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, Carolien Gehrels (labor party PvdA) and Hans van Houwelingen unite in the following three proposals:
1. Political Involvement with the Arts
In the daily practice of art, in particular concerning art in the public space, politics explicitly operates under the pretext of an uninterested relation as advocated by nineteenth-century politician Johan Rudolph Thorbecke. Many of the state-founded art committees are formally independent of the government. As such, however, they function as convenient covers for government and private agendas. Right now, when many of these committees face budget cuts and we see a growing trend to decentralise policymaking at the city level, the time has come for local policymakers — who were already in charge — to shed this veil of disinterest and openly commit to art projects on the level of their content and value. In 2009, Carolien Gehrels said, “When culture is a sector in which government cannot govern, politics will abandon the arts.” Following this statement, a debate with all cards on the table leads to greater political commitment, mutual understanding, more nuanced results and thus a better city.
Three Dutch municipalities will, under the guidance of the Raad voor Cultuur [Council for Culture], examine how local administrators can/should be involved in art projects and how they can give shape to the interaction between artists and politicians. They will debate the results of this research in 2014 in their respective municipal councils in preparation for the upcoming presentation of the quarterly national policy notes on culture, Cultuurnota, and the local policy plans, Kunstenplannen 2017–2020.
2. The Creative City: A Blessing for Policymakers but Not for the Arts
In the early part of the fourteenth century in Sienna, Ambrogio Lorenzetti — whose series of frescoes inspired the 2011 project at W139 in Amsterdam Allegories of Good and Bad Government — stated that in a well-governed city the arts will flourish and the citizens will be happy. Today our governments happily preach the dictum of the creative industry and creative city as the means to a prosperous city. As the result of a lack of true involvement the arts are all too often (unconsciously!?) regarded in economic terms. A rigid focus on business models, however, leads to an impoverishment of artistic content and to a make-believe cultural life. Unilateral quantitative “quality” checks and the increasingly used prefix “top” (top-art, top-institutes, top-talent, top-artist, etc.) leads to artistic segregation without an artistic reason that necessitates this. The creative city seems a blessing for administration and policymakers but must not turn into a curse for the arts.
Excesses of the “creative city” are paradoxically the result of a lack of political involvement with the arts. Our proposal is to intensify the debate between artists and politicians on a local level in order to establish a balance between economic and intrinsic artistic value and goals. In order to establish this, three municipalities will map their artistic ecosystems and will discuss their cultural policy regarding education, housing and grant systems.
3. Systematic Involvement of Artists in Urban Projects
The power and success of art becomes apparent when one would imagine that in the history of cities like Paris, Rome or Amsterdam drastic investment in the arts would not have taken place. Urban space arises from a tangle of public interests geared toward usability, accessibility, durability, safety, affordability, etc. Every one of these utilities has its own specialism and advocates. Artistry as a specialty, however, is the outsider. Only when all other cards have been shuffled and divided “meaning” is addressed, usually in the form of an added artwork. This one-dimensional use of art is too limited. Governments should take the initiative to structurally use the expertise of artists within urban planning projects.
Governments state the involvement of artists and their expertise as a requirement of urban projects. As pilots in which artists are involved from the initial phases of the planning process we propose the projects involving the following areas in Amsterdam: Houthavens, Amstel III and the development of Amsterdam Noord Overhoeks in combination with the renewal of the Van der Pek neighbourhood.
In de dagelijkse kunstpraktijk, zeker in de openbare ruimte, opereert de politiek nadrukkelijk in het camouflagepak van Thorbecke. Veel door de overheid in het leven geroepen kunstcommissies hebben een formeel onafhankelijke status en zijn daarmee vaak een dekmantel van andere agenda’s. Het is een goed moment, nu veel van deze organisaties zijn wegbezuinigd en er een trend is om beslissingen meer op stedelijk niveau te nemen, dat lokale bestuurders – die heimelijk toch al aan de touwtjes trokken – zich openlijk inhoudelijk aan kunstprojecten verbinden. Gehrels in 2009: “Als cultuur een sector is waar je als bestuurder niet op mag sturen, dan keert de politiek zich af van kunsten.” Een debat met alle kaarten op de tafel leidt tot grotere politieke betrokkenheid, tot meer wederzijds inzicht, tot genuanceerdere resultaten en dus een betere stad.
1: Drie Nederlandse gemeenten onderzoeken onder leiding van de Raad voor Cultuur hoe lokale bestuurders inhoudelijk bij kunstprojecten betrokken kunnen/moeten worden en hoe de wisselwerking tussen kunstenaars en politici vorm kan krijgen, om hierover in het najaar van 2014 een debat te voeren in de betreffende drie gemeenteraden, ter voorbereiding op de nieuwe Cultuurnota en de lokale Kunstenplannen 2017 – 2020.
Ambrogio Lorenzetti, de inspirator van Allegories of Good and Bad Government (2011), stelde in Sienna rond het jaar 1300 dat in een goed bestuurde stad de kunst floreert, en de burgers gelukkig zijn. Om een stad tot bloei te brengen hanteren overheden tegenwoordig graag het mantra van de creatieve industrie en de creatieve stad. Als gevolg van een gebrek aan inhoudelijke betrokkenheid worden de kunsten – vaak onbewust – gevat in economische modellen. Een rigide focus op verdienmodellen leidt echter tot een verschraling van artistieke inhoud en een alsof cultureel leven. Eenzijdige kwantitatieve kwaliteitsbeoordeling en de in de creatieve stad alom gebezigde prefix ‘top’ (topkunst, topinstituut, toptalent, topkunstenaar) leiden tot artistieke segregatie zonder dat een inhoudelijke reden daartoe noodzaakt. De creatieve stad lijkt een zegen voor bestuurders maar moet geen gruwel voor de kunst worden.
2: Excessen van de ‘creatieve stad’ zijn paradoxaal genoeg het gevolg van te weinig politieke betrokkenheid bij kunst en cultuur. Ons voorstel is om op lokaal niveau het debat tussen kunstenaars en politici te intensiveren, om gezamenlijk te zoeken naar een goede balans tussen economische en inhoudelijke facetten van de kunst. Daartoe brengen drie gemeenten in Nederland hun inhoudelijk-artistieke ecosysteem in kaart en discussiëren met elkaar over opleidings-, huisvestings- en beurzenbeleid.
Wie door Parijs, Rome of Amsterdam loopt en zich voorstelt dat er in het verleden niet drastisch in kunst zou zijn geïnvesteerd, moet wel toegeven dat kunst een machtige en succesvolle factor is. Stedelijke ruimte ontstaat uit een kluwen van maatschappelijke belangen, afgestemd op bruikbaarheid, bereikbaarheid, duurzaamheid, veiligheid, betaalbaarheid etc. Iedere utiliteit heeft daarvoor zijn eigen specialist. Artisticiteit als specialisme is in dit verhaal het buitenbeentje. Betekenisgeving volgt meestal als alle andere kaarten zijn geschud in de vorm van een toegevoegd kunstwerk. Die eenzijdige inzet van kunst is te beperkt. Overheden moeten het initiatief nemen structureel gebruik te maken van de expertise van kunstenaars.
3: De politiek stelt bij de organisatie van stedelijke projecten de betrokkenheid van kunstenaars en de inzet van hun expertise als voorwaarde. Als pilots, waarin kunstenaars van begin af worden ingezet bij de ontwikkeling van een gebied, stellen we in Amsterdam voor: de Houthavens, Amstel III en de verdere ontwikkeling van Amsterdam Noord Overhoeks in combinatie met de te renoveren Van der Pekbuurt.