Spin[Freee]oza (Shop Windows and Balloons)

Andy Hewitt, Mel Jordan, Dave Beech

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


‘Spin[Freee]oza (Shop Windows and Balloons)’ was a project commissioned by SMART Project Space as part of the exhibition ‘On Joy, Sadness and Desire’ which took place within the framework of the project ‘My Name is Spinoza’, organized by the Amsterdam Spinoza Circle and SKOR (Foundation Art and Public Space), 59 commissioned by Foundation Spinoza Centre Amsterdam, to mark 400 years of Spinoza’s philosophy. The exhibition took place 9 May – 28th June 2009. The book was published in conjunction with the exhibition with an introduction and project report by Freee and a commissioned essay, ‘The Politics of Ambiguity’by Steve Klee.

For the project Freee updated quotes from the philosopher Spinoza (1632–1677) that were then installed on the outside of shop windows in the vicinity of SMART Project Space. The slogans also appear on 1000 coloured balloons that were available for gallery visitors to choose the slogan that they agreed with and take it away with them out of the gallery back onto the street (Beech, Hewitt & Jordan, 2009). The shop windows were photographed and billboard poster were produced and installed in the exhibition space. In each billboard poster the artists are shown visiting the retail outlets that have become temporary hosts for their slogans. Shopkeepers who had agreed to participate in the project were asked to choose one slogan for their shop window. Each has their own reason for choosing the slogan, some because they agree with it but others because it alludes to something more personal. The shopkeepers also designed their slogan choosing the typeface, colour, scale and positioning of the text. The slogan balloons are intended to address people in the same way: some may take a balloon because the slogan expresses something they agree with, while others may make their selection according to colour or just to be part of the event. Thus, the billboard images are the culmination of a series of negotiations, exchanges and context shifts that might not always be visible but are always essential to their logic. The images are therefore a product of the preceding discussions and activity. The slogans based on Spinoza’s philosophy address the current state of democratic thinking and therefore do not exist in a vacuum, instead enter the world of work, commerce, consumption and everyday life. ‘Spin[Freee]oza’ uses philosophically constructed sentences to raise issues about democracy, consensus and power. In fact, Marxist historian Perry Anderson has argued that, 60 ‘the systematic induction of Spinoza into historical materialism by Althusser and his pupils was intellectually the most ambitious attempt to construct a prior philosophical descent for Marx.’ (Anderson, 1976,65) For philosopher Etienne Balibar, one of the key points of Spinoza’s philosophy is to demonstrate that, ‘the difference between those who rule and those who are ruled finally comes to focus on a monopoly of knowledge at the level of the State, in whose name obedience is demanded. This intrinsically ambivalent situation can easily be reversed, for the insecurity of the State is bound up with individuals’ ignorance of who they themselves are, and of how they are affected by their mutual dependency’. (Balibar [1985], 2008, 123)
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
PublisherSMART Project Space, Amsterdam
Commissioning bodySMART Project Space
Number of pages32
ISBN (Print)9789080665590
Publication statusPublished - 9 May 2009


  • Spinoza
  • democracy
  • Art


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