Photo by Peter Zuiderwijk
Project author: Cohabitation Strategies
Project location: Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Year/s of execution: 2013
Commissioned by: Freehouse at Het Wijkwaardenhuis (The Netherlands)
Project’s collaborators: Hans Venhuizen, Karin Mientjes, Peter Zuiderwijk
The Power of Two is a talent show whose aim is to produce services for the quarter of Afrikaanderwijk through a collaborative process. Afrikaanderwijk is situated in the South bank of Rotterdam and it is considered one of the most problematic areas of the city. Just to give an example: 28% of its inhabitants have an income which is under the poverty line.
The Power of Two was created during a month-long residency program offered to Cohabitation Strategies by the Freehouse. The Freehouse is an artistic project of Jeanne van Heeswijk, which has been operating in the Afrikaanderwijk area since 2008 in order to make visible the existing qualities of this neighborhood. The Freehouse recently generated a new hub, Het Wijkwaardenhuis, which is a platform for new encounters and collaborations in the neighborhood and for giving visibility to local products and assets. The Power of Two emerged from a dialogue Cohabitation Strategies had with Het Wijkwaardenhuis in order to contribute to this goal.
One of the issues which generated the idea of The Power of Two is the current obsession of the Dutch government to strengthen talents in The Netherlands and especially in problematic areas. Despite the considerable amount of money the government is investing for talent programs, those problematic areas aren’t really empowered but rather paternalistically re-educated.
We wanted to reverse the concept of talent and success spread by government programs and by the media in general, by using the very common format of the talent show. A format that everybody in the neighborhood know and easily can engage with. Instead of focusing on the individual talent and on the ultimate chance in life to gain success - as proposed in the televised talent shows -, we wanted to activate a collaborative process of creation of services. Those services have to originate from the inventive collaboration of two or more contestants of the talent show, they have to be the result of the union of the participants’ diverse qualities, they have to be useful for the neighborhood of Afrikaanderwijk.
The Power of Two puts into question how a talent is usually seen and perceived. It is based on the fact that each of us has an inclination, a capacity or a skill which can be useful for the society and can be turned into a talent by means of a creative process of collaboration. Moreover it encourages participants to invent innovative services which can respond to the contemporary needs.
Photo by Peter Zuiderwijk
The first edition of The Power of Two was a pilot project which involved ten participants in a three-weeks long talent show.
The first week the contestants got to know each other through a blind date and formed small groups of two or three people. Their task was to work together for the coming two weeks in order to create anoriginal service for the neighborhood.
The second week the small groups met with mentors whose aim was to advise and challenge them in order to prepare a feasible plan for the further development of the service.
The final of The Power of Two took place during the third week. On this occasion the small groups presented and performed their ideas for a service. A jury was appointed to comment on the proposals an to establish, together with the audience, the best ideas. The first group winner was awarded with 500 euros, the second group winner was awarded with an in-kind support from the Freehouse.
During the three weeks of the talent show, participants immediately engaged with and understood the very essence of the game. They managed to manifest their qualities the way they wanted to and to turn their skills into talents for the neighborhood by cooperating instead of competing. Furthermore, the talent show had also an impact on local organizations developing training and talent development programs in the area which expressed their intention to collaborate with Freehouse and The Power of Two.
Freehouse intends to repeat the experiment in 2014, by organizing a second edition of The Power of Two, in order to make more neighborhood qualities emerge and to enrich the neighborhood asset of locally manufactured products and services, in collaboration with local media, institutions and organizations.
Photo by Peter Zuiderwijk
Four groups participated in the first edition:
Wellness to You by Inge, Rushen and Vera
Photo by Peter Zuiderwijk
The Storytelling Coat... by Abigail and Michael
Photo by Peter Zuiderwijk
Energy for Life Gardens by Frank, Mandy and Ondrej
Photo by Peter Zuiderwijk
Recycle Rent by Dionysa and Mustafa
Photo by Peter Zuiderwijk
Photo by Peter Zuiderwijk
See Het Wijkwaardenhuis
Project author: Cohabitation Strategies
Project location: Lecce, Italy
Year/s of execution: 2011-2012
Commissioned by: Musagetes (Canada), Loop House and Ammirato Culture House (Italy)
Project’s collaborators: Laura Perrone, Gianluca Marinelli
Guest Artists: Ippolito Chiarello, Kai Zen, Nikolay Oleynikov (Chto Delat? and more), Daniele Pario Perra, Peter Zuiderwijk
Campagna Urbana is a collaborative project between artists, activists, scholars, cultural producers, associations and citizens. It aims to open up new possibilities for social and political engagement in the city of Lecce. Through the use of artistic and cultural activities, artists and citizens work together to reimagine, reclaim and explore their city.
Campagna Urbana was conceived in two public phases. A first phase has been conducted in the Santa Rosa neighborhood, between September and October 2012, with a series of artistic interventions and public actions. The second phase was supposed to sum up the results of the first phase and to translate them into a cultural song, a contemporary reinterpretation of the troubadour tradition. Unfortunately this last phase, planned by the spring 2013, was unexpectedly canceled by Musagetes. You can imagine the disastrous impact this decision had on the inhabitants of the Santa Rosa neighborhood!
While the first phase aimed to understand the local issues and establish relationships with the inhabitants, the second was meant to experiment with new ways of raising awareness about public policy issues and foster creation of alternative models of production of the city generated from the grass roots.
Through these types of intervention, Campagna Urbana seeked to open up the disciplinary boundaries and develop new forms of appropriation of the city. At a time when the economy seems to be the only force for understanding and shaping society, Campagna Urbana had the ultimate goal of challenging the marginalization of culture as an agent of transformation of social relations and the public imagination in the city of Lecce.
Lecce, September & October 2012
The first phase of Campagna Urbana – September and October 2012 – is the dress rehearsal for a public performance by cantastorie (spontaneous entertainers who tell stories and sing songs) to be held next spring. In the Santa Rosa district of Lecce, a series of urban actions and artistic interventions have been held in public spaces in order to understand the local problems, establish ties with the inhabitants, and initiate the process of creating a collective storytelling.
The Urban Actions create a link between the artistic interventions and problems specific to the city through the work of artists in dialogue and partnership with citizens’ groups and associations, whose members are encouraged to become active participants. A collective of artists, activists, sociologists, cultural producers and citizens has the role of producing collaborative platforms by means of visual campaigns, urban actions and the temporary use of public space. The neighbourhood becomes a stage for experimenting with alternative models for imagining, reclaiming and living in the city.
The Urban Actions were open to everyone and free of charge. They ranged from collective writing with Kai Zen to the radical campaign with Peter Zuiderwijk, spontaneous creativity with Daniele Pario Perra, painting as radical activism with Nikolay Oleynikov, and performance and improvisation with Ippolito Chiarello.
See the Campagna Urbana site EN and IT
TheBrantClub, a project by Lucia Babina and Marjetica Potrč, took place 3–9 September 2012 as part of the Musagetes Foundation’s artistic program in Guelph, Canada. The project was conceived and produced during the period when the Guelph-Wellington Rural Urban Program was under way; this was a research program undertaken by the group Cohabitation Strategies and commissioned by Musagetes. The knowledge they assembled was of great help to the project in defining the area of action – the Brant neighbourhood in Guelph – and finalizing the three themes that would be developed through community activities: the natural assets at hand, space-making, and food accessibility. The Brant Club consisted of a program of events that encouraged the local community to rediscover their neighbourhood’s natural assets through excursions within the neighbourhood and to the nearby nature reserve; to rethink the neighbourhood space through group discussions with experts and city officials; and to become more involved in debates over local and organic food production and consumption by introducing Brant residents to the ecological food movement in Guelph. The project’s ultimate goal was to help people play a more active part in reshaping their lives in Brant.
The events took place in the Brant neighborhood in collaboration with the community of Brant:
Two nature walks, one in the Guelph Lake Conservation Area lead by the Gosling Foundation and one in the Brant neighbourhood lead by The Healthy Landscapes Program. The Guelph Lake Conservation Area is only minutes away from the neighbourhood and we found native plants. The second walk looked at natural features in Brant itself. This is an opportunity to think about how we can use the green spaces in the neighbourhood in new ways.
Excursion in the neighborhood.
Excursion in the neighborhood.
Excursion in the neighborhood.
Before starting the excursion in the Guelph Lake Conservation area.
How can we take back spaces in the neighbourhood? We collected people’s stories, observations and complaints about space regulations in the neighbourhood. We don’t complain enough! How can we have more freedom in our use of spaces? By sharing complaints we can identify what we want to change. We can then transform how we live in the neighbourhood. Residents are the local experts. They shared their knowledge with people who have professional knowledge about bylaws and regulations. Together we thought creatively about how to overcome the regulations and imagine new ways to use the different spaces in the neighbourhood.
The residents of Brant meet with Paul Kraehling, former city planner of Guelph and Brendan Johnson, director of Everdale.
Community Farm? (Dakota Park) What is organic food and how is it grown? Can I grow it myself? Together with Everdale Farms (Organic Farm and Environmental Learning Centre) we imagined the possibilities of growing our own food as a community in Brant. We also celebrated the Brant community with a picnic in Dakota Park. Different vegetables from the community garden, Everdale Farms and preserved food made by Vicki Beard’s family were available for sampling. There was a special performance by local musician James Gordon and the Summer Camp-a- Mania Kids, who sang songs that they wrote together.
Brendan Johnson (right), director of Everdale, Marjetica Potrč (first on the left) and the student Elizabeth Nowatschin discuss about the possibility of a vegetable garden in Dakota Park.
Gayle Goldstone of the Brant neighborhood group with Brendan Johnson and Frank Valeriotte (right), member of Parliament for Guelph.
Picnic in Dakota Park with the community of Brant.
James Gordon (volk singer) sings with Brant kids, with whom created songs about the neighorhood.
Gayle Goldstone, Brant neighborhood group member and community organizer for TheBrantClub.
The mural was hanged at the front wall of the Brant Avenue Public School. It tells the story of the Brant community, inspired by the growth of the neighbours working together on projects like: Brant Avenue Neighbourhood Group, Peer Leaders, Community Garden, Summer Camp-a-Mania, Garden Fresh, and Community Cafés. It also envisions the future of Brant as reflected in the community’s goals.
After TheBrantClub, the Brant Neighborhood group took the decision to continue the debate about redesigning Dakota Park, whose reorganization was one of the issues raised up during the Future Spaces workshop. They are currently negotiating with the municipality of Guelph the setting up of a vegetable garden and the addition of more facilities for children, in the park.
