Maria Thereza Alves

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Changing of the Guard


Changing of the Guard , 1999

A perfomative work involving an exchange of guards between the art academies of Maastricht in the Netherlands and Brno in the Czech Republic.

At the art academy in Brno in the Czech Republic the distrustful ways the art students were treated by the local guards resulted in Changing of the Guard. Using the infrastructure and hierarchy of the academy, the artist wanted to derail certain power structures. An exchange between the guard of the academy from Brno with the “guard” from the academy in Holland for a one-week period was organized. Each guard received a salary, and were requested to fulfil security duties while at the same time writing down the events that happened around their new situation.

The “guard” from Jan van Eyck Academy, who had functioned more as a facilitator of information than as a security enforcer until that point, came to realise that students in Brno, unlike in Maastricht, were placed in positions of inferiority to the guards whom they had to cajole and convince to give them keys to much needed areas of the academy such as the video editing studio while at the same time submitting to having their rucksacks searched before leaving the academy. Meanwhile, the guard in Jan van Eyck was surprised that students let themselves into the building with their own keys and that some students had keys to their own studio spaces. He was also shocked that none of the students had to give or sign their names. He was happy to discover that on his walks around the academy, students would invite him to visit their studio spaces to see what they were working on. At the end of his experience, he wrote that he had come to understand that his job in Brno was about controlling students.

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