable habitation, together with the tools of all the different workmen employed in producing those different conveniences; if we examine, I say, all these things, and consider what a variety of labour is employed about each of them, we shall be sensible that without the assistance and co-operation of many thousands, the very meanest person in a civilised country could not be provided, even according to, what we very falsely imagine, the easy and simple manner in which he is commonly accommodated.”
The Wealth of Nations: The division of labour, by Adam Smith.
In 1786 Adam Smith dedicated the fourth edition of his book “The Wealth of Nations” to Mr. Henry Hope, the one who built the Villa Welgelegen in Haarlem. Though different, those times were also ones in which there was much care and thought given to how the world functioned. In a quote which takes apart a seemingly simple item of clothing, a day-laborer´s woolen coat, Smith manages to encapsulate the complexity of labor relations and trade on a global level.
Taking this extensive quote as a starting point, I had a look at how global trade happens through a contemporary lens. What would the products of labor look like today? What would their trajectories be? Who would make them? Who would wear them? What would their intimate setting look like? And how does “The Wealth of Nations” withstand the test of time?
By intervening in the bedrooms of Lodewijk Napoleon and princess Wilhelmina van Pruisen, both long gone, their places of rest mere moments frozen in time, I confronted the past by playing with contemporary relics and asking those present to think back to where everything comes from and how it got to us. And is it worth it?
Location: bedrooms of Lodewijk Napoleon and princess Wilhelmina van Pruisen and watchkamer.
2 books - Wealth of Nations - € 5,89 + Capital - € 7,90
Golden cover for the books - € 100
1 MacBook Pro - 3,400 Euros
1 pile of receipts - priceless