We would like to thank for making this project possible: Brant Avenue Public School, Brant Avenue Neighbourhood Group, Cohabitation Strategies, Everdale Farms, Guillermo Delgado Castaneda for his contribution to the mural, Healthy Landscapes Program (City of Guelph), Nature in the Neighbourhood (Gosling Foundation), Brant Summer Camp-a-Mania Kids, Upper Grand District School Board, and Vicki Beard.
Flyer announcing TheBrantClub program of events.
Text written during the preparation of the TheBrantClub.
In November 2011, we went to Guelph to learn about the city, its people, and their concerns. We brought with us knowledge harvested from our experience with the community garden and community kitchen in the Amsterdam project. The key concepts of that project animated our discussions in Guelph and provided a door for understanding the city and its specific rural–urban condition.
Below, the text in italic is adapted from our writings on The Cook, the Farmer, his Wife and their Neighbour1, while the regular text builds on these concepts, comparing the communities in Amsterdam and Guelph and anticipating our contribution to the 1m2 programme.
In 2008, Wilde Westen, a collective of architects, designers, cultural producers and artists (Lucia Babina is one of the members), was asked by a coalition of government bodies, private investors and the Amsterdam Chamber of Commerce to discover new economic opportunities for a district in decline: the New West district of Amsterdam. When presenting their research to the project commissioners, Wilde Westen outlined a methodology based on a long-term process of reappropriation, the redefining of community spaces, and the empowerment of local residents. This methodology would involve the participation of local residents and the deregulation of the use of the public space in order to encourage spontaneous initiatives, make room for innovative ideas, and create a sense of belonging among the residents. Unfortunately, Wilde Westen’s proposal was rejected.
Nevertheless, despite this refusal, Wilde Westen still wished to develop this methodology further, for it saw its role as a mediator between the residents and the housing corporations. It was at this moment, in late 2008, that the artist Marjetica Potrč, who had been invited by the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam to do a site-specific project in the New West district, joined forces with Wilde Westen.
Working together, they conceived and realized the project The Cook, the Farmer, His Wife and Their Neighbour: a community garden and community kitchen in the New West neighbourhood of Geuzenveld en Slotermeer. They initiated a two-year process of reappropriation and empowerment in what was then the largest redevelopment programme for a residential area in the European Union. At the end of 2009, a community of more than thirty families came together around the garden and the kitchen, with an eight-member committee that cared for the spaces, took pride in keeping the garden and kitchen open, and planned daily gardening and cooking activities, workshops, and a cultural programme for the neighbourhood.
Lucia Babina: The two-year process of the residents’ reappropriation of a garden and a kitchen in Amsterdam proved that our visionary idea was able to bring change. But this change could occur only if people were organized and empowered to transform their lives in the neighbourhood and city where they live. We went to Guelph with the intention of discovering a similar opportunity. In fact, what we found was an interesting community that has already been active for five years in promoting local food production and access to the land, including in the urban area, as a way to improve their living conditions and work toward social justice. We sensed it was important – in order to better understand the rural and urban character of Guelph and eventually to develop a project there – to find out more about the organizations that are most active in this regard, such as the Guelph-Wellington Food Round Table, Everdale, Sustainable Food Systems, Farmstart, and Transition Guelph. The research these groups have done is extraordinary, particularly because it challenges the current local and regional systems of food production and distribution. But this research has not yet concerned itself with the most marginalized members of society. There exists a clear gap between those who are presenting this important struggle for a better future and those who lack even the basic tools to improve their living conditions. This gap triggers our imagination and encourages us to think about a project involving urban rights awareness and social equality.
TURNING PUBLIC SPACE INTO COMMUNITY SPACE
In the 1950s a “garden city”, a Dutch version of modernism, was built on agricultural land west of Amsterdam’s city centre. As with many modernist developments, there was money for the buildings but not for developing the public space, which remained largely open and undefined. This turned out to be a happy accident, since in the 1970s open space represented the open democratic society. During the 1980s, however, this space turned into a no man’s land, and in the 1990s, many of the lots were fenced-off and became “look-only gardens” (kijkgroen). Residents paid for their maintenance but could not enter them. In 2004, facing bankruptcy, the City of Amsterdam handed the space over to housing corporations, an act that sealed the fate of public space in the district.
By engaging the residents of the neighbourhood, the project The Cook, the Farmer, His Wife and Their Neighbour overturned this perspective. The public space was personalized as community space. The space was not only reclaimed, it was also redefined. But beyond issues of space and place, the project visualized the potential of social architecture; it showed us that not only it was desirable for residents to participate in designing “their” city, it was also possible.
Marjetica Potrč: Can residents of the Brant neighbourhood imagine staying in the neighbourhood and not moving out as soon as their financial situation improves? Can the Brant neighbourhood become their own place, the place they choose to live in and not just a place of transition? Imagine people celebrating living in Brant, celebrating being a citizen of Guelph, celebrating their social contract with the city.
We believe that a community-building project is able to be a tool by which residents reclaim the neighbourhood as their own. Will this be a community garden and community kitchen, as in Amsterdam’s New West? These are already in place, although their existence is fragile. There is talk about using a plot behind the school for a future community centre, but there are financial and organizational obstacles to such plans. Can this empty land become a site for imagining a community space, a tool for reclaiming the neighbourhood? Can residents perform a social architecture, instead of living in what might possibly be container architecture?
The project The Cook, the Farmer, His Wife and Their Neighbour saw the low-income population of the New West district – mostly immigrant families – as an “added value” for building a sustainable neighbourhood.
MP: What does it mean to be poor? The Brant neighbourhood is the poorest in Guelph, poorer even than the Onward Willow neighbourhood. Although the residents might have similar incomes in the two neighbourhoods, those in Brant are also dealing with intergenerational poverty, which is more resistant to change, while the immigrants in Onward Willow are more curious about things and more open to changing their culture of living. Their involvement in gardening and their participation in many workshops show this. They have not lost their sense of the importance of locally grown food, and they have not forgot the benefits of belonging to a community.
In The Cook, the Farmer, His Wife and Their Neighbour, we saw that the residents rejected the twentieth-century modernist ideal of the metropolis and instead opted for a city composed of strong, smaller-sized neighbourhoods; in other words, the project proposed shrinking the city into smaller parts.
MP: A neighbourhood is the smallest sustainable element in a city. Brant is a small neighbourhood. But is it too small to construct an identity? Is it too small for residents to feel that they belong to a place? We don’t think so!
We had the choice of simply developing a depoliticized art project about urban green space, with the inevitable result of its being instrumentalized, or of creating a different kind of engagement in which cooking and growing vegetables served as rituals by which residents established roots in the neighbourhood, as forms of resistance against a forced nomadism – against the unending cycle of evictions and relocations.
LB: You have to engage in the society in order to change something. I don’t believe in autonomous art. But I do believe in independent thinking. Art should reflect reality and respond to it with provocation, reflection, questioning, or simply action that repeats itself as ritual. The messages rituals deliver are always embedded in the society and are renewed every time the ritual is performed. What kind of rituals need to be rediscovered in the Brant and Onward Willow communities? And what messages need to be questioned?
One of most striking things we learned from The Cook, the Farmer, His Wife and Their Neighbour was the importance of ritual for the community that tended the garden. For them, community was an organism: they worked on the land together. Working together was an act of empowerment through which they were intuitively reclaiming their community, their neighbourhood, and their city. They worked on the land not only to grow food for themselves, but also to “ground” themselves.
MP: We were told that the residents of the Brant neighbourhood did not want to take part in the planned workshops. Can the Brant residents learn through play by becoming involved in a ritual? In this way they would develop new perspectives; they would learn from each other and from people from outside the neighbourhood. They would construct new knowledge. Ritual can be a path toward the residents' empowerment.
COMMUNITY-BUILDING AND THE SURVIVAL OF CITIES
The Cook, the Farmer, His Wife and Their Neighbour proved that residents care about their neighbourhood, that over time they can develop a sense of ownership, that they have the right to construct their livelihood according to their own cultural expectations. They deserve the chance to decide where and how they want to live.
LB: The issue is to be able to articulate your rights in an urban environment. For this to happen, a community first has to take shape and organize itself. In this process, which is a process of empowerment, a sense of ownership of the place in which the community lives must develop and take root. The Onward Willow and Brant neighbourhoods are considered two of the most fragile areas in Guelph. The inhabitants are encouraged by the city and NGOs to participate in vegetable gardening and other activities in order to strengthen community cohesion and improve living conditions. But during our visits we saw that the residents are not yet fully empowered to decide how they want to live. These two neighbourhoods present compelling cases in which we can develop a “relational object” that residents interact with and that will eventually become a tool they use to change their culture of living. In the case of The Cook, the Farmer, His Wife and Their Neighbour, the relational object was the community garden and community kitchen.
If people can survive in the cities, the cities will survive as well. Community-building is not a utopian project; it is a much-needed laboratory of coexistence.
MP: Cities need strong neighbourhoods in order to survive. Residents establish strong neighbourhoods when they think of their neighbourhood not as a place of passage but as a place where they wish to remain. Residents are empowered when they belong to a place. Indeed, a group is more likely to be recognized by the society if they have their own physical place. The sense of belonging to a place is important for another reason as well: those who belong to a place become a nucleus that can resist shocks from the outside, but they can also reach out to others – and this is only natural.
With its focus on local food production and neighbourhood development, The Cook, the Farmer, His Wife and Their Neighbour redefined the state of urban–rural coexistence. We were proud that the community garden and community kitchen generated new connections between neighbours and between the neighbourhood and the municipality.
MP: It is inspiring to see how many people in Guelph are concerned about local food production and the kind of neighbourhood development that involves food, such as raising the quality of food for poorer residents. By doing so, they are redefining the state of urban–rural coexistence in a mid-sized city surrounded by farmlands, one that is now more aware than ever of its vital dependence on the natural environment. On the neighbourhood level, a community garden generates new connections between neighbours. With The Cook, the Farmer, His Wife and Their Neighbour, we saw how a successful community project can influence other communities to follow its example and adopt similar practices. It is natural for people to learn from each other. All in all, we see a new culture of living being generated by the citizens of Guelph – one example is the current Transition Guelph initiative, which aims to make Guelph a Fair Trade city. Guelph is a city in transformation.
LB: In Guelph, the rural and the urban coexist both naturally and historically. But it was only five years ago that Guelph started a conscious process of recovering and rediscovering its roots and character. What does the urban–rural dichotomy mean today for a mid-sized city like Guelph?
