The Invisible Hand (2021)

Single channel digital video (45 minutes), photolithographs, ink on cotton, Dawn Ultra, teacup, tubing, aquarium pump

A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn

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A video of a man polishing a large circular marble room is projected on the wall in the background. In the foreground, a rectangular bench is covered in a white and black marbled fabric that cascades to the floor.

Facing the other direction in the same room; four black and white prints are hung on a wall painted black. On the left wall is a teacup containing a blue liquid with foam pouring out the top; a tube spirals to the floor and out of sight.

Photolithographs of marbled fabric flying through the air, framed and matted in contrasting black and white on black and walls

A teacup on a marble shelf containing a blue liquid overflows with bubbles. A white tube spirals to the floor from the cup and out of sight to the right of the image.

Closeup of a teacup on a marble shelf containing a blue liuquid and overflowing with bubbles.

Closeup of a rectangluar bench covered in a white and black marbled fabric that cascades to the floor.

The Invisible Hand (2021) is an experimental documentary that foregrounds the usually invisible labor of a government building’s cleaning crew. The film follows the cleaners of the Gouvernement aan de Maas in Maastricht, Netherlands, the site of the treaty that established the European Union in 1992. Created improvisationally and in collaboration with several of the cleaners—Abdul, Esther, Irene, Josje, Kiona, Peter, and Velasca—the film captures their daily routines as they polish the building’s marble and glass surfaces and tidy up after politicians and office staff.

The film is an intimate portrait of the cleaning crew and a journey through the epic landscape of the building itself. The camera never leaves the Gouvernement, following the cleaners’ often solitary labor and documenting their brief encounters with one another and with other building staff. While Olson’s camera maintains an observational distance, its presence is a frequent topic of conversation by the cleaners and staff, dialogue that reveals power dynamics and hierarchies at play within the building. At other times, the camera takes the vantage point of the cleaning machinery itself, floating just above its gleaming floors or bouncing down its corridors.