In Beyond Allegories politicians and artists discuss proposals on the role of art within governance, political mobilization and action.
The position of art in society has been heavily criticized in recent years. The reproach that government funds are misused merely to serve ‘leftist elites’ is widely heard. In Beyond Allegories, art does not position itself as a luxury item for an elite, nor is it a speculative object in the art market, or even an instrument of the creative city, but rather it positions itself as a power that aims for a new imagination – and with that, a practice – of the democratic project.
Chaired by Ann Demeester (Frans Hals Museum | De Hallen Haarlem) and Ruud Nederveen (VVD), Ron Meyer Ron Meyer has led the largest party in Heerlen, the Socialist Party (SP), for the past eight years. Besides his work as a party leader, he works as a campaign leader for the labour union FNV Bondgenoten, where he has had a leading role in the cleaners’ protests since 2009. Brave cleaners who rise up for a better future are for him “the example of strength and progress.” In March 2014 Meyer received the Best Council Member Award in the Netherlands. go to propositionDemocratising the Arts (SP) and artist Matthijs de BruijneMatthijs de Bruijne‘s artistic practice and research often arise in collaboration with trade unions and other labor organisations. De Bruijne was closely involved in the cleaners’ strike of 2012 for better wages, working conditions and social recognition. This strike was the longest strike in the Netherlands since 1933. As part of the cleaners union’s campaign De Bruijne installed a temporary Rubbish Museum in Utrecht’s central station and produced, in collaboration with the Domestic Workers Netherlands, several shadow plays. (www.bruijne.org)go to propositionDemocratising the Arts will present jointly developed proposals on the role of art in relation to cultural representation; Salima BelhajSalima Belhaj is a council member of Rotterdam since 2008 and since 2010 she is party leader of D66 [Democrats '66] in that city. As such she takes an active role in the debate on racism and the debate on culture. In 2011 she participated in the first edition of the project Allegories of Good and Bad Government in W139, Amsterdam. In 2014 she had a decisive role in the coalition debates that led to the formation of the local government of the city of Rotterdam consisting of members of the political parties D66, Leefbaar Rotterdam [Livable Rotterdam] and the Christen-Democratisch Appèl (CDA).go to propositionPlea for a Free Zone (D66) and Maartje Remmers of theater collective WunderbaumMaartje Remmers is a Dutch actress and member of the Flemish-Dutch theater collective Wunderbaum consisting of herself, Walter Bart, Wine Dierickx, Matijs Jansen, Maarten van Otterdijk and Marleen Scholte. In 2013 Wunderbaum initiated the four-year project The New Forest in which Wunderbaum explores together with civil society organizations alternative models of democracy through theater. (www.thenewforest.nl)go to propositionPlea for a Free Zone will present on the role of art in relation to democratic reform; Dirk Poot (Pirate Party)Dirk Poot has been a spokesperson for the Dutch Pirate Party since 2012. In 2010 the party actively partook in the Dutch parliamentary elections for the first time. Poot was a candidate for parliament at the 2010 elections. The Pirate Party supports a free Internet as a condition for an open and democratic society, as a source of inspiration and knowledge, and above all as a source of critical information. Dirk Poot is also self-employed as an ICT consultant and PHP/MySQL programmer for medical applications.go to propositionMapping the Deep State and design collective FoundlandFoundland is an art and design practice based in Amsterdam; it was founded in 2009 by Ghalia Elsrakbi and Lauren Alexander. With backgrounds in graphic design, art and writing Foundland’s approach focuses on research based, critical responses to current issues. In their practice Foundland draws on unexpected connections, creating alternative narratives to media, reporting through innovative image making and personal interpretation. (www.foundland.info)go to propositionMapping the Deep State (Ghalia Elsrakbi and Lauren Alexander) will present on the role of art in relation to transparency; Yoonis Osman NuurYoonis Osman Nuur is spokesperson of the refugee collective We Are Here and member of the refugee council of the foundation Here to Support. As a human rights activist and politician, Nuur fights for the visibility and recognition of refugees in limbo in Dutch society and law. (http://wijzijnhier.org)go to propositionPolitical Representation Beyond Citizenship (We Are Here) and artist Ahmet ÖğütAhmet Öğüt is a conceptual artist based in Amsterdam and Istanbul. Öğüt is the initiator of The Silent University, an autonomous knowledge-exchange platform led by refugees for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. The Silent University aims to make apparent the systematic failure and the loss of knowledge and skills experienced through