MP: Our experience with The Cook, the Farmer, His Wife and Their Neighbour gave us a better understanding of the importance of space and place-making. People occupy a space in an act of place-making. They seek to do this again and again, but there are always different issues involved. Can they rent a place? What are the laws? Do they need external assistance? Once they have a space, can they manage it and be in control? Is it possible to achieve the legal control of a place as a community? Space – a concept that initially sounds so abstract – acquires a body when we think of the community ownership of a place and the right of access to land. Can public space – a concept that was celebrated in the 20th century – be transformed into community space in the 21st century?
But when we talk about a community claiming a place, we must not forget, first of all, that a community is formed through its members’ involvement with a relational object. Community-building and place-making are closely related.
LB: Is it not time to abandon the notion of “publicness” and think again about alternative collective ways to build the spatial and social environments we want? Is there not a compelling need to radicalize the use of space and, instead of talking about new forms of coexistence, look for new forms of co-ownership?
COLLECTIVE ACTION DEVELOPS CRITICAL MASS
We decided to build our project by relying on our skills, bringing together our diverse knowledge and various convictions. We had a lot of visionary ideas and a methodology that had to be put to the test for the first time.
LB: We have a vision for Guelph – we have a vision for the Brant and Onward Willow neighbourhoods. This vision has met with certain criticism and concerns, but it has also sparked enthusiasm. We thought it would be good to start by challenging the already-existing resources and letting ourselves imagine a scenario in which we collaborate with residents, local institutions, independent organizations, and Musagetes to define and build alternative models of coexistence.
MP: Yes, it is important to have a vision.
The success of The Cook, the Farmer, His Wife and Their Neighbour was partly due to our collaboration with the most important contemporary art institution in Amsterdam: the Stedelijk Museum, which understood and agreed with our approach. The fact that such an influential institution was involved in the project opened up new opportunities and made it easier for us to achieve our goals.
LB: We believe that despite the difficulties of getting a project to work in Brant or Onward Willow, most obstacles can be overcome by working together with the residents, Musagetes, the city, the Food Round Table, other concerned organizations, and local experts. In The Cook, the Farmer, his Wife and their Neighbour, we learned that working across disciplinary and institutional borders opened up unexpected ways to realize challenging ideas.
“Redirective Practice” is a kind of collective action that demonstrates the process of cultural remaking. Consider the vast number of bottom-up initiatives across the world – they make us ask whether, taken all together, a critical mass is developing. When something has stopped working, people develop new practices. New practices are important.
BUT IS IT ART?
Typically, art-viewers coming over from the Stedelijk enjoyed seeing The Cook, the Farmer, His Wife and Their Neighbour, but they were also puzzled, for this functional project did not offer them any sort of object they could identify as “art”. Standing in the middle of the vegetable garden, they felt a little bit lost among the neighbourhood residents who were working on the land; they would turn to others from their group and ask – the way you do when you want to hear your own question reflected back to you – “Is this art?” We, however, saw nothing especially controversial here and were surprised when the question kept bouncing back to us. We had no trouble seeing the “object”, only it wasn’t an “object sculpture” – it was a relational object.
We believe in the beauty of art and the role of art in society. People need art. It mediates their relationship with the world. LB: But what is the difference between an artistic project that produces a community garden and a community kitchen and some other kind of social project? Is it the artist’s touch?
MP: Artists think outside the box, they open new perspectives. A gardener thinks about the plants. We artists thought of a garden as a community-building element: the garden was a tool for empowering the community and its understanding and interaction with their city.
GRAND AND SMALL-SCALE UTOPIAS
Joseph Beuys believed in the power of human creativity and in art’s ability to foster revolutionary change. Is it possible that his vision has taken root and that we are living it today? Not his grand utopian vision, perhaps, but a down-to-earth modest version of it, something that belongs to the real world.
LB: Victor Burgin has a point here: “The aspirations of those who would isolate art from the social world are analogous to those of Kant’s dove, which dreamed of how much freer its flight could be if only it were released from the resistance of the air. If we are to learn any lesson from the history of the past fifty years of art, it is surely that an art unattached to the social world is free to go anywhere but that it has nowhere to go.”2
This “something that belongs to the real world” we call a “relational object”. For those of us who are directly involved, it is a physical, bodily experience: we carry heavy bricks up the hill of a barrio or get our hands dirty planting vegetables in a community garden. We know that if you want to bring change to society, it is not enough just to talk.
MP: What will serve as a relational object for the neighbourhood in Guelph?
THE ARTIST AS MEDIATOR
In a time of collaboration, the artist is a mediator and the role of art is to mediate.
We, Marjetica Potrč and Wilde Westen, chose to work behind the scenes and to create a space where the community could settle. We made ourselves invisible and encouraged the local residents to become the protagonists of a process of change.
LB: The artist chooses to be a mediator, to leave the stage to the community of residents. The role of the artist is to trigger small invisible changes which lead to a more conscious sense of belonging and the residents’ affirmation of their rights. The task of the artist is to gradually detach herself from the project and let the community become the sole protagonist. But there will most likely be mistakes, and it is hard for a project not to be touched by the consequences of the mistakes that occur in the process.
By reaching out to the community in a shared endeavour, the artist and art become engaged in social processes that aspire to transform society from below. Along the way, the artist loses the aura of individual authorship and art loses its objectness.
MP: Art gains in the end. The community garden in The Cook, the Farmer, His Wife and Their Neighbour was an art project that people understood and interacted with. It brought a new perspective to what a garden can be and do. The general public accepted institutional critique as art some time ago. Now, the public is struggling to recognize community-based projects as art. The culture of living is in transformation and community-based art projects reflect this. Contemporary art, after all, must be based in contemporary culture.
The notion of art as mediation is disturbing to some in the contemporary art public. The controversy is more about the degree to which art and artists should get directly involved in society. Community-based projects feel too up-close and messy. They lack the safe distance of an institutional critique. What is interesting, however, is that both strategies have the same goal – to bring about social change.
MP: The main question is: what is contemporary culture, not what is art. Art depends on culture. Art as a relational object is a tool for changing the culture.
Lucia Babina and Marjetica Potrč, 2011
1 The non-italic passages have been excerpted (with minor changes) from: Lucia Babina, “The Invisible Change” (2010); Marjetica Potrč, “Is This Art? – The Relational Object in a Shared Space” (2010); and Marjetica Potrč, “Participatory Design” (2011).
2 Victor Burgin, “Work and Commentary” (1973), Situational Aesthetics: Selected Writings, ed. Alexander Streitburger (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2010), pp. 40–41.
The Market Academy Naschmarkt is a research project by Lucia Babina and Henriette Waal that addresses the Naschmarkt, the “monumental” market of Vienna, as it was designed by the architect Otto Wagner in the first decade of the Twentieth century.
Naschmarkt demands for a transformation in order to survive. A radical change needs a cultural revolution that springs and develops from inside the market, from the market’s people, who are the “experts” of a market in transition. It requires a collective effort that entitles them to create the conditions for a transformation, which empowers them to redefine a market system and new parameters of sustainability.
The Market Academy Naschmarkt is an experimental factory for the invention of new practices and the stimulus of new forms of entrepreneurial attitudes. It is an engaging instrument, encouraging market people to come together and to make space for a collective regeneration of the market.
We would like to thank: Marjetica Potrč, Birgit Lurz, Wolfgang Schlag, Edith Spira, Tateus, Mario Berber, Maincz, Daniela & Erwin Gegenbauer, Amoni and Julia, Oemer Karagoez, Goekhan Umar, Ibrahim Shebahim, Ahmad, Helge Mooshammer & Peter Moertenboeck, Peter Kleinhans, Andreas Weber, Angelika Herburger, Barbara Neuroth, Manfred Rakousky, Kili Schmidt, Lisa-Yvonne Heimgartner, Lucas Woerdehoff, Carmen Rueter, Hannes Schreckensberger, Goetz Bury, Christian Daschek, Bernhard, Mina, Gehsteig Guerrilleros, Elke Krasny, WochenKlausur, Gerald Nestler.
The Market Academy Naschmarkt was inaugurated the 29th May 2010, in the Naschmarkt (Vienna) on occasion of the exhibition Into the City - Im Paradiesgarten (29 May - 5 June 2010), as part of the Wiener Festwochen (Vienna), curated by Birgit Lurz. It launched 5 actions: MAN-Reception, MAN-Knoedel Fakultaet, MAN-Talks, MAN-Pamphlet, MAN-Drechsler.
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Urban Union is a project by Cohabitation Srategies, a Rotterdam based cooperative for socio-spatial development that focuses its actions, designs and research inside the conditions of conflict and exclusion of the contemporary city. It is part of a long-term research focusing on 'segregation'in the neighborhood of Tarwewijk (Rotterdam, NL).
Urban Union is an experimental urban research program grounded in the district of Tarwewijk in the south of Rotterdam, yet with a focus on the broader influences and implications of the overall urban scale of The Netherlands. The program will define in the process a common ground for progressive academic research and neighbourhood-based action research. The objective is to construct a unitary understanding of the city informing the design of carefully calibrated urban strategies that empower citizens in becoming active participants in the making of their environment. The unitary understanding provides also socially responsible recommendations, direction and reform strategies to the different organizations in charge of urban development.
The research was launched by a three-days event The Other City: Exposing Tarwewjik (9-11 December 2009) encompassing a series of public workshops, excursions and presentations were prepared with the goal of discussing possibilities to design alternative cohabitation models, stimulate difference in socio-spatial relations and construct parallel local economies in Tarwewijk, a vulnerable and segregated neighborhood in the south of Rotterdam included in this year’s list of the 40 most ‘problematic’ neighborhoods of the Netherlands. This neighborhood is an exemplary urban case study that reflects the socio-spatial casualties of the Dutch neoliberal trend of urbanization.
Invited contributors at the The Other City: Exposing Tarwewjik event were: Alonso Ayala, Wim Blauw, Libia Castro, Aetzel Griffioen, Vinca Kruk, Ólafur Ólafsson, Thomas Purcell, Erik Swyngedouw, Daniel van der Velden, Piet Vollard, Gon Zifroni.
This event was part of the 4th International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam Open City Event Program.
Exposing Tarwewjik has been produced with the support of Nederlands Architectuurinstituut, Eric Dullaert from Cultureel Denkwerk, Deelgemeente Charlois, Woonstad, dS+V, Berlage Institute, IHS and ART Hotel Rotterdam.
