(spirit of the East in the West – performance, para-business), 2002, global burka

A journalist recently told me a story about a woman from Afghanistan whose husband, in a rage, tore her last dress. Since she did not have any money to buy a new dress, she had to stay at home and starve. I had the idea that her children would find the pieces of a torn American flag in the street and bring it home to their mum to make a burka. The woman might try to cut and place the stars and stripes in such a way that the original meaning of the pattern would no longer be recognisable. She could also violate the pattern in such a way that she would fix the holes with pieces of cloth that look like other flags. That way the look of her burka might be more acceptable.

Early in the morning, I put on my “global” work burka that had been made in a rather amateurish way, and set off for the Rotterdam market as I always did on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Although there are mainly shopkeepers from Africa and the Orient offering their goods in the market, my hybrid dress could not help inciting a reaction from them. Despite the tense conditions – spiced by a constant feeling of fear and shame – I managed to buy tropical fruits and vegetables from my Arabic colleagues for a decent price, especially jamas, edos, sweet potatoes, napis and bananas. In the afternoon, when the market was closed, I sat down on the street with my hands full of plastic bags and started to sell exotic products illegally. I haggled over every cent with my customers in order to get the biggest possible profit. On the box of vegetables in front of me, I wrote with big letters: “THE PROFIT FROM THE SALE OF THESE VEGETABLES WILL GO TOWARDS SUPPORTING THE AMERICAN ECONOMY. VIA THE TENT GALLERY, THE MONEY WILL BE SENT TO THE FOLLOWING ADDRESS”:

Federal Financing Bank
U.S. Department of the Treasury
Main Treasury Building
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20220 USA