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, Mariko Peters, initiator of the Dutch Green Party’s [GroenLinks] legislative Bill for Open Government [Wet Open Overheid] along with Vinca Kruk and Daniel van der Velden of design collective Metahaven and visual artist Jonas Staal, developers of 0. (“ZeroPoint” [Nulpunt]), a digital platform for public monitoring of government, note that the state is characterised by a political culture of secrecy. It is maintained by laws that facilitate its information monopoly and obstruct public control over its actions. We are convinced that parliamentary control over government actions is too limited and that the extra-parliamentary watchdog function of citizens and media should be strengthened by better access to government information. Further, we are dedicated to a collaboration between politics and art, as testified by our efforts to unite design, Internet technology and political action. Realising that power in an information society revolves around the access to and ownership of information and political power over the use of public means, we see that the structure of public society and the exercise of state power is based on the ownership and access to government information related thereto. In light of the above, we call for the following three propositions:
1. A New Political Contract: Extra-Parliamentary Control
We advocate a radical reversal of our current understanding of democratic politics. Instead of allowing citizens to periodically elect representatives who by consequence are placed in an exclusive relation of dialogue with and control over the executive power, we propose the permanent control over governments by citizens by no longer regarding information as property of the state but rather by placing it in the public realm. Insofar as democracy is defined by its relation to the state, the state is to be regarded as a cooperative. The so-called citizen becomes the first and foremost political actor — the political subject. We do not advocate a “participation society” in which civil society initiatives are an excuse for budget cuts, but a systematic power shift from the realm of democratic control by exclusive representatives to society as a whole.
2. The Transparent State: Reform of the Dutch Freedom of Information Act [Wet openbaarheid van bestuur]
A complete overhaul of the law that currently structures the transparency of information of the state towards the citizen is required. The current law is outdated and not equipped for the possibilities of our digital era. It is based on a paternalistic view of the relation between state and citizen: access to information is regarded as a favour, not a right. Despite developments around open data, procedures to gain access to information are habitually delayed and can easily take up to one-and-a-half years. Under the guise of “state security” or “the intimacy of policymaking” information is often withheld or censored. The legislative initiative Wet open overheid [Open Government Bill] establishes the right to access information and requires that government information shall be public by default, as the law requires. All public government information should be digital, searchable and findable in a public register.
3. Digital Platform “0.”: Creating an Extra-Parliamentary Arena for Government Information
State IT projects are notoriously expensive, vulnerable to hacking and badly accessible. With a new absolute openness of the state, accessibility of information becomes crucial. Together with the Dutch Green Party GroenLinks, the Pirate Party, the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI) and research journalists, Metahaven and Staal have developed “0.” (read: zero point), a mix of principles and techniques of social media and WikiLeaks, based on the notion of the “leaking state”. Making use of freedom of information acts it will become possible to create a public information arena where citizens can request, find and act upon information, while a maximum degree of privacy is guaranteed. This creates the technological design of a digital parliament for the entire state, from national to local governments from which extra-parliamentary coalitions can arise as soon as the parliamentary legislator extends its hand to the public arena by adopting the Open Government Bill. 0. is a prototype for such an independent information arena: an imagination and proposition for the state as cooperative.
Wij bepleiten een radicale omkering in ons huidige begrip van democratische politiek. In plaats van burgers periodiek volksvertegenwoordigers te laten kiezen die in een exclusieve dialoog met de uitvoerende macht staan en daarop exclusieve controle kunnen uitoefenen, bepleiten wij de permanente controle van overheden door burgers door overheidsinformatie niet langer in het monopoliebezit van de staat te laten maar in het publieke domein te plaatsen. In zoverre democratie bestaat in relatie tot de staat gaat het om de staat als coöperatief, wat betekent dat een zogeheten ‘burger’ allereerst een politiek vertegenwoordiger – een politiek subject – is. Geen ‘participatiesamenleving’ waarin burgeractivisme een excuus wordt voor bezuinigingen, maar een systematische overheveling van macht uit het domein van exclusieve vertegenwoordiging naar de samenleving als geheel.
Voor buitenparlementaire controle is herziening nodig van de wettelijke pijler die het huidige informatieverkeer van de staat met de burger regelt: de Wob. Deze wet is onaangepast aan de mogelijkheden van het digitale tijdperk. De kerngedachte ervan weerspiegelt een paternalistische verhouding tussen staat en burger: toegang tot informatie is een gunst, niet een recht. Ondanks ontwikkelingen rondom open data, nemen procedures voor het opvragen van informatie door onkunde of traineren nog gemakkelijk anderhalf jaar in beslag. Onder het mom van beleidsintimiteit of de nationale veiligheid wordt informatie in veel gevallen achtergehouden of weggelakt. Het initiatiefwetsvoorstel Wet open overheid (WOO) stelt een recht op toegang voorop en vereist dat publieke overheidsinformatie bij voorbaat en automatisch openbaar is. Alle publieke overheidsinformatie moet digitaal, doorzoekbaar, en vindbaar via een register worden geopenbaard.
3. Digitaal platform Nulpunt: creëren van een buitenparlementaire arena voor overheidsinformatie
IT projecten van de overheid zijn kostbaar, kwetsbaar voor hacking en overheidsinformatie is er moeilijk vindbaar of doorzoekbaar. Bij absolute openbaarheid van de staat wordt de toegankelijkheid van deze informatie urgent. Met GroenLinks, de Piratenpartij, het Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI) en onderzoeksjournalisten, ontwikkelden Metahaven en Staal het digitaal platform getiteld ‘0.’ (spreek uit: Nulpunt), een kruising tussen social media en WikiLeaks, dat uitgaat van een ‘lekkende staat.’ Met behulp van openbaarheidswetgeving wordt het mogelijk een publieke ‘informatiearena’ te scheppen, waar burgers met maximale persoonsbescherming makkelijk informatie kunnen opvragen, vinden, becommentariëren en delen. Het gaat hier feitelijk om de oprichting van een digitaal parlement voor de gehele overheid van rijk tot gemeente vanuit buitenparlementaire coalities georganiseerd zodra de parlementaire wetgever de brug naar de publieke arena slaat door de WOO aan te nemen. Nulpunt is een prototype voor een dergelijk onafhankelijke informatie-arena: een verbeelding van- en propositie voor de staat als coöperatief.