Download the research in preparation of the The Other City: Exposing Tarwewjik event.
Talking About! is a program from 6th to 19th September 2009 that brings six artists and cultural producers from Cameroon to the Netherlands. The guests are:
- Ruth Belinga (artist, curator, Yaoundé)
- Goddy Leye (artist, founder of artist’s initiative Art Bakery, Douala)
- Hervé Youmbi (artist, member of the collective Cercle Kapsiki, Douala)
- Achillekà Komguen (artist, editor of newspaper Diartgonale, Yaoundé)
- Lionel Manga (writer, Douala)
Achille Atina (cultural mediator, Douala)
The first week involves visits to a number of Dutch art institutions and initiatives, providing our guests with an overview of the Dutch cultural scene. Interspersed within these visits there have been several moments of discussion, open to the public or to an invited audience. These events have been hold at:
- Rijksakademie, Amsterdam
- Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam
- WORM, Rotterdam
- Stroom, The Hague
- Enough Room For Space, Rotterdam
- Attent, Rotterdam
For the second week, each guest has been introduced to a “host”, an institution or organization with whom they could work with a view to exchanging information and ideas. This placement is designed to give a framework to the visit and to facilitate possibilities for the dialogues that take place during Talking About! to continue after our guests have returned home. The hosts are the following initiatives/institutions:
- Het Wilde Weten, Rotterdam
- Duende, Rotterdam
- FGA Magazine, Rotterdam
- iStrike Foundation, Rotterdam
- Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam
- Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven
The objectives of Talking About! are:
- Starting a peer-to-peer dialogue between professionals with various backgrounds and experiences whose activities and projects are influenced by – and are able to affect – the diverse contexts in which they operate.
- The challenging or opening up of established ways of thinking.
- Recognizing the equal value of their different expertise and practices and drawing upon that knowledge as a possible starting point for productive confrontation and exchange.
- Creating a network of interested parties who might want to develop further collaborations in the future, depending on their individual interests, possibilities, and connections.
- Establishing an alternative form of cross-cultural interaction.
- Avoiding a purely Euro-centric way of thinking and the all too common paternalism still present in European cultural projects linked to Africa.
Talking About! was intended to be - and became - a platform of discussion for the participants (guests, hosts) and the audience of Rotterdam. In order to give relevance to what happened during Talking About! and to further encourage a discussion, Fucking Good Art (Rotterdam) and DIARTgonale (Douala) are creating a joint edition of their magazines dedicated to this experience. The publication is coming out at the end of Februrary 2010.
Talking About! is a project of Lucia Babina and Zoe Gray and is supported by the Mondriaan Foundation, Dienst Kunst en Cultuur (Rotterdam) and the Centrum voor Beelende Kunst (Rotterdam).
See the Talking About!blog
More photos documenting Talking About!
Visits in Amsterdam organized by Mondriaan Stichting
Visits in Amsterdam organized by Mondriaan Stichting
Event I am Public in Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art Rotterdam. © Kirsten de Graaf
Event I am Public in Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art Rotterdam. © Kirsten de Graaf
Discussion in Enough Room for Space Rotterdam
Visit to Stroom Den Hague
Visit to De Fabriek Rotterdam
Visit to Kunst & Complex
Visit to Fam Ruim Rotterdam
Introduction to the magazine Fucking Good Art
Film screening in Worm
Writing About! is a special edition of Fucking Good Art, guest edited by Lucia Babina and Zoë Gray. It features contributions by Ruth Afane Belinga, Libia Castro & Ólafur Ólafsson, Marjolijn Dijkman, Emiliano Gandolfi, Rob Hamelijnck & Nienke Terpsma, Achillekà Komguem, Goddy Leye, Lionel Manga, Annette Schemmel, Achille Atina Tah, Alexander Vollebregt and Hervé Youmbi.
In September last year, six artists and arts professionals were invited to spend two weeks in the Netherlands, as part of the international exchange project Talking About! After months of intercontinental conversation, the printed follow-up is hot off the press.
Fucking Good Art - Writing About! (FGA#25 April 2010)
Wednesday 21st April, 6.30 - 8.30 pm
Location: Beat Burger / Roodkapje, Meent 119 133, Rotterdam
For more information on the publication, see Fucking Good Art
For details of the project Talking About!, see Talking About! website
For information on the venue, see Roodkapje
Talking About! was supported by the Mondriaan Foundation, Centrum voor Beeldende Kunst Rotterdam, Dienst Kunst en Cultuur Rotterdam.
See the entire movie ZUID
Moving in Free Zones #2 is aimed to give voice to inhabitants of Charlois (Rotterdam, NL). By means of a film iStrike, together with the filmmaker Jacopo Mario Gandolfi, got in contact with local residents and entered their intimate sphere.
STATEMENT OF THE FILMMAKER
This film seeks to tell the stories of the lives and relationships of people living in Charlois, a district in South of Rotterdam near the port. Charlois's roads, buildings, junctions and high streets apparently tell us nothing about the people who inhabit them. Denied the points of reference that I would normally count on, the stories of the places were actually revealed to me through the local people's faces and gestures. Following the lines on these faces I uncovered memories of a city whose seemingly lost past speaks through the rhythm of a poetry that initially seemed unimaginable. I hope with this film to repay that which has been offered up to me.
Moving in Free Zones #2 is a project which implied the realization of a workshop involving inhabitants of Oud-Charlois, Carnisse and Tarwewijk (South of Rotterdam) and students of Urban Body/TU Delft in order to produce the film ZUID in collaboration with the filmmaker Jacopo Mario Gandolfi. MFZ#2 took place from 6 April to 31 July 2009 and was realized in collaboration with Urban Body/TU Delft.
The intention of the workshop was to understand the use of the public space by the inhabitants of Charlois and to stimulate dreams, whishes and aspirations of inhabitants concerning their future lives in the neighborhood, by means of a film. The process of the film involved a film-maker, inhabitans of Charlois and students of Urban Body/TU Delft to interact and create the sequences of the film. The film portrays the neighborhood by telling about 6 stories belonging to 6 main characters and extras which are selected inhabitants of the submentioned areas. The 6 private stories converge in the last sequence of the film in which inhabitants re-appropriate a public square and reveal themselves and their dreams in the public sphere by changing it. In respect to that, the task of the students of Urban Body/TU Delft was to understand and to translate dreams of the inhabitants/characters into installations which have been built in Moerkerkeplein (Tarwewijk) on occasion of the last sequence. This last sequence was conceived also as a public event for the neighborhood which consolidated our presence in there and stimulated new design proposals by Urban Body/TU Delft’s students concerning the public domain in Charlois.
Due to the former experience of Moving in Free Zones #1, iStrike was able to propose some characters/inhabitants willing to work in the film. During the pre-production phase, the film-maker was able to spend time with the characters, in order to get to know them, to create mutual trust and to build a common ground to work together on the film. In particular he met them in order to explain about the intentions of the film, to build specific sequenses based on them, their dreams and their special stories. In the meanwhile students of Urban Body/TU Delft explored the three areas Oud-Charlois, Tarwewijk and Carnisse by doing “derives” (walking) through the areas and by meeting experts who could give them an insight into the neighborhood (such as Kamiel Verschuren artist and activist of Stichting BAD, Gary Asselbergs economist living in Oud-Charlois, Kees Koot social worker of Tarwewijk, Romeo Gambier social worker living in Carnisse, Franklin Geerman social worker of The Mall in Tarwewijk). They also met the housing corporations Vestia and Woonstad to get to know current and future urban plans in the areas and produced two kind of maps:
- evolutionary maps, reporting about the history of the three areas;
- sensetional maps collecting any kind of information useful to understand the areas from both a scientific and a cultural point of view.
Students of Urban Body/TU Delft attended a 10-days workshop in the studio Pompstraat in Oud-Charlois in order to design, to realize and to construct 3 main installations. They collaborated with artists running studio Pompstraat (Oud-Charlois). The installations were aimed at building the film-setting of the last sequence of the film taking place 23 May 2009 in Moerkerkeplein in Tarwewijk. Students have formed 3 groups focusing on the three different areas: Oud-Charlois, Tarweweijk and Carnisse. They interacted with 3 characters/inhabitants living in the three different areas in order to understand and to translate their dreams and special stories into installations in the public space. Those installations turned up to represent different ways of living the public space (a public domain for different public), such as the square Moerkerkeplein. Installations are conceived to be temporary and to be tested in the public space the 23 May 2009, as part of the last sequence of the film. Students learnt to reverse their point of view and instead of a top-down perspective they experienced a bottom-up one, by listenig to ideas and dreams of inhabitants (main characters of the film). It was also the first time that they could, in their study program, accomplish a complete construction process: from conception, to design, to realization, to installation and to test in the public space. In the meanwhile the flilmmaker kept on working with inhbatitants/characters to build up the script and with students in order to finalize proposals for the final sequence.
© Unrban Synergy
SHOOTING DAYS (15-16 MAY 2009)
Shooting days required a lot of preparation and they have been condensed in three different days. 15 and 16 May 2009 are aimed to build up the individual stories of the 6 main characters/inhantiants and to portray Charlois from their points of view, from their dreams and special stories. 23 May 2009 is aimed at converging the 6 stories into a re-created public space in which different groups of people, their various expectations and dreams can cohabit. Those first two days give a perspective of the neighborhood, in relation to the rest of the city and its history, by giving a portray of local inhabitants with their own desires and dreams. The intention of those sequences is to experience and re-discover Charlois by sharing with inhabitants also their intimate sphere: by entering their private houses, by investigating their own aspirations and unexpressed qualities. Those two shooting days are also devoted to build a positive image of the neighborhood.
INSTALLATION (23 May 2009)
Saturday 23 May 2009 is the last shooting day which took place in the square Moerkerkeplein in Tarwewijk. This day has a threefold function: shooting the last sequence of the film in the public space; setting up installations produced by students according to inhabitants’ dreams; organizing a public event by sharing food and music with residents and local audience. The three installations have been temporary set up in the square by students themselves on Saturday morning, 23 May 2009 and have been developed as follow:
- Installation inspired by Harry Wols (Oud-Charlois group), the history keeper of Charlois. Several panels compose a playful maze which has got in the middle a small old-style room, representing the memory, the history. His dream is to spread also to young generations the history of Charlois and so that to bring forward the identity of the place.
