The time in between Godelieve Spaas, Week 1

Week 1, Precious Things

Godelieve Spaas, New Economy Knowledge Curator

Rabobank’s Utrecht office is, like so many other offices, closed during this interval, “in between time”. Walking through the building, it seems deserted and dreary. Lonely tables, chairs, and screens. Without people to use them, not only are they rendered useless, but they also appear to have lost a bit of their soul. Beautiful objects owe their existence to the people who make them, use them, and care for them.

It goes both ways: working in an appealing environment makes people happier. Materials look after us too, they make the work possible, easy, and pleasant.

For the podcast serie de Tussenruimte I interviewed the artist Otobong Nkanga. We talked about the new economy. “So when you know that this material protects you, heals you and takes care of you. That without this material, I do not exist. Then you will take care of it.”

Since I’ve been working at home, my day revolves around my laptop. Without my laptop, there can be no meetings, no information, no writing articles, no breaks with some good music, no tips about how to stay in shape, and no virtual coffee with co-workers or Friday afternoon drinks with friends.

With the words of Otobong in mind, I wonder if I should be taking better care of my laptop during this period of social distancing. Whether I need to improve my relationship with it. Social distancing may well go hand in hand with technological closeness.

It’s hard for me to consider my laptop as precious. Of course I have a relationship with it: I shout at it, ignore it, and beg for it to cooperate with me. There are times I’d happily throw it out the window, especially now I’m having to learn how to use all sorts of new programs and apps to be able to work from home. I’m more likely to view my laptop as a disposable object that I can abandon to its fate.

Meandering through Rabobank’s art collection I come across a work by Fiona Tan which can explain my indifference to the thing.

The installation is called Planned Redundance. Many products, including computers and laptops, are not built to last. Malfunction and obsolescence are part of their design in order to sell as much stuff as possible. That’s part of the reason I don’t value my laptop too highly. It’s disposable.

In her 2016 book Staying with Trouble, philosopher and biologist Donna Haraway explains how crucial cooperation between nature and technology is during a crisis. I can only affirm that she was right: during this period of in between time, my laptop is my lifeblood. It’s a precious object that deserves to be cared for and for me to give my attention to it. I want a relationship with my laptop that’s similar to attachments I have to certain items of clothing, ones I cherish and take care of, things that I love to wear and that I hope will be in my life for a long time.

Precious Things by and with Godelieve Spaas, photos by Frank Kupers

More contributions from Godelieve Spaas


Rabo Art Collection

Postal Address UC 075
P.O. Box 17100
3500 HG Utrecht
The Netherlands