The Spinhuis

2006 – Public Installation

‘ArtSpotting’, historical tour of Amsterdam mapped via public artworks; curated by Yoad David Luxembourg –           I used to live in the Dwarsspinhuissteeg, in Amsterdam. The Spinhuis was built in 1645 as an institution for women who were found begging, and/or accused of petty crimes such as theft or prostitution. It was believed that they could repair their own sinning souls and repay society by donating their labor spinning cotton and wool.                                                                                                                                         A motto in stone relief on the facade of the building reads, “ Don’t fear, I do not avenge evil but force to Good/ My hand is tough but loving is my mood” (P.C. Hooft)    I chose the 2 classical masks of the theater, tragedy, and comedy because they represent extreme emotion and behavior, which is probably an accurate description of what the women prisoners experienced too often. The mask itself is also a way to hide one’s identity which for them might have been crucial for surviving cramped living quarters and very little privacy.    The word “spinning” is also used to describe an over-active imagination, like spinning one’s thoughts into a web of nonsense or madness.    Their emotional and behavioral condition openly exposed, combined with the daily spinning of these women behind their wheels, apparently made for entertainment worth paying for. Citizens and visitors of Amsterdam were invited to pay a few cents to view the prisoners at work in their habitat of incarceration…reason enough to wear a mask.

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