- Installation inspired by Dames Birasol Club (Tarwewijk group), Antillian women. A meeting room for them and decorated by them. The room is surrounded by panels that create an intimate space but at the same time not completely closed, everybody is welcome. Those women meet up regularly in order to preserve their original culture and traditions but they are always open towards newcomers, especially by sharing dance and food as part of their heritage.
- Installation inspired by Romeo Gambier (Carnisse group), dj and social worker. His dream is to bring music everywhere and to engage with people or to make people meet through his music. The structure is an on wheel stage suitable for a dj which can move around and play his music in the public space. Thanks to mirrors installed on the top of this structure his performance can be looked by any angle.The installations have been installed and inhabited by the characters and local residents.
PUBLIC EVENT (23 May 2009)
Film crew shot 4 sequences in the public square in Moerkerkeplein:
- ABC Brassband parade throughout Tarwewijk
- Birasol Dames Club celebrating their culture and sharing food with us and residents or bypassers
- Dj Fader (Romeo Gambier) performing from his mobile structure in front of a diverse public
- The maze of Harry Wols used and inhabited by kids in the neighborhood by playing with it.
The 4 sequences have been used for the film but have functioned also as a trigger to re-inhabit the square: by sharing food, by listening to music, by dancing and celebrating altogehter a common space for a different public (as you can see also in the film). The installations functioned as film settings but also stimulated various reactions amongst the characters/inhabitants and amongst the attendants (such as kids), which used them in different ways. Moreover the installations inspired students to undertake the next study phase: TU Delft, Vestia and Woonstad asked students to design proposals for the public space in the neighborhood. Especially characters, expressed the will to keep the installations in the square in order to become permanent. The project and the public event turned into a trigger to re-discuss about plans on the public space and in particular about the role of Moerkerkeplein, with Deelgemeente Charlois, Vestia, Woonstad and the residents.
Post-production is devoted to reach two main results and to engender several follow-ups. Results are the following:
- production of the film ZUID
- realization of design proposals by students of Urban Body TU/Delft concerning public space in Charlois and especially in Oud-Charlois, Tarwewijk and Carnisse.
The two results have been accomplished (see the dvd and the cd) and presented the 26 June 2009 in the Art Hotel (Tarwewijk). Thanks to the Deelgemeente Charlois and Eric Dullaert (Cultureel Denkwerk), parts of the installations of Moerkerkeplein have been located in the Art Hotel, till the end of July, and photos documenting the Moving in Free Zones #2 process have been shown there as well. The exhibition opened the 26 June 2009 with a public presentation of the film ZUID and of the design proposals of the students.
Follow-ups are the following:
- film will be submitted to several festivals (such as IRFFl, IDFA, etc.). The film will be presented in Rotterdam as a live performance (applications to TENT and Lantaren Venster are in process) : film screening and live music executed by Opera Mutica. - Vestia and Woonstad are interested to develop further students’ proposals.
- After a meeting with Rob Luca (Deelgemeente Charlois wijkbeheercoordinator) and Eric Dullaert (Cultureel Denkwerk), 22 July 2009 in Art Hotel, Deelgemeente Charlois is interested to develop new innovative projects with iStrike foundation and UrbanBody/TU Delft concerning the public space and by involving residents in a more active way.
The Moving in Free Zones #2 project achieved material and immaterial results.
- Production of the film ZUID with the involvement of the inhabitants as main characters
- Organization of the last shooting day in the public square Moerkerkeplein as a public event (23 May 2009)
- Realization of design proposals for the public space by students of Urban Body/TU Delft
- Exhibition and final presentation of the project, the film and the design proposals (26 June 2009)
- Raised interest amongst Vestia, Woonstad and Deelgemeente Charlois about developing new projects with iStrike foundation and TU Delft cocerning public space in and residents’ participation (after the meeting of 22 July 2009)
- Stimulated dreams and aspirations concerning different use of the public space and future life in the neighborhood
- Consolidated our presence in Charlois and relationships with key-residents
- Improved learning process of TU Delft students (full accomplishement of construction process and reversed their top-down point of view)
- Gained in trust among Vestia, Woonstad and Deelgemeente Charlois
- Opened up perspectives to develop further innovative projects about public space with residents’ participation
Moving in Free Zones #2 was made possible by: Dienst Kunst en Cultuur Rotterdam, Deelgemeente Charlois, Woonstad, TU Delft (supported also by Cultureel Denkwerk, EFL, Vestia).
December 2009 Cohabitation Strategies started a research on the neighborhood Tarwewijk (South of Rotterdam) based also on Moving in Free Zones #1 and #2. Research was discussed and processed during the workshop The Other City: Exposing Tarwewijk which took place 8-11 December 2009 and organized by Cohabitation Strategies, in collaboration with IABR 2010 (Segregation section). Accordingly the film ZUID was used as part of this research and was presented during the IABR 2010 in the NAi Rotterdam on occasion of the the final rountable of the workshop (11 December 2009). After the film presentation ABC Brassband (Tarwewijk) performed and Bana Diop Mbacke from the restaurant La Senegalaise (Tarwewijk) cooked delicious snacks from Senegal.
The Cook, the Farmer, His Wife and Their Neighbor - De kok, de kweker, zijn vrouw en hun buurman
Marjetica Potrč and Wilde Westen
From 18 April 2009 on
Amsterdam Nieuw West
The Cook, the Farmer, His Wife and Their Neighbor, a participatory project by the Slovene artist and architect Marjetica Potrč and Wilde Westen - a group of young designers, architects and cultural producers -, combines visual art and social architecture to redefine the village green. Community vegetable gardens become a tool by which the residents of Amsterdam Nieuw West reclaim ownership of their neighbourhood at a time when demolition and redevelopment are causing many to feel uprooted. In the 1950s, the garden city of Nieuw West was constructed on former farmland as a modernist project; today this Amsterdam suburb is one of the largest residential redevelopment sites in Europe. With their project The Cook, the Farmer, his Wife and Their Neighbor, Potrč and Wilde Westen, in collaboration with the residents of the multicultural Geuzenveld-Slotermeer district, reflect on this history and celebrate a return to local food production. Here, farming and cooking are viewed as a way for people to share knowledge and traditions, and a means for the cultural renewal and rebirth of the neighbourhood. Beginning April 18, 2009, the house at Lodewijk Van Deysselstraat 61 in Amsterdam starts becoming a meeting point open to residents, friends and guests, as well as those involved in the many local initiatives already taking place in Nieuw West. Over the year in which The Cook, the Farmer, His Wife and Their Neighbor developed, however, the neighbourhood residents themselves became the most important people involved, and after Harvesting Day, on September 27, 2009, they took over its management. They formed a committee of eight residents, which is responsible for the two spaces.
The community garden and community kitchen are located in the Geuzenveld en Slotermeer district, which is part of the post-war modernist development of West Amsterdam. A previously unused house at Lodewijk van Deyssel Street 61 is now a community kitchen and a meeting place for the community that has formed around the project. It provides a centre around which the community can engage in the process of “building a place” – a much-needed ritual in a climate where families experience continual resettlement. Beyond the core group of residents, the community kitchen attracts other residents, too, who take part in the activities there. With its open-door policy, now in effect for a full year, the community kitchen has also brought security to the street, another added value for the neighbourhood.
The community vegetable garden is located behind the kitchen on land that used to be fenced off. Today, twenty-two families from seven ethnic groups take care of the garden. Opening up the fenced-off lot can be understood as a form of reappropriation of the land by the residents and a symbolic act that articulated their need to be involved in redesigning their neighbourhood (Text by Marjetica Potrč, 2009).
The Cook, the Farmer, his Wife and their Neighbor derived from a research that Wilde Westen carried out in 2008 and is realized in collaboration with Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, within the initiative Stedelijk Goes West.
The project was selected for the 4th International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR) – Open city: Designing cohexistence – Squat city at the NAI from the 25th Sep 2009 to the 10th Jan 2010. It won third prize in the Squat City competition. The competition rewards projects that negotiate between the integrating and segregating forces and enable people of diverse cultures and lifestyles to connect and interact.
The Cook, the Farmer, his Wife and their Neighbor was shortlisted, "for its outstanding quality", from a list of 120 cases researched around the world, by the jury of the International Award for Public Art IAPA. An international jury convened by the Global Research Institute for Public Art (GRIPA) sponsored by the College of Fine Arts at Shanghai University. Ceremony was held during the Public Art Forum on 29 March-1 April 2013 in Shanghai, China.
The project was reviewed in "Utopia: of its Past and Present, Susan Cross and Vivien Greene on Utopia Matters", Deutsche Bank online magazine ArtMag, Issue 58, December 2009 (see here).
© Marjetica Potrč and Wilde Westen
Marjetica Potrč studied in her native city of Ljubljana, first as an architect and later as a visual artist. Her way of working follows a movement in the art world that places an emphasis on interactivity and participation, often with a social orientation. In recent years, she has carried out projects in Caracas (Venezuela), Rajasthan (India) and New Orleans (USA). She often works in collaboration with local communities and usually focuses on daily life in the city, on living and infrastructure. Potrc seeks out practical solutions for everyday problems, such as water and electricity supply. One example of her approach is the “Dry Toilet”, which she developed in informal city of Caracas, is one of a series of community-focused on-site projects by Potrc that are characterized by participatory design and a concern with sustainability issues, particularly in relation to energy and water infrastructures. Her preparatory drawings increasingly form an important part of her oeuvre; she has been invited by Daniel Birnbaum to display a large selection of her drawings at the Venice Biennale 2009. Potrc won the prestigious Hugo Boss Prize in 2000 and exhibited her work in the accompanying exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Wilde Westen is a collective group of young designers, architects and cultural producers. By combining different disciplines they initiate open, dynamic and participatory processes that respond to urban and social needs of cities in transition. Their interdisciplinary work is focused on reactivating urban spaces by involving inhabitants in order to reimagine urban renewal and how we live together]. Their latest project is The Cook, the Farmer, his Wife and their Neighbor, which is realized in collaboration with Marjetica Potrc and is about a community garden and a community kitchen in Amsterdam West (The Netherlands). The members of Wilde Westen are: Lucia Babina/iStrike, Eva Pfannes and Sylvain Hartenberg/Ooze, Reinder Bakker and Hester van Dijk/ Overtreders-W, Merijn Oudenampsen and Henriette Waal.
Lucia Babina is a cultural producer with specific interests on how culture and art can affect urban areas. Her projects produce visions, interpretations and actions that are affecting the way we see, use and inhabit the urban realm. She is founder of iStrike foundation in Rotterdam, an environmental organization aimed at creating multidisciplinary platforms of analysis, comparison, and international exchange. She is co-founder of Cohabitations Strategies, a cooperative for socio-spatial development, with which she has been developing projects at international level.
