donderdag 1 december 2011

The (oval) Tables of Power 2.0 Corporate Culture Jacqueline Hassink Company Photography

The European art project The Table of Power has its roots in Oslo in March 1993. During a workshop directed by Dutch architect Raoul Bunschoten, Jacqueline Hassink tried to map modern society by photographing tables in the city. She searched for and photographed tables in various geographical locations and divided them into the four categories she has been using since: ‘the table of power’, ‘the table of family’, ‘the table of justice’ and ‘the table of heaven’. The table of power was the most fascinating of these. Hassink found her inspiration in city centres – in expensive hotels and restaurants, in important scientific institutes (e.g. the Norwegian Nobel Institute), at the headquarters of powerful multinationals (e.g. Norsk Hydro), in banks (e.g. the National Bank of Norway) and insurance companies. For Hassink, the most astonishing immediate effect of her research wasthe fact that her simple request to photograph a table could cause so much confusion.

The Table of Power (1993-1995)

Inspired by The Oslo Project (1993), Hassink began her search for a table symbolising modern society’s most important value: economic power. Industrial multinationals are the most powerful commercial institutions of our time (the top 10 in Europe had, at that time, a combined revenue of $524,731.8 million), and they symbolise this power through their products, visible all over the world. In this project, ‘the table of power’ is deemed to be the meeting table of the board of directors of European industrial multinationals ranked in the top 40 of the largest European corporations, according to Fortune Magazine’s Global 500 list. Hassink approached these 40 multinationals to request their cooperation, contacting them by telephone and fax between July 1993 and July 1995. Nineteen multinationals refused, for a variety of reasons, while the remaining 21, located in the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Switzerland and Italy, eventually allowed her to visit their headquarters and photograph their boardroom tables. By photographing the most important corporate tables in Europe, the meeting place of companies’ boards of directors, Hassink began mapping the centres of economic power, but at the same time worked towards an iconography of global economic influence. Hassink created a body of work that represents the very core of corporate culture. She gives us access to the nerve centre of globally operating corporations where a few ‘unseen’ individuals make decisions that affect us all. It is the first time in the history of Europe that these centres of power have been uncovered.

The Table of Power was first published in February 1996 by Menno van de Koppel, Amsterdam, with a postscript by Henri Peretz and text by Raoul Bunschoten and Jacqueline Hassink, in a print runt of 1,000 copies. It was designed by Melle Hammer to resemble a passport, in ‘dollar bill’ green with a gold stamp in the lower righthand corner. Each copy is numbered individually (from 0001 to 1000) like a passport, referring to the fact that during the creation of the work Hassink had to give her identity papers to each multinational in order to enter the building. Black pages represent corporations that did not allow her to photograph.

Revisiting: The Table of Power 2 (2009-2011).
In the autumn of 2008, the start of the Great Recession, the economic situation in the world changed dramatically. The largest financial service companies in the United States, like Lehman Brothers disappeared in a short period of time. These were followed by major banks and the car industry. General Motors, for years the largest company in the world, filed for bankruptcy in the spring of 2009. The economic situation in the United States affected the whole world. With sales dropping by up to 40%, many corporations have been sent into a nosedive. This was the worst crisis since 1930.

In the spring of 2009, Jacqueline Hassink came up with the idea of revisiting The Table of Power to look at Europe’s current economic landscape. It became her main motivation to see how the economic situation had changed 15 years after she first started the project. She was interested in seeing how previously top 40 European corporations had disappeared, how boardroom design had changed, as well as how revenue and employee numbers had changed. Europe’s 40 largest corporations, according to the 2009 Fortune Global 500 list, was once again the basis for the continuation of this project. Since major banks and financial service companies had played an enormous role in the economy’s downward spiral and thus our immediate social coexistence, they were included alongside multinationals.

By revisiting the project, both The Table of Power and The Table of Power 2 gain another dimension. The second part extends the time axis and also becomes a document of cultural and economic change in its own right. The book resulting from the project will be designed by Irma Boom and published by Hatje Cantz in November 2011.

