2005 Installation, art in public space
16 jackets (8 in the exhibition; 8 worn by the gang in the street)
Developed within the frame of the project “Pursuit of Happiness”,
Beyond-Leidsche Rijn, Utrecht, NL


Rehabilitation is a reading of social codes, laying at the dichotomy between those at the center and margins of the society. The work created in 2005, Leidsche Rijn (NL) as a result of artist’s encounter with a local gang, proposes an inversion of the social rehabilitation process and suggest how the group creates initiatives for rehabilitating the society through their criticism. Eight jackets were displayed in the exhibition and the gang members on the streets of Utrecht worn another eight jackets. 


Ersen’s project Rehabilitation looked once again at the failures of the social engineering practiced in a welfare state system. Leidsche Rijn, a suburb of the city of Utrecht, in which the housing structure was supposedly designed for avoiding intercommunity conflicts, was recently faced with a series of problems: the psychological segregation between the Dutch community and the immigrant population, the failure of physical segregation in which some Turkish families started unexpectedly to move into the segments designed for the Dutch community, the discomfort of the immigrant families in their claustrophobic flats, the absence of open space for bringing the young of these families together and the consequent rise in criminality rate.


Rather than reflecting on the cause of the unease in the neighbourhood, the authorities implemented a programme of dissolving the youth gangs and employed social workers to “rehabilitate” the gang members. After a long process of communication hampered constantly by the social worker mediating between her and the gang members willing to contribute to her project, Ersen decided to examine the ways in which the social form of “gang” can feed back and rehabilitate society.


Eight young men belonging to one of these gangs were asked to choose a black leather uniform jacket, as an insignia of their belonging, and to decide on what to inscribe onto the back of those jackets. The chosen slogans were rather shocking for the Dutch community, revealing the level of resentment, depression and frustration of social marginalisation, an aggressive rhetoric foreshadowing the upheavals in Paris in November 2005.


Two sets of jackets were produced –one set for the boys and another for the exhibition. Only one day after the opening the jackets in the show were stolen. This unexpected occurrence paradoxically helped the project to attract the media attention to the problems of the neighbourhood. Besides this series of interactive projects opening symbolic niches of enunciation for marginalised ones, Ersen produced works aiming at transgressing official and bureaucratic procedures of political power.