Ooze is an international practice engaged in art, architecture and urban projects. Ooze strives to create environments which can be perceived in various subjective ways. The different meanings that can be given to our interventions create openness and are able to integrate users. We want to give various users the freedom to occupy a room, a building or a piece of the city and to develop it further in their own way. We strive to start processes which lead to informal spatial solutions. We have been applying our strategy to public spaces ranging from small to large scale, such as exhibition spaces for TENT contemporary museum, Rotterdam, art installations for for Emscherkunst.2010, where our interventions integrate the observers spatially, a strategy for Amsterdam West, where we proposed initiatives to make informal economic activities visible, or architectural interventions in the port area of Ijmuiden that make use of different regional forces. We derive the drive for our projects from a thorough analysis of interpretations, narratives and inspirations of the users of the space.
Merijn Oudenampsen is a free lance researcher, specializing in political and urban issues. He studied urban sociology and political science at the UvA in Amsterdam. His interests range from urban megaprojects, citybranding, the creative city to utopian architecture, social engineering and the postpoliticalness of it all. You can find his articles off- and online, in places such as de Groene Amsterdammer, Waterland, Open Cahiers, Mute Magazine, Metropolis M, and Archined. He is part of the platform Flexmens.org and intermittently (co-)organises conferences and debates, such as Vox Populi (KNAW, 2009) Migrant Media Metropolis (de Balie, 2008) en het Publieke Verlangen (de Balie, 2007).
Overtreders W (Tresspassers W) is spatial design studio, established by Reinder Bakker and Hester van Dijk. With their designs they strive to make people feel at home. 'Home' means different things: feeling at home deals with more than one's own house, it depends on the quality of other places you regularly visit, such as the street where your house is, the park around the corner, the road you take when going to work, your office or the hospital you go to cure a broken leg. These secondary home places are what Overtreders W work on. Our designs make space for the dreams and ambitions of people living there. Projects done by Overtreders W are The Cook, the Framer His Wife and their Neighbour (in cooperation with WIlde Westen, 2009), Visitors Centre" de Oostvaarders" (Almere, 2009) and bicycle tunnel "Pixelpoort" (Zaandam, 2009).
Henriette Waal is a public space researcher and designer interested in local culture and cultural signs in relation to the public domain. In her projects Waal combines on-site fieldwork with a strongly conceptual approach.The result can manifest itself as a new spacial use. Besides physical interventions she produces image, film and text. Currenty she is researching the relation between food and the city in different projects. In a recent project in Tilburg (NL) she developed an outside brewery as a tool for a drinkable landscape together with the homebrewers of that area.
See the blog The Cook, the Farmer, his Wife and their Neighbor and the Wilde Westen's research
iStrike started working on Moving in Free Zones #2 in May 2008 by producing a documentary together with the filmmaker Jacopo Mario Gandolfi. The short documentary is a first preparatory investigation on the use of the public space and on space-making in Charlois (South of Rotterdam, NL). We interviewed key figures living and working in the district and tried to understand how to operate during the second phase accomplished in 2009: the production of a film which involves inhabitants as main characters.
During the production of the short documentary we got in touch with several organizations which introduced us to the area and its problematics, such as: Dames Club Birasol, Stichting B.a.d., Tarwewijk Buurtpost, Victory Outreach Church, Charlois Welzijn, The Mall, etc.
The short documentary focuses on two case studies: a garden in Oud-Charlois, a first experiment of semi-public space; and the Tarwewijk Buurtpost as a social hub and a network tool in a neighborhood that, especially in the '90s, was considered one of the most dangerous in NL.
We confronted the two cases by giving two different perspectives of using and conceiving public space nowadays in Rotterdam. The short documentary involves overall 7 people in Charlois and lasts 17 minutes. It was edited with the support of the Nieuwe Rotterdamse Cultuur.
Moving in free Zones #2 (step 0)
Charlois (Rotterdam, NL) 19 May 2008 - 8 June 2008
Time: 17 min.
Written by: Lucia Babina and Jacopo Mario Gandolfi
Directed by: Jacopo Mario Gandolfi
Produced by: Lucia Babina/iStrike
Camera by: Eva Sauer
Edited by: Cosimo Terlizzi
Cast: Harry Wols, Gary Asselbergs, Selma Quirindongo, Kamiel Verschuren, Kees Koot, Jerry Mendeszoon, Magda Gambier
MFZ# 2 (step 0) has been made possible with the financial support of Stichting Nieuwe Rotterdamse Cultuur
Moving in Free Zones #2 (step 0) - part 1
Moving in Free Zones #2 (step 0) - part 2
Wilde Westen is a pilot program defining the outline of an urban strategy for the renewal of west Amsterdam Tuinsteden. The program entails an array of software and hardware initiatives and interventions organically connected to Geuzenveld-Slotermeer, Osdorp, Soltervart and Bos-en-Lommer around the Sloterplas. The program is based on an open, dynamic and participatory process that grows and evolves according to the exerted impact on the addressed urban and social context. The program is an initiative of Wild West Foundation, a diverse coalition of entrepreneurs, designers, researchers, government bodies, and property developer.
Go to the Wilde Westen website
1. To promote entrepreneurship and a vibrant live-work environment in the western garden cities of Amsterdam.
2. To identify, connect and develop the local economy, education, urban initiatives.
3. To develop alternative models for urban development.
From Software to Hardware Wilde Westen strategy is inverting the usual practice of restructuring city district by proposing a bottom-up approach.
Throughout the organization of events, the development of networks and interventions in public space initiatives ofentrepreneurs and residents eventually solidify into physical developments.
The Wilde Westen Programma’s aim to improve the image of the area, to stimulate the identity and promotes a sense ofbelonging amongst its population. It reveals the complexity and multicultural aspect of its community of residentsand entrepreneurs and use it as a positive and rich value for the development of the neighbourhood. It stimulates creativity and innovation on a professional scale and an ambitious and emancipator approach on a life scale. It promotes a Re-appropriation and reuse of the existing spaces which enable participation and creates social inclusion.
Here above the research and its implementation through the project The Cook, the Farmer, his Wife and their Neighbor and its blog
Location: Amsterdam West – NL
Area: 32.6 km2
Starting year: 2008
Team: Eva Pfannes – OOZE, Sylvain Hartenberg – OOZE, Reinder Bakker - Overtreders-W, Hesther van Dijk - Overtreders-W, Lucia Babina – iStrike, Robbert de Vrieze – Gevondenontwerpen, Henriette Waal
See Geheugen van West
3R's Maroc 21 (Partition III) took place in the middle of Afrikaandermarkt in Rotterdam, on Saturday 28 June 2008,- Afrikaandermaarkt was the stage for the project - initiated by the artist Seamus Farrell and curated by Abdellah Karroum and Lucia Babina -, whose first part, in a form of a workshop, was realized in Martil (Morocco) in August 2007. The project is part of Multipistes, a cooperative art-project involving international curators and artists.
The workshop involved young people from Morocco and from the rest of Africa in order to reinvent an entrepreneurial and environmental craftsmanship based on reusing and recycling glass material and to produce daily-life, design and artistic objects.
© Adolfo Estrada
Abdellah Karroum asked me to co-curate the phase of 3R's Maroc 21 taking place in Rotterdam, therefore he invited me to go to Morocco where I visited the workshop space and was introduced by him to some of the participants. They are eager students of the school of art of Tetouan and some of the most important Moroccan artists, such as: Faouzi Laatiris, Younès Rahmoun, Batoul Shimi. They described their experience of last year, with Seamus, as a triggering chance to establish enduring relationships amongst the group and an opportunity to exchange ideas and sharing knowledge. They see in the workshop a potential to reflect on the role of art as a trigger of development and to create more platforms for communication within and without the workshop itself. I left Morocco with a typical tent and the idea to camp the workshop in Afrikaandermarkt, that is the most important market in the South of Rotterdam. 30.000 people visit it every week, and especially Saturdays, to go shopping. Afrikaandermarkt is situated in a multicultural city area particularly populated by residents of Moroccan, Turkish, Surinam and Antillian descent.
More photos © Adolfo Estrada
We sublet part of a stand in Afrikaandermarkt and Seamus Farrell, with the help of the assistant Mohssin Harraki, re-enacted and re-interpreted the workshop in a Dutch market context that functioned as a working space (production of objects), as a business space (selling produced objects) as a communication space (a showcase of the workshop in Martil), as a platform for a debate about artistic processes as triggers of development in different contexts and the relevance of those ones. The aim was to engage with the visitors of the market, to explain the intentions of the project, to make it organically grow by creating a link between The Netherlands and Morocco.
© Seamus Farrell
© Seamus Farrell
Stoelendans verhalen uit de stad or Singing Chairs - Voices and stories from the City is a collective performance about multiple ways of experiencing a city. 60 storytellers reveal, in a vis-à-vis conversation with the audience, their ways of using, remembering and living the city of Rotterdam. Visitors can listen to three 20 minutes stories and collect a multiple gaze of how the city can be perceived, narrated and shared.
Singingchairs' setting © Emiliano Gandolfi and Lucia Babina
Concept and curator: Lucia Babina
Assistant curator: Hibo Aidrous Ali
Time: 4 May 2008, from 4 pm up to 6 pm
Realized: within the Happening project, curated by Emiliano Gandolfi, 1 March - 4 May 2008 in the NAi (Nederlands Architectuurinstituut), Rotterdam
Edy van der Bool
Elisabeth van der Poel
Karel van Kessel
Liesbeth van Wel
Luis Enrique Alarcon Diaz
Magda van Heckers
Maja Skotte Ejlskov
Marjan van der Vos
Piet van der Waarde
Polle van Gijzel
Abdrahim el Hachimi
Taji “the chef”
Singingchairs' portrays © Adolfo Estrada
Recollections on the Singingchairs by Boba Mirjana Stojadinovich
Being one of about sixty people telling a story at the same time - that is like being a part of an orchestra and doing your solo at the right moment. It was a big group of individuals in which every voice, the ones heard out loud and also the inner ones, crash into one another. During the performance I often wished to be able to hear other stories, but not physically approaching people. I felt like I am and I am not part of the group at the same time, due to no belonging relation being established, and due to the intention of meeting random persons who have gathered to exchange stories.