the silencing process of people seeking asylum. (www.silentuniversity.org)go to propositionPolitical Representation Beyond Citizenship will present on the role of art in relation to immigration; Carolien GehrelsCarolien Gehrels has been an alderman for the Labor Party (PvdA) in Amsterdam from 2006 to May 2014. In her eight years as an alderman, she was responsible for, among others, economic affairs and art and culture. In 2009 she gave the well-known Boekman lecture "Kunstbeleid in een postideologische? samenleving" [Art policy in a post-ideological? society], in which she pleaded for a larger involvement of politics with the arts. At the time she stated this about art: "We may also govern in this area. We may also have an opinion. And we may even judge.” ( www.pvdaamsterdam.nl)go to propositionThe Creative City: A Blessing for Administration but a Curse for the Arts (PvdA) and artist Hans van HouwelingenHans van Houwelingen studied at the Minerva Art Academy in Groningen and at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. His work manifests itself internationally in the form of interventions in public space, exhibitions, lectures and publications, in which he investigates the relations between art, politics and ideology. He publishes regularly in newspapers and magazines. The monograph STIFF Hans van Houwelingen vs. Public Art (2004) offers an overview of his projects and texts and an extensive reflection on his work. The publication Update (2008) describes the permanent update of the Lorentzmonument in Arnhem during the exhibition Sonsbeek 2008 and Undone (2011) presents nine critical reflections on three recent works. (http://www.hansvanhouwelingen.nl)go to propositionThe Creative City: A Blessing for Administration but a Curse for the Arts will present on the role of art in relation to urban development and Mariko PetersMariko Peters was Member of Parliament for GroenLinks [Green Party] in the Netherlands from November 2006 until September 2012. Prior to this, she worked as an attorney, and, as a diplomat. She co-authored the first Freedom of Information Act in the Balkan countries and served as Advisor to the Afghan Minister of Foreign Affairs. As a Member of Parliament her dossiers included Foreign Affairs, Defence, Public Administration, Media Culture & Copyrights. She now serves again with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.go to propositionTowards an Extra-Parliamentary Democracy! (GroenLinks), design collective Metahaven Metahaven is a studio for design and research based in Amsterdam, founded by Vinca Kruk and Daniel van der Velden. Metahaven's work—both commissioned and self-directed—reflects political and social issues in graphic design objects and media. The group’s 2010 publication Uncorporate Identity investigated what the International Herald Tribune called the “purpose and value of design in a neurotic and treacherous era of geopolitical instability.” Metahaven’s projects include Black Transparency, a multi-year investigation into the relationship between transparency and secrecy that resulted in a series of exhibitions, talks and a forthcoming book. As part of this project, Metahaven designed a set of merchandise for WikiLeaks—scarves and shirts—which were sold by the organization to circumvent a financial blockade which had denied the organisation the ability to receive donations by other means. Metahaven is affiliated with the Center for Design and Geopolitics at University of California, San Diego. Its founders teach at ArtEZ Academy of Arts in Arnhem, at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam, and at Yale University's MFA program in graphic design.(www.metahaven.net) go to propositionTowards an Extra-Parliamentary Democracy! and artist Jonas StaalJonas Staal is a visual artist whose work deals with the relation between art, propaganda and democracy. He is the founder of the artistic and political organisation New World Summit (www.newworldsummit.eu). Staal is currently working on his PhD “Art and Propaganda in the 21st Century” at the University of Leiden, the Netherlands. (www.jonasstaal.nl) go to propositionTowards an Extra-Parliamentary Democracy! will present on the role of art in relation to extra-parliamentary democracy.
The proposals will be discussed by, among others, Tiers Bakker (SP); Manuel Beltrán (artist, student organizer), Jeroen Boomgaard (Lectoraat Art & Public Space, Gerrit Rietveld Academy), Lex ter Braak (Jan van Eyck Academy), Hendrik Folkerts (Stedelijk Museum), Quinsy Gario (poet, artist), Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei (philosopher), Rik Grashoff (GroenLinks), Nicoline van Harskamp (artist), Maria Hlavajova (BAK, Utrecht), Guusje ter Horst (PvdA), Femke Kaulingfreks (philosopher, We Are Here Academy), Erica van Lente (PvdA), Jacques Monasch (PvdA), Merijn Oudenampsen (sociologist), Marco Out (VVD), Rune Peitersen (Platform BK), Bastiaan Rijpkema (rechtsfilosoof), Anna Tilroe (art critic and curator), Romana Vrede (theater maker), Brenno de Winter (journalist), Dilan Yesilgoz (VVD), Hans de Zwart (Bits of Freedom) and others.