Voor haar project “The Table of Power” fotografeerde Jacqueline Hassink (1966) de vergadertafels van de veertig grootste multinationals in Europa. Die foto’s brengen ons in het hart van de ondernemingen, op plekken waar belangrijke en verdragende beslissingen genomen worden. Het zijn plekken van aanzien en gewicht, wat versterkt wordt door de kwaliteit van het meubilair, dat vaak kostbaar maatwerk is. Beladen plekken ook, waar vaak tot in de kleine uurtjes vergaderd is - en wordt - om het economische tij het hoofd te bieden.

In een mengeling van fotografie en conceptuele kunst brengt Hassink op nauwkeurige, bijna wetenschappelijke wijze de economische globalisering van onze samenleving in kaart. De vergadertafels zijn vastgelegd op een moment dat ze niet in gebruik waren, de stoelen keurig aangeschoven. Geanonimiseerde symbolen van macht en verregaande beslissingsbevoegdheid.

In februari 1996 publiceerde Hassink het boek ‘The Table of Power ’. Het had de grootte en uitstraling van een paspoort. Een knipoog naar het feit dat zij zich telkens had moeten legitimeren, voor een multinational haar tot de vergaderzaal toe wilde laten.

Voorjaar 2009 ontstond het idee om een vervolg aan de serie te geven. Hassink was nieuwsgierig naar de veranderingen in het economisch landschap als gevolg van de financiële crisis. Lehman Brothers was failliet, Freddie Mac en Fannie Mae konden slechts met overheidssteun overeind blijven, General Motors was langs de rand van het faillissement gegaan. De economische crisis raakte inmiddels de hele wereld.

Voor de eerste reeks “The Table of Power” maakte Hassink gebruik van Fortune’s Global 500 uit 1995, voor de tweede reeks van Fortune’s Global 500 uit 2009.

Vragen die Hassink bezig hielden: zaten de bedrijven uit de eerste editie van “The Table of Power” nog altijd in Fortune’s? Wie waren de nieuwkomers? Welke steden huisvestten de grootste ondernemingen? Hoe verhield Europa zich inmiddels tot Azië en Noord-Amerika?

Vanwege hun prominente rol in de financiële crisis, wilde Hassink ook banken en financiële instellingen in “The Table of Power 2” opnemen. Elf van hen weigerden, 29 stemden ten slotte in. Die toestemming liet twee maanden tot een jaar op zich wachten. Uiteindelijk wilden van de banken HSBC, de Royal Bank of Schotland, Crédit Agricole en Deutsche Bank niet meewerken. ING Groep, Dexia, BNP Paribas, Banco Santander en UniCredit wel.

Drie ondernemingen figureren in zowel “The Table of Power’ 1 als 2: Volkswagen, Eni en Siemens. Maar dan wel alle drie met compleet nieuw ingerichte boardrooms.

Based in New York and born in the Netherlands Hassink (1966) is best known for art projects about the world of economic power. Her work represents visual, graphic and sociological maps of the axes of global economic structures.

Her first art project, The Table of Power (1993-1995), was soon followed by other projects such as Banks (1995-1996), Female Power Stations: Queen Bees (1996-2000), Mindscapes (1998-2003) and Car Girls (2002-2008) All these projects, have been or will be published in book form.

Her work has been exhibited internationally widespread and is represented in various renowned collections. Hassink’s work has been published by Aperture, Hatje Cantz, Chris Boot and Birkhäuser Verlag.

Jacqueline Hassink is represented by Amador Gallery, New York; Galerie Wouter van Leeuwen, Amsterdam; Kaune Sudendorf Gallery, Cologne and Galerie Plan Deux, Tokyo.

 ArcelorMittal, 2009

 Banco Santander

 Assicurazioni Generali

 BNP Paribas

 ING Groep



Royal Dutch Shell

Banco Santander, Madrid

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