This feeling was quite clear as I literally knew only two people. The relation I established to the majority was to look at people I don’t know, people who make my everyday life behind this or that wall, in this or that office, constituting the same city, regardless if I ever enter that office or store or apartment. Just looking at unknown people - that felt good! Rotterdam for me isn’t generous in providing a random ‘public body’, and its corners and squares and even city festivities are so thought through as to attract a defined social segment. More often than not one feels like ‘in a box’ in Rotterdam…
In the very beginning I had some time to just study people arriving and trying to find their place, not only in terms of allocating their seat but also as something familiar to hang on to. For they had to deliver something, and in the world of consumer-despotism the expectations dictated it to be somewhat spectacular. However, they have been invited to give a speck of one’s world in this particular city. In the beginning an uncomforting feeling was hovering in the air, perhaps due to the space which was big and bold, the chairs and tables seemed many but unimportant in the space, the human element was very visible, so much so that it appeared theater-staged. But the position I had was at the very edge of the light-spot, almost in the dark, at the outer line of tables. I had only people before me to look at; I wasn’t in the midst of the story, so to speak. This position gave me the distance to watch the space being empty, slowly people coming and taking seats, than starting to talk among themselves, forming couples across tables, with nervous laugh audible here and there. Than some other people came, found the table with their story-teller, and then the ‘real’ story-couples took shape. Being a story teller, I was there to give, but as my first guest wasn’t early on, I was carried away by looking. For Rotterdam it felt like a special reward to have the opportunity to study and compare the different hair and skin shades, different clothes that revealed cultural purity or not, different gestures of hands, mouths and eyebrows shaping the story being told across the space or to someone just inches away, hearing the buzz of different voices… all that without being intrusive or offensive.
And when the performance begun and tell-listen couples formed, it was curious to look at people focused on building their relation, and one could recognize such richness of feelings on display; it was all there before you if you just wanted to harvest it.
What we all shared was walking the same pavements and carrying the same carts in the supermarkets, but it takes telling a story to envision one another.
Singingchairs' docu-video © Adolfo Estrada, 2008
iStrike organized in June 2007, the Moving in Free Zones workshop, in collaboration with Spacelab/Urban Body of TU Delft, the contemporary art centre Tent and Foundation Bad. The workshop is conceived as a first research-phase with concrete perspectives to develop further with a permanent observatory on the redevelopment of Charlois. We carried out a research on an area that is going through a radical urban renewal and gentrification process. We pursued, on the one hand, to develop, with the help and the collaboration of local inhabitants, a critical opinion about their own environment, and on the other hands to perform a series of urban actions and ideas that triggered a public debate specifically on Charlois, and Rotterdam South in general.
MFZ: An international and cross-disciplinary workshop and a cultural program: a collective process for the urban development of Charlois in Rotterdam South
Time: 31th May – 10th June
Organisation: iStrike foundation in collaboration with Spacelab/Urban Body TU-Delft Bouwkunde Venue: c/o foundation B.a.d, Talingstraat 5, Charlois
We camped in Charlois for 10 days
The southern part of Rotterdam is under development. Especially Charlois has being going through a substantial transformation. The City of Rotterdam, the housing corporations and the national government are generating plans to revitalize the area both on a local and a urban scale. This is the framework in which operated the Moving in Free Zones workshop. The workshop took place from the 31st May till the 9th June 2007 in Charlois, South Rotterdam. The participants of the Moving in Free Zones workshop were 30 international students of TU Delft Bouwkunde. They carried out a cross-disciplinary research on Charlois, together with architects Ana Dzokic & Marc Neelen/Stealth [u]ltd, Alicia Velazquez/L-E-A-K and Sang Lee, Tor Lindstrand, Taji "the chef", artists Daniele Pario Perra, Jeanne van Heeswijk, designer and researcher Daniel van der Velden. Moving in Free Zones deals with urban dynamics, material and immaterial architecture, it investigates spontaneous creativity, it experiments innovative uses of the public domain and stimulates new discourses of environmental and cultural integration. The idea of Moving in Free Zones is to explore Charlois - an area with a lot of potential. The intention is to produce visual contents, ideas and concepts, to trigger a debate on Charlois and create public awareness amongst its inhabitants. The scientific research was part of a cultural program that was the fundamental tool to encourage new visions on Charlois and to facilitate a process of involvement within the local community. The cultural program consisted of: public lectures and artists’ talks, thematic guided tours, a visiting program – the students met with various inhabitants and professionals dealing with Charlois/Rotterdam South, public presentations of the researches carried out by the students, a movie/video program. Moreover, private dinners have been arranged – participants of the workshop got invited for dinner at some Charlois’ families’ for three nights – the Charlois camping site – students camped for 6 days in the garden of foundation B.a.d – and the TENT. Event Op Zuid – the Centre of the Contemporary Arts Rotterdam proposed a one-night event with lectures, video screenings, music and a bar. The events of the cultural program – which took place in the space of the foundation B.a.d and in other locations in Charlois - were open to public and with free entrance. The Moving in Free Zones workshop concluded by a presentation of the research carried out by students and an exhibition of their urban interventions, in foundation B.a.d the 9th June from 1 pm on. The results of the research was later released in a publication.
Map of Charlois
Mfz cultural program highlights
Dominic Schrijer (31st May) – lecture on Pact op Zuid -, dienst Stedebouw&Volkshuisvesting (1st June) - lecture on Stadsvisie Rotterdam 2030 -, Wim Leussink/deelgemeente Charlois, Luuk Boelens/Urban Unlimited, Koos Hanenberg/entrepreneur Maassilo, Esseline Schieven/OBR, Charl Landvreugd/entrepreneur/artist and Rachida Azough/journalist/Kosmpopolis, (2nd June) – Bottom-up Rotterdam. Future perspectives of Rotterdam South -, Daniele Pario Perra (4th June), Jeanne van Heeswijk, Daniel van der Velden (6 juni) – artists’ talks -, Tent. Event op Zuid (7th June), and the opening of the final presentation and exhibition of the workshop (9th June).
We organized guided tours throughout Charois
iStrike foundation (2006) is an environmental organisation which aims at highlighting and surveying new dynamics of intercultural exchange and international cultural co-operation. To stress and overcome definitions of culture, identity, diversity and development, iStrike Foundation produces visual representations of territories, focuses on the environment and strengthens the idea of resources, avoiding activities based on problem solvine. iStrike is officially registered and based in Rotterdam The Netherlands, but operates at an international level as a collective subject.
We met our neighbors
In collaboration with
TU-Delft Bouwkunde/Spacelab–Urban Body; Alexander Vollebregt, Sang Lee, Ana Dzokic & Marc Neelen/Stealth [u]ltd, Alicia Velazquez/L-E-A-K, Tor Lindstrand/KTH Faculty of Architecture, Taji "the chef", the artists Jeanne van Heeswijk, Daniele Pario Perra/Contraconcept and the graphic designer and researcher Daniel van der Velden.
We organized lectures and public debates about the future of Charlois
With the contribution of
Laurien Dumbar, Marco Douma, Marcel van den Berg, Giuseppe Licari, Rik Eikmans, Jasper Niens, Studio NL 01.08.04, project space Wolfart, Jolanda Copier/de cultural scout Charlois, the artists of foundation B.a.d and other active inhabitants and professionals in Charlois.
We had lunch and dinner together
With the support of
deelgemeente Charlois, dienst Kunst & Cultuur, stichting Centrum Beeldende Kunst Rotterdam, stichting Nieuwe Rotterdamse Cultuur, woningbouwcorporatie Vestia Feijenoord, woningbouwcorporatie de Nieuwe Unie, TU-Delft Bouwkunde and stichting B.a.d
We worked togehter day and nights
Moving in Free Zones cultural program
Moving in Free Zones p/a stichting B.a.d, Talingstraat 5 Charlois public cultural program: (language English/Dutch)
Thursday 31th May
13.00, thematic-guided tours: #1, #2, & #3 (departing from foundation B.a.d)
20.00, lecture: Pact op Zuid - Dominic Schrijer/wethouder
Friday 1st June
20.00, lecture: Stadsvisie Rotterdam 2030 - dienst Stedebouw&Volkshuisvesting
Saturday 2nd June
10.00, thematic-guided tours: #4, #5, & #6 (departing from foundation B.a.d)
20.00, roundtable: Bottom-up Rotterdam. Future perspectives of Rotterdam South - with Wim Leussink/district council Charlois, Luuk Boelens/Urban Unlimited, Koos Hanenberg/Maassilo, Esseline Schieven/OBR, Charl Landvreugd/entrepreneur/artist and Rachida Azough (moderator/Kosmopolis)
Sunday 3rd June (no public program)
Monday 4th June
19:30, presentation: 1st presentation of the workshop by the students
21:00, presentation: art disturbing politics - Daniele Pario Perra/artist
22:00, movie/video program: Monitoring the Dordtselaan for Maximum Peace of Mind, Iratxe Jaio & Klaas van Gorkum and …Something about Charlois/iets over Charlois..., Charlois 2001-2003, Kamiel Verschuren & Albert Markus 60 min.