We, Salima Belhaj (party leader for D66, Rotterdam) and theatre collective Wunderbaum (Walter Bart, Wine Dierickx, Matijs Jansen, Maartje Remmers and Marleen Scholten), join in the following pleas:
1. The Introduction of Free Zones
The democratic project as a public project has been suffering from growing regulation mania for several decades, turning a free society into a risk-free society. Consequentially, money and focus is increasingly placed on prevention: starting with preventive frisking, camera surveillance and ethnic registration, and transgressing to spying on civilians. With this shift towards risk prevention the core of freedom and democracy has eroded. Democracy, after all, always possesses an element of danger. It is precisely in this element of danger where the possibility of change is located, the possibility of democratic innovation. Everybody has the right to democratic representation. What is more, everybody has the right to plea for the abolishment of democracy as such. This is the experimental and conflictual core of democracy. The plea for Free Zones attempts to reestablish this “space of experimentation” as the core of democracy: democracy as a space where authority does not interfere, unless something goes wrong. In a democracy power is in essence located with the people. The Free Zone celebrates this principle of public democracy.
2. Art as a Free Zone
The New Forest is a multi-year project of theatre collective Wunderbaum that studies and represents social changes and transitions in our current society, in collaboration with civil society organisations and communities in and around Rotterdam. The New Forest represents a future world through performances, seminars, context (live and online) and an interdisciplinary film project. Taking Willem Schinkel’s book De nieuwe democratie [New Democracy] (2012) as a starting point, the recurring goal of The New Forest is the exploration of new models of democracy.
The New Forest was temporarily based on top of the old train station in the north of Rotterdam, where it manifested itself as a public parliament: a political space where the question of democratic representation was once again the central focus and was discussed by people from all layers of society.
What are the boundaries of democracy and can these boundaries exist at all when democracy is about representing the public as a whole? The public parliament is a Free Zone par excellence as it allows the possibility of collective debate and the shaping of the concept of “the people”. The essence of this proposition is that democracy can only exist within the permanent questioning of what democracy really is. As such, The New Forest is a case for the Free Zone: a questioning of democracy as the heart of democracy.
Het democratische project als publiek project heeft reeds decennia te lijden onder een groeiende regeldrift, waarbij men van een vrije samenleving een risicovrije samenleving wil maken. Het gevolg hiervan is dat steeds meer geld en aandacht gaat naar preventie: van preventief fouilleren, cameracontrole en etnische registratie tot het bespioneren van burgers. Hiermee is de kern van ons vrijheids- en democratiebegrip geërodeerd. Democratie kent tenslotte altijd een element van gevaar. Juist in dit gevaar ligt ook de mogelijkheid tot verandering besloten, tot democratische vernieuwing. Iedereen heeft recht op democratische representatie, sterker nog: iedereen heeft het recht om zelfs te pleiten voor de opheffing van de democratie als zodanig. Dit is de experimentele en conflictueze kern van democratie. Het voorstel voor regelvrije zones probeert de ‘ruimte van het experiment’ weer tot de kern van de democratie te maken: De kern van de democratie als een ruimte waar overheden niet ingrijpen, tenzij er iets mis gaat. In essentie legt democratie de macht bij het volk. De regelvrije zone huldigt dit principe van een publieke democratie.
2. Kunst als Regelvrije Zone
The New Forest is een langdurig project van theatercollectief Wunderbaum dat sociale veranderingen en transities in onze huidige samenleving onderzoekt en representeert. Dit gebeurt in samenwerking met maatschappelijke organisaties en gemeenschappen in en rondom Rotterdam. The New Forest verbeeldt een toekomstige wereld, door middel van voorstellingen, seminars, context (zowel live als online) en een transmediaal filmproject. Met het boek Nieuwe Democratie van Willem Schinkel als uitgangspunt is het terugkerende doel het verkennen van nieuwe democratische modellen.
The New Forest zetelde enige tijd op het oude treinstation in Rotterdam Noord, waar het zich manifesteerde als volksparlement: een politieke ruimte waar de vraag over democratische representatie weer centraal stond en bediscussieerd werd door mensen uit alle lagen van de bevolking. Wat zijn de grenzen van democratie en kunnen die überhaupt bestaan wanneer democratie gaat om de representatie van het volk als geheel? Het volksparlement is een regelvrije zone par excellence omdat zij de mogelijkheid tot collectief debat en de vorming van het concept ‘volk’ weer centraal stelt. De kern van deze propositie is dat democratie alleen kan bestaan binnen de permanente vraagstelling wat democratie nu eigenlijk is. Als zodanig is The New Forest een casus voor de regelvrije zone: Een bevraging van de democratie als het hart van de democratie.