Article 12 / The Spy Project
Commission with the Dutch Secret Service (AIVD)
Article 12 was the title of my exhibition at Stroom (The Hague, 2008) that fulfilled my commission for the Dutch Secret Service (AIVD). The AIVD has since censored and confiscated some of the works that were on view at Stroom, and later my book Becoming Tarden (Tate Modern, 2009) that I wrote about my experience working with it. I have since incorporated these confiscations as a material of the works.
In 2005 the offices of the AIVD were to be relocated. Under Dutch law, a percentage of the project's total budget had to be used to commission a new artwork for the building. The organization used this as an opportunity to improve upon their public persona, or in their own words, 'to provide the AIVD with a human face'. From 2005 -8 I conducted numerous interviews with employees of the AIVD. These conversations took place in bars and non-descript public places. The purpose of these meetings was for me to collect personal data of the agents and to use this information to find the organization's face. Each work in this series reveals specific characteristics of the participating AIVD agents but never disclose their identities entirely.
Some of the work is on permanent display in the new AIVD building. Those pieces are marked below.
Article 12 concerns the protection of personal data of those employed by the AIVD.
Installation at Stroom of Article 12, 2008Photos by Rob Kollaard
Guide to Works in The Spy Piece
Pen on paper, series of 7 drawings. 60" x 88.5" unframed. 2008-9. The directives, addressed to the AIVD, are my request for training. In them, I employ terms and phrases I picked up from the agents with whom I met. I first sent this list to Vincent IV, who agreed to train me privately.
Bronze and resin editions, 12" l x 10"w x 9" h. 2008
"We hate the CIA."
"Because they're cowboys."
"If they are cowboys, what are you?"
"We're the shepherds".
I commissioned cowboy-artist Chris Schiller in Colorado to sculpt The Shepherds, based on my designs. The Bribe edition, cast in bronze, is permanently installed in the AIVD Deputy Head's office, in a vitrine showcasing gifts given to the organization by other international services. The Gift edition, in resin, is valued below the limit, set by the AIVD, when a gift becomes a bribe.
I Can Burn Your Face
Title piece and 18 Burning Spies. 7mm Neon, transformers and wires. 2008. Altered permanently 2009.
'To burn a face' is the phrase used within the AIVD meaning to expose a source's identity. I wrote descriptions of each agent I interviewed in my notebooks ¯18 in total¯and then used these descriptions to burn them. The neon words are lifted directly from my notebooks, and are in my handwriting. *In 2009, to reflect the confiscation of 7 of the 18 Spies print edition, 7 of the neons were permanently turned off.
Series of 18 letterpress prints describing my agents' faces. These prints are maps for the neon works which employ the same words. 11" x17". 2008
Archive #2485536/01 Official AIVD archive box with my vetting number, all my original notebooks from this assignment, my copy of Cockpit, DATA infomercial, Gift version of the Shepherds. 2005-8
The AIVD requires a complete washout of an agent's files when he leaves the service. With the completion of my assignment, I am relinquishing to the AIVD all of my original notebooks. My archive will be on permanent display in the organization's new building.
The Kosinski Quotes
Series of 9 Silkscreens, four color print, 44"x27 1/4", 2007
Cockpit, a novel by Jerzy Kosinski, functioned as my guide on how to be a hummingbird, a spy so deep undercover that even the other spies are unaware of his existence. Hummingbirds take on various 'public' roles in society, including that of an artist. The quotes were scanned from the book. The color system is based on the AIVD's practice of highlighting text in yellow to be censored, mixed with my personal system of marking.
6 min Pal DVD, 2005
I was asked to create an infomercial to be shown on the AIVD's Intranet. Its goal was to incite interest amongst AIVD agents to schedule a meeting with me and give me their personal data.