Tuesday 5th June
18:15, presentation: 2nd presentation of the workshop by the students
21:00, event: movienights & the pulling a dead horse evenings (Studio Pompstraat 44c)
Wednesday 6th June
19:30, presentation: 3rd presentation of the workshop by the students
20.30, lectures: Jeanne van Heeswijk/artist (20:15) and Daniel van der Velden/graphic designer and researcher
Thursday 7th June
20.00, event: Tent.Event op Zuid. Lectures, video screenings, music and a bar in one shot-event: What has to do the Tent. with the South? Does it matter if arts come from the North, the West or the South? Special guest: Siebe Thissen, head of public space CBK Rotterdam, will explain his cultural plans on Rotterdam South
Friday 8th June (no public program)
Saturday 9th June
13.00, exhibition: opening of the final presentation and exhibition of the international Mfz workshop
20.00, final evening & camping lounge Charlois
Sunday 10th June
13.00, exhibition, exhibition of the Mfz international workshop
20.00, thematic - guided tours: #1 Urban security by Gerard Spierings, #2 Cultural development in Charlois by Ivo van de Baar, #3 Urban development in Heijplaat by Victor Dreissen, #4 Oud-Charlois by Harry Wols and #5 Charlois underground by Jasper Niens
Moving in Free Zones workshop program
Th. 31 st May
13:00 – 15:00, guided tours: thematic - guided tours throughout Charlois
Fr. 1 st June
10:00 – 16:00, visiting program: students meet inhabitants and professionals dealing with Charlois/Rotterdam South
Su. 2 nd June
10:00 – 12:00, guided tours: thematic - guided tours throughout Charlois
Fr. 1 st June up to Su. 3 rd June
18:15 – 20:00, private dinners: students are invited for dinner by 30 families in Charlois
Mo. 4 th June up to Fr. 8 th June
9:00 – 18:00, workshop: international workshop aimed at the students of TU-Delft Bouwkunde presentations, Mo. 4 th June 19:30-20:30, Tu. 5 th June 18:15-19:30, We. 6 th June 19:30-20:30
Su. 3 rd June (up to Fr. 8 th June)
20:00, event: opening of the campingsite Charlois (courtyard of foundation B.a.d)
Tu. 5 th June
19:30 – 20:30, dinner:students have dinner in projectruimte Wolfart, speech over Wolphaertstraat and NAC foundation (New Studios Charlois)
21:00 – 24:00, event: the Pulling a dead horse evenings, Studio Pompstraat, Pompstraat 44c
Pact op Zuid
Stadsvisie Rotterdam 2030
Luuk Boelens & Wies Sanders/Urban Unlimited
Urban Body/TU Delft
Jeanne van Heeswijk
Daniel van der Velden
Tent./Centrum Beeldende Kunst Rotterdam
Daniele Pario Perra
See the report
Douala is the economical and cultural capital of Cameroon and one of the most important cities in central Africa, where informal settlements, micro-economies and spontaneous use of the public space have a primary role in the formation of its identity. The dynamics of development and modernization of this fast-growing city are often elusive, because of a lack of instruments adequate to comprehend its extreme complexity on the social, political and economic plane. This is also the context in which doual’art has been fostering, for over sixteen years, cultural projects and commissioning site-specific art interventions concerned with urban regeneration.
Program SUD 2007 outline
doual’art and iStrike initiated two years ago, SUD 2007, a long-term program that is meant to combine their complementary skills, their efforts and their aspirations in order to stimulate researches on Douala, to transform it in a case study and to facilitate exchanges opportunities at an international level. doual’art is a no-profit organization, based in Douala (Cameroon), which since 1991 has organized cultural projects on the local level to stimulate collective processes of urban development. iStrike is a foundation, based in Rotterdam (The Netherlands), concerned mainly with studying urban dynamics: it works on the international level with art projects, multidisciplinary research workshops and urban actions.
The aim of SUD 2007 is to give visibility to Douala and its innovative cultural projects that engage and affect the cityscape. Within the frame of this long-term program, doual’art and iStrike started interrogating themselves about how to represent an African city and its complexity by avoiding the clichés usually regarding the South of the world; how to bring together different points of view on Douala to cover aspects which are unusual for classical scientific rigour; how to bring to light what impact engaged cultural initiatives and organizations have on this city and how to measure it; how to develop non-dogmatic and creative methods of inquiry based on collaboration and on exchange of ideas.
Starting from those premises they have been organizing 5 main initiatives: Thinking about!, the event Thinking about!, the Ars&Urbis International Workshop, the publication Douala in Translation, the SUD - Salon Urbain de Douala and WideSUD.
1. Thinking about!
Thinking about! is an event organized by iStrike and Enough Room for Space, which took place the 27th and 28th January 2007 in Rotterdam, NL.
Thanks to the invitation of the Mondriaan Foundation doual'art visited the Netherlands for a week. During this visiting program, iStrike and doual'art introduced the work of doual'art to curators in Rotterdam and involved artists and operators in a debate on artistic projects in Douala in a two-days meeting.
27th January 2008 - presentation of doual'art in the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum (Rotterdam).
Jean Patrice KOE jr. second secretary Ambassade Cameroon, The Hague
Harco de Ridder (NL), freelancer (Mondriaan Foundation), Amsterdam
Zoë Gray (GB), Witte de With, Rotterdam
Caro Mendez (NL), attaché Prins Claus Fond, The Hague
Pauline Burmann (NL), foundation Thami Mnyele, Amsterdam
Patricia Pulles (NL), curator Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam
Mariette Dölle (NL), artistic director TENT, Rotterdam
Daniela Roth (D), journalist/critic, Bonn
Emiliano Gandolfi (IT), curator Nai, Rotterdam
Mariëtte Dölle (programme director), TENT. Center for Visual Arts Rotterdam
Lucia Babina (IT), iStrike Foundation (Ars&Urbis International workshop), Rotterdam
Kamiel Verschuren (NL), iStrike Foundation (Ars&Urbis International workshop), Rotterdam
Iolanda Pensa (IT), iStrike Foundation (Ars&Urbis International workshop), Milaan
Marjolijn Dijkman (NL), artist (Enough Room for Space), Rotterdam
Dunja Herzog (CH), artist (Enough Room for Space), Basel
28th January 2008 - meeting between doual'art, curators and artists in Enough Room for Sspace's venue.
Participants: Alexander Vollebregt, Blaise Bang, Christian Hanussek, Claudia Wegener, Daniela Roth, Didier Schaub, Dunja Herzog, Edgar Cleijne, Emiliano Gandolfi, Eric Van Hove, Fiona Siegenthaler, Iolanda Pensa, James Beckett, Kamiel Verschuren, Lucia Babina, Maarten Vanden Eynde, Marjolijn Dijkman, Mique Eggermont, Paul Hendrikse, Stefaan Dheedene, Ulrike Bartels
2. Ars&Urbis International Workshop
The Ars&Urbis International Workshop took place in March 2007. The idea was to involve artists, architects, journalists, philosophers and cultural producers – from both Cameroon and abroad – to experiment with the city, to make contact with several local professionals and inhabitants and to interpret diverse aspects of the urban everyday life in terms of its creative transformative potentials.
doual’art and iStrike encouraged the participants to carry out collective and individual researches capable of developing original and critical points of view, able of looking beyond the predictable and the prejudicial about African towns and of understanding the way bottom-up artistic practises trigger social and urban change.
The result of that initiative has been the production of multimedia documentation, and the accomplishment of artistic projects and researches that constitute the content of the publication Douala in Translation and of two internet sites.
Participants: Abdellah Karroum, Achillekà Komguem, Alexander Vollebregt, Alioum Moussa,Aretha Louise Mbango, Aser Kash, Cercle Kapsiki, Cheuping Njoya, Christian Hanussek, Cédric Dibandjo, Didier Schaub, Dodji Efoui, Edgar Cleijne, Emile Youmbi, Emiliano Gandolfi, Giulia Paoletti, Goddy Leye, Hervé Yamguen, Hervé Youmbi, Iolanda Pensa, Jacques Epangue, Joseph Francis Sumégné, Joë Kessy, Jules Wokam, Kamiel Verschuren, Kevin van Braak, Koko Komegne, Lionel Manga, Lucia Babina, Marilyn Douala Bell, Marthe Ndom, Michele Dantini, Nsame Mbongo, Paulin Tchuenbou, Rossella Biscotti, Salifou Lindou, Sandrine Dole, Vincent Assiga, Zayd Minty.
3. Douala in Translation: a view of the city and its creative transformative potentials
Douala in Translation brings together cross-disciplinary analyses of Douala from 18 authors, who approached the city according to their own interests, experiences and inclinations. It makes also known the extraordinary work of doual’art from 1991 to the present, in promoting innovative cultural projects of urban intervention and collective participation, and it introduces the first edition of the event SUD – Salon Urbain de Douala, a festival of site-specific artistic interventions focused on the multifaceted aspects of the city.
La Nouvelle Liberté © Joseph Francis Sumégné
One of the most striking urban site-specific interventions, treated in the publication, is La Nouvelle Liberté that doual’art commissioned to the artist Jospeh F. Sumégné in 1996. This work raised crucial questions about urban interventions and the negotiation between vernacular and shared spaces in the city context. The research on this specific case has been carried out by the artist Christian Hanussek, who made also several interviews in Douala, recollected in an enlightening video.
La Nouvelle Liberté is a 12-meters high monumental sculpture erected in the Deïdo roundabout, a crucial traffic junction in Douala. Once installed by the artist himself, the first reaction about the sculpture was positive; but little by little critical opinions raised up, mainly in the local newspapers, which caused frictions between the ethnical tribes. The artists and doual’art have been threatened to death and it spread around the belief that the sculpture might have contained evil magic spirits. In his article Hanussek reports the opinion of the Douala based epistemologist, Lionel Manga: who argues that the ethnic question is crucial in Douala. He sees the reason for these “passionate confrontations in the clashing of different claims of space and different understandings of it.” In the end, the upheaval brought about a sense of re-appropriation of the public domain by the people living and working in the area. It obliged the city hall to take better care of the infrastracture in Deïdo, one of the prominent and oldest neighbourhood in Douala. It encouraged several economical initiatives around the monumental statue.
La Nouvelle Liberté © Joseph Francis Sumégné
doual’art donated the sculpure to the city, that today is considered the symbol of Douala: it is portrayed on postcards, it is used as an international Tv news scenario and as a background for hip-hop video clips. Never an art work had the power to cause such a wide controversy among the Douala community. It triggered for the first time a grassroots process in which citizens were activated to redefine their public sphere.
4. SUD - Salon UrbIain de Douala
The event SUD - Salon Urbain de Douala took place in Douala from the 9th till the 16th December. It was an international event to present to a local and international audience the city of Douala and its most pioneering cultural and artistic projects.
Neons d'amour © Hervé Yamguen
More than 15 international artists, architects and researchers produced site-specific installations ad-hoc for SUD tackling issues like urban mobility, heritage, informal sector, recycling and modernity. SUD functioned as a showcase for artists and institutions operating in Douala and as a working platform for experts practicing in the sector.
Fantasia Urbaine © Pascale Marthine Tayou
Artists: Joseph Francis Sumégné; Lionel Manga; Philippe Mouillon; Michèle Magema; Faouzi Laatiris; Frédéric Keiff; Koko Komegne; Pascale Marthine Tayou; Hervé Yamguen; Kouo Eyango; Lucas Grandin; Autodafe; Danièle Diwouta-Kotto; Alioum Moussa.
Arbre à Palabre © Frédéric Keiff
WideSUD was a program aimed to present the Ars&Urbis International Workshop, the SUD-Salon Urbain de Douala and the book Douala in Translation in European venues. According to the venue, the display of WideSUD includes a conference, an exhibition or an event. First presentation took place 6-10 February 2008 during Project(or) Art Fair, Rotterdam.
Go to the iStrike website