Bus-tops: HuMobisten - 'Rotterdam 2028'

HuMobisten –aka Gyz La Rivière & Rufus Ketting- have a long-term collaborative practice as artists, cultural organisers and designers. Additionally, La Rivière and Ketting produce individual bodies of work. This is entirely appropriate since their solo works as artists are usually somewhat different from their joint works. Variously involved in bands, underground party scenes and street culture movements – such as skateboarding – for more than a decade in Rotterdam, where they live and work, both produce works that often draw on these influences and reinterpret them through a more conceptual framework. 
 
Both their individual oeuvres and joint works are highly eclectic, jumping from medium to medium. For example, La Rivière’s solo output in recent years has ranged from a documentary film about a local skateboarding gang to series of screen-prints, sculptures in neon light and various publications about Rotterdam. Ketting has made works spanning the gamut from watercolours to a conceptual rap video and his signature text-based works that play with language and ideas. 
 
In the joint work of HuMobisten – whether as artists or more commercial graphic designers – there is always an underlying conceptual approach, almost always with an absurdist, punky feel to its modes of operation, no matter what the medium. This is perhaps best evidenced in a performance work in Rotterdam (and Helsinki) where a popular children’s character (a bear) and its signature tune were reworked as absurdist cabaret in a museal context. With a title that roughly translates as ‘We’re mad again!’, the performance saw one of the Humobists dressed in a bear costume singing to the well-known song, replacing the usual lyrics with clever twists in the style of political cabaret to comment on everything from social exclusion to terrorism. 
 
For Bus-Tops, however, the HuMobisten have, to some extent, returned to the starting points that first brought them to the attention of the Dutch institutional art circuit and, indeed, led to them receiving a number of awards for emerging talent. 
 
At the start of the new millennium, Rotterdam saw a number of high-profile projects by the city’s numerous internationally lauded architects and designers focussing on the Olympics. More particularly, the Netherlands’ ongoing drive to bring the games back to the country in 2028 – to coincide with the centenary of the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics – was gearing up. With long-term planning that is characteristic of the country’s internationally admired architectural and urban planning tradition, the Dutch Architecture Institute (NAI) published an influential book (2008) in collaboration with one of the city’s leading architecture practices, MVRDV. Called ‘NL 2028’, the project was effectively a viability study and think tank for a future Dutch Olympic games. This sprawling project (together with all the press and visibility that the project and its spin-off events achieved) underscored Rotterdam’s eagerness to place itself at the centre of future Olympic bids. 
 
Contemporaneous to this cultural phenomenon, Rotterdam’s vibrant subcultural scene was arguably at its height and a source of interest to many artists, including La Rivière and Ketting. The HuMobisten produced a body of work consisting of guerrilla-style campaign of stickers, posters and photography that effectively offered a riposte to the bristling civic pride and populist excitement attracted by the idea that Rotterdam might eventually host the games sparked by the NL 2028 project (some seven years before the NAI ). Never really aggressively oppositional or nihilistic, rather they offered a satirical and sceptical commentary from the underground; a kind of disinformation campaign played out in public space.
 
For their Bus-Tops ‘Rotterdam 2028’ work, they take the original project as a starting point. Revisiting the visual languages of branding and logos – particularly of the variety that inevitably get chosen to represent huge ‘respectable’ events such as the Olympics – the HuMobisten examine how these manifest in and occupy public space (and consciousness). Similarly, the exploration of how artists might harness the mechanism of visual branding to their own ends – to brand themselves, for example – are also part of the process. 
 
In London, the new work takes on complex new implications in its transition to digital media and also in terms of its questions about reception. For example, some of its original interrogations of how people passing through the public space of a city receive information and decide whether it is trustworthy or not simply because of its accompanying visual branding are amplified. The underlying absurdist guerrilla gesture – bordering on ‘disinformation’ – that sought to provoke the audience into questioning the veracity of implied messages consisting of text and visual iconography is naturally taken one step further since it potentially ‘announces’ a future event in another city. 
 
However, in London, as in Rotterdam, the main locus  of this work is as a catalyst that stimulates an audience response, maybe even sparks public discussion and debate. Whether the response is simply to assume one’s personal reading of the work as a piece of valid public information is accurate or to be prompted into questioning its veracity and authority ultimately rests with the individual viewer. And, embedded within all of this, we may also be prompted to think about how we receive complex information from visual cues in public spaces without necessarily questioning either their agendas or mechanisms. 
 
Gyz La Rivière and Rufus Ketting live and work in Rottedam. In addition to many credits for books, a wide range of project in various creative media and  working graphic designers, the HuMobisten – jointly and individually – have participated in numerous institutional and gallery shows including those at Museum Rotterdam, Rotterdam; Kunstencentrum Belgie, Hasselt; Centre for Fine Arts, Rotterdam; NL – Dutch Cultural Pop-Up Space, London; TENT, Rotterdam; Kunstraum Niederoesterreich, Vienna; MAMA, Rotterdam; Het Blauwe Huis, Amsterdam; Municipal Gallery Arsenal, Poznan; ARTIS, CBK and Stedelijk Museum 's Hertogenbosch, 's Hertogenbosch; Cokkie Snoei, Rotterdam; The Agency Contemporary, London; Piano Nobile, Geneva; Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht; Vasa City Arthall, Vasa; Maus Hábitos, Porto and Centraal Museum, Utrecht, amongst others. 
 
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