“JUST US AT WORK" is the title of a public art action that took place in the entrance hall of the Amtsgericht, (Offices of Justice) in Kassel, Germany between June 1 – September 10, 2012.

"JUST US AT WORK" is a site-specific collaboration between Deborah Adams Doering, Glenn N. Doering, DOEprojekts, USA and Nkozasana (Veronica) Betani and Cebo Mvubu, KAP (Keiskamma Art Project). South Africa1. By framing their collaboration as a public art action, the artists are telling us that this is not a conventional exhibition. "JUST US AT WORK" is exactly this: the artists at work, creating handmade artworks on-site in the Amtsgericht. It is an act which offers opportunity to create meaningful activity in a physical space where conceptual art and handmade object-making engage each other. The result is an action that poses many questions about human existence in contemporary society and exposes a cross-cultural reality of many-layered meanings.

Both DOE and KAP artists work with "low-tech" materials such as paper, pencils, wood, fabric and thread. The only artwork that will be permanently on display is the "Manifest O", a huge 9' x 21' (2,7 x 6,4 meter) tapestry, conceptualized by DOEprojekts and embroidered by KAP Artists. With this initial manifesto of coded "text", the artists declare that we are now entering the realm of conceptual art-making embodied in the practice of craft.

Doering began her conceptual art practice after completing a Master of Fine Arts degree over a decade ago. Around the same time that Doering was finishing art school, KAP was in its infancy. It was initially established as a poverty alleviation program to teach embroidery to local women, motivated by their own collective grief, resulting from the relentless HIV/AIDs deaths occurring in the village, and the resultant disintegration and depression of their community. Thus, KAP's art-making was initiated as survival strategy, both emotionally and economically. The focus of the KAP artists and artisans was, and continues to be, on hand-crafted objects. Doering became acquainted with the work of the KAP artists through encountering their art-appropriated works first-hand. She contacted the artist collaborative through email and social media several years before visiting their studios in Hamburg, South Africa, which is where DOE + KAP's collaborative efforts began.

In contrast to the development of the KAP artist collective, DOEprojekts was created as a way to collaborate with other artists and artist groups using Deborah Doering's system of "code forms" as a point of departure. DOEprojekts' focus is on collaborative art-making as a conceptual and relational system, beginning with the form of "zero." At the invitation of DOEprojekts, collaborators visualize the zero moving in space. As it moves, artists see that, at certain points, the zero may be seen as a one.

In addition, the actual movement of the zero can be seen as form; as a swash or tilde. In other words, that which is initially "thought" or "concept", emerges as form, as object.

As a result of this idea, DOEprojekts has created a coded "language of form" based on zeros and ones and the movement between them, which they have applied in a variety of artistic contexts. These forms are a fundamental part of the collaboration with KAP's Betani and Mvubu, and also others, both inside and outside the physical space of the Amtsgericht, the Offices of Justice.

In this most recent context, DOEprojekts, whose focus is conceptual and relational, invites KAP and others, whose focus is object-making, to collaborate in the Amtsgericht. The work they produce in the "art action" results from the fusion of concept and corporeality. Every object is coded with zeros and ones, created by hand in humble materials and at a slow pace. As a result, both the objects and actions created in the Amtsgericht by DOE and KAP hold meta-layers of meaning. The objects the artists have made together achieve and exhibit a much deeper and more complex art-making reality than what either group could create alone.

Metaphorically, the "one", the "individual", participates in the "zero", the circle of community; this is not the negation of individuality, but rather individuals embracing collaborative activity. In addition, the action and the artists themselves become and reflect the movement between zeros and ones — the "'code."

Furthermore it is interesting to note that KAP artists come from South Africa, a country found to be the "ground zero" of humanity. There is a symbolic power in this fact: in this collaborative work we embrace the physical roots of humankind. South Africa is the cradle of our genetic code and human condition. This fact is perfectly mirrored in DOEprojekt's use of zero and one, where we can literally see phallus (I) and vagina (o). It can also be said that the zero and one is the genetic code of our digital age, forming the basis of all electronic communication. In this way DOEprojekts and KAP artists, coming together in the physical space of the Amtsgericht in Kassel, is the manifestation of similar ideas; to live, seek, and express basic conditions of humanness in and through the contemporary reality of art and object-making.

To live, seek, and express basic conditions of humanness includes the existence of justice. Justice is equitable treatment and due reward. The action of art-making can be a potent way of creating fair treatment and due reward for human beings, all in the light of making meaningful work. Certainly the condition of justice needs to visualized and enacted as part of the developing work of rural areas such as Hamburg, South Africa. Thus, it is significant and appropriate that the title of the art action "JUST US AT WORK" is a word-play on "JUSTICE AT WORK".

In the Amtsgericht we encounter a space and object-making that point to deeper layers of meaning. Do not be misled by the mundane. What is actually created here are objects that hold meta-layers of meaning; Super-Objects2. They are being crafted by the hands of the artists, in the moment and in the physical space created for the meeting, which means that the objects become codes in themselves. The code they convey becomes a symbol of a reality much deeper and much more complex than what is superficially perceived. Questioning familiar perceptions of reality is a powerful way to develop and go beyond the current level of human consciousness.

When old thought forms are questioned, new can arrive.

Louise Mazanti, PhD
Lecturer, curator and writer; former professor in design and craft theory and history Copenhagen, Denmark

1 Refer to the following lists of collaborators for DOEprojekts and KAP.
2 "A super-object is an object that exists parallel to the object category of the design commodity, at the same time as it contains (super-) layers of meaning that refer to visual art." From "Super-Objects: Craft as an Aesthetic Position" by Louise Mazanti (published in Extra/Ordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art, Maria Elena Buszek, Editor, ISBN 978-0-8223-4762-0)

1 DOE Projekts artists/artisans who will work onsite for selected weeks with DOEprojekts:
Deborah Adams Doering (USA)
Glenn Doering (USA)
Nancy Adams (USA) 
Denise Laurin Donatelle (USA) 
Magdalena Linden (Sweden)
Irene Pérez Gil (Spain) 
Kathryn Trumbull Fimreite (USA) 
Shauna Hupe Angel Blue (USA) 
Kathryn Maple Whitten (USA)

1 KAP "Manifest O" artists/artisans, coordinated and supervised by Veronica Betani and Cebo Mvubu:
Thembisa Gusha (Hamburg, SouthAfrica )
Nolunthu Mavela (Hamburg, South Africa)
Nozibele Nxadi (Hamburg, South Africa)
Bandlakazi Nyongo (Hamburg, South Africa)
Zukiswa Zita (Hamburg, South Africa)

Amtsgericht Judges
Mr. Erich Fischer, President
Mr. Reinhold Kilbinger, Vice-President (retired)

Keiskamma Trust
Ms. Carol Baker Hofmeyr (Founder)
Ms. Annette Woudstra (Canada/South Africa)
Ms. Florence Danais (France/South Africa)

Master Carpenters
Mr. Karl Schöberl (Germany)
Mr. Joel Fromer (USA)
Translation, English-German
Ms. Christine Summers

Publicity, Coordination, and other Assistance
Ms. Tanja Munser, Ms. Lisa Hoffman, Ms. Sandra Dernbach
Ms. Barbara Decker, Dr. Albrecht Letz, Ms. Annegret Letz
Mr. Richard Laurent, Ms. Cheryl Jefferson, Mr. Philip Hartigan
USA Projects (www.usaprojects.org)
Foundation for Contemporaray Art (www.foundationforcontemporaryarts.org)

We thank everyone who assisted us, especially the staff at the Amtsgericht, Kassel.
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