Chicago Boys – interweavings of economy, environment, and everyday life

A person playing drums and a person playing a guitar in Chicago Boys
Hiwa K: Chicago Boys – While We Were Singing, They Were Dreaming (2011), Casco Art Institute tour in the Netherlands. Courtesy Casco Art Institute: Working for the Commons archive.

IHME Helsinki Commission 2023 Chicago Boys – While We Were Singing, They Were Dreaming will take place from 17 April to 27 May in various parts of Helsinki. The project initiated by Kurdish artist and musician Hiwa K in 2010 has so far been carried out in eight different art institutions around the world.

The project began when Hiwa was in residence at the Serpentine Gallery’s Edgware Road Project in London. The core of Chicago Boys is the people who make up an amateur band and discussion group. Hiwa’s description:

“The idea came about when I was researching YouTube documentaries about the Iraq War, its connection with neoliberalism, and at the same time listening to the music of my childhood. The simultaneity of these events created a connection between them that became important in tracing the causes of the second Persian Gulf War and the effects of the implementation of neoliberal economics in Iraq.”

In the Chicago Boys project, people’s everyday experiences of neoliberalism are brought out through stories, objects, and music.

In the first year, the amateur band performed 1970s popular music from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, England, Bangladesh, Poland, Holland, and Lebanon. Alongside musical performances, the group presented archival material and personal stories about the manifestations of neoliberal politics in their own everyday lives. The band performed in cafes and restaurants along Edgware Road. Watch a recording of the first Chicago Boys – While We Were Singing, They Were Dreaming project on the Serpentine Gallery website.

The following year, in the Netherlands, Casco Art Institute staged Chicago Boys as a tour of four cities: Utrecht, Enschede, Arnhem and Amsterdam. There is a short documentary about this tour on Casco’s YouTube channel.

In addition, Chicago Boys has been realized in different ways in: Gdansk, Poland (2010); Nottingham, England (2011); Sofia, Bulgaria and Delme, France (2013); Amman, Jordan (2014); Bergen, Norway (2019); and most recently at Nida Art in Colony, Lithuania (2020).

At Nida Art Colony the project focused on identifying the effects of neoliberalism in the municipalities of Neringa and Nida on the Curonian Spit. Both places have become popular tourist destinations. The women’s amateur choir Smiltatė participated in the project and performed at the NU Performance Festival in Tallinn in autumn 2020. The project was led by Vika Matuzaitė and Egija Inzule, who also interviewed Hiwa K for the NUPP radio programme on IDA radio. Nida’s Chicago Boys project was in two parts, the second of which ended in summer 2022, and a publication about the project will be released later.

IHME Helsinki is carrying out its Chicago Boys – While We Were Singing, They Were Dreaming project almost simultaneously in Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan, and Helsinki. Hiwa K will run the Chicago Boys project in his hometown from 5 April to 17 May and will join the Helsinki project for its last week. The idea of the project is that anyone, anywhere can make Chicago Boys happen.

In the Helsinki version, the amateur band will practice privately on Mondays or Wednesdays for six weeks in Stoa Cultural Centre. The band will hold public rehearsals once a week on Saturdays 22.4–20.5 in various parts of Helsinki, in places whose fate is in some way threatened by the pursuit of economic benefit. The work culminates in the last public band practice at Stoa Cultural Centre on May 27. We welcome everyone to the band and public rehearsals!


English proof reading: Mike Garner

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People singing in Chicago Boys While We Were Singing they Were Dreaming
Hiwa K: Chicago Boys – While We Were Singing, They Were Dreaming (2011), Casco Art Institute tour in the Netherlands, courtesy Casco Art Institute: Working for the Commons archive.