Sep 112019

The Spirit of the Gift

Video, 22 minutes, 2019

In 1999, the Dutch artist Jan Dibbets gave to the National Gallery of Albania a collection of artworks. The collection included works by world famous artists, such as Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Mike Kelley, Sol LeWitt, Daniel Buren, Damien Hirst, and Sarah Lucas. These works were transported from the Netherlands by road to Tirana, probably ‘hitchhiking’ with a convoy of the Red Cross.

In 2019, twenty years later, these works were on view in the exhibition “Beste Wishes for 1999”, curated by Arnisa Zeqo. Invited to take part in a performance program for this show, we drove from Amsterdam to Tirana, retracing the same journey the artworks made, and looked for a gift in every country we passed through. This ranges from opera glasses that Witte got from his mother in law, to a fountain given to a German prince, and blood being donated in Slovenia. The end of our journey was the exhibition, the collection being the final gift that we filmed.

As a response to our journey and resulting film Mees van Hulzen, philosopher at University of Leipzig who researches ‘Politics of the Gift’, wrote a short text that presents some philosophical and sociological questions in regard to giving: what is the difference between something which is received as a gift, and something which is bought? In what way does an object change when it is given? And in what ways can a gift change the one who receives it?