Platform for Art, Culture
and the Public Domain

Beyond Allegories

The following propositions were developed on the occasion of the Beyond Allegories debate, for which 250 artists, politicians, union representatives, university professors, dramatists, representatives from refugee organisations and NGOs, journalists and students gathered together for seven hours in Amsterdam’s City Council to discuss the role of art within governance, political mobilisation and action. This debate was organised by Ann Demeester (De Hallen | Frans Hals Museum), Carolien Gehrels (until recently Alderman for Art & Culture, PvdA/Labor Party Amsterdam) and the artists Hans van Houwelingen and Jonas Staal in an effort to forge new progressive alliances. The texts will be part of the DVD-book Beyond Allegories, a collection of the resolutions and videos that resulted from the project, which will be published later this year. The videos are also published here, as well as a critical essay on the project by writer E.C. Feiss.

 

 

Essay by E. C. Feiss
On Beyond Allegories

Salima Belhaj & Wunderbaum
Plea for a Free Zone

Mariko Peters, Metahaven & Jonas Staal
Towards an Extra-Parliamentary Democracy!

Yoonis Osman Nuur & Ahmet Öğüt
Political Representation Beyond Citizenship

Dirk Poot & Foundland
Mapping the Deep State

Carolien Gehrels & Hans van Houwelingen
The Creative City: A Blessing for Administration but a Curse for the Arts 

Ron Meyer en Matthijs de Bruijne
De Democratisering van de Kunst

Ron Meyer & Matthijs de Bruijne
Democratising the Arts

 


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Political Representation Beyond Citizenship

We, Yoonis Osman Nuur (representative of refugee collective We Are Here) and Ahmet Öğüt (initiator of The Silent University), have joined in following three propositions/demands:

1. Acknowledgement of We Are Here as an Undocumented Political Party
We Are Here is a collective of more than 225 undocumented migrants and refugees — a political entity — that fights for the acknowledgement of each of its members as citizens. We Are Here strives for the right to self-determination of each individual member, which means: the right to equal political representation, access to education, economic participation, healthcare and other social services. Currently, undocumented migrants in the Netherlands have no right to vote, no right to education and no right to perform labour — not even unpaid charity work. This effectively forces them outside of the domain of international human rights that demands equal acknowledgement of every human being, regardless of their background and their educational or economic status. Following this principle of universal equality we demand the acknowledgement of We Are Here as an undocumented political party and as the legitimate representative of its cause: striving for the acknowledgment of the peoples of this world, documented and undocumented alike.

2. Recognition of the We Are Here Academy and the Right to Education
In collaboration with Dutch academics, We Are Here has started the We Are Here Academy, which teaches undocumented migrants the political and juridical background of the Netherlands. As the struggle of undocumented migrants is largely administrative by nature, it is crucial to gain an understanding of the structures that define a person in the Netherlands either as existent — as a citizen — or as non-existent — as a non-citizen. The latter consists of what theorist Giorgio Agamben refers to as “bare life” (life without administrative, state protection). The We Are Here Academy acts upon the right to education as a universal right, in a coalition of documented and undocumented people. We ask universities, art institutions, labour unions, political parties and civil society to acknowledge and support the universal right to education, and to acknowledge that the financing and organising of the We Are Here Academy is a collective responsibility of society at large.

3. Recognition of The Silent University and the Right to Educate
In collaboration with art institutions, universities and migrant organisations, artist Ahmet Öğüt initiated The Silent University, in which (undocumented) migrants and refugees with an academic background are acknowledged as teachers. The Silent University has departments in the United Kingdom, France, Sweden and Germany, and has contributed to providing legitimacy to undocumented migrants. Furthermore, the Silent University has brought attention to the fact that former migrants who receive citizenship are often not acknowledged for their academic backgrounds. This leads to the destruction of knowledge and of what artist Joseph Beuys refers to as “creative capital”. We ask universities, art institutions, labour unions, political parties and civil society to acknowledge and support the right to educate, and to acknowledge the teachers of The Silent University as bearers of knowledge with equal importance to that of so-called native teachers and professors.

 

 

 

All other video registrations of Beyond Allegories including the Introduction and Epilogue can be found on this page: Video registrations

 

Essay by E. C. Feiss
On Beyond Allegories

Salima Belhaj & Wunderbaum
Plea for a Free Zone

Mariko Peters, Metahaven & Jonas Staal
Towards an Extra-Parliamentary Democracy!

Yoonis Osman Nuur & Ahmet Öğüt
Political Representation Beyond Citizenship

Dirk Poot & Foundland
Mapping the Deep State

Carolien Gehrels & Hans van Houwelingen
The Creative City: A Blessing for Administration but a Curse for the Arts

Ron Meyer en Matthijs de Bruijne
De Democratisering van de Kunst

Ron Meyer & Matthijs de Bruijne
Democratising the Arts


 

Photo credit
Yoonis Osman Nuur (We Are Here) & Ahmet Öğüt, Beyond Allegories, 2014. Photography Roos Trommelen

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Mapping the Deep State

We, Dirk Poot (Pirate Party, the Netherlands) and design collective Foundland (Lauren Alexander and Ghalia Elsrakbi), have joined in the following three propositions:

1. Political Acknowledgement of the Deep State
The Deep State, otherwise known as the “State within the State”, refers to those activities of political forces that take place outside of public, civil control. The Deep State consists of dangerous entanglements of states and corporations for whose actions the state cannot take responsibility, thus not only mixing public interests with private, corporate interests but in essence rendering democracy powerless. The operations of secret services, such as: the National Security Agency (NSA) of the United States (to which the secret services of the Netherlands provide data as well) are financed through so-called “black budgets”, which remain undisclosed, even to political representatives; social media such as Facebook hand over private data to corporations and secret services; mercenary organisations have built multi-billion dollar empires by waging wars on behalf of states without rules, oversight or accountability; the European Union (EU) has outsourced its border security to a myriad of mercenary armies and public-private partnership; and the EU finances weaponised drone development as well as civil surveillance systems under the name of “research” thereby subsidizing technologies without parliamentary discussion on military spending. Society needs to acknowledge the fact that the realm of power today is situated between the spheres of politics and corporations: the realm of the “modern deep state”.

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Double Crisis: Architecture and the Good Cause

The Good Cause, 09 mrt ’14 – 01 jun ’14
Stroom Den Haag
Hogewal 1-9, The Hague
Entrance: free

In recent years, a number of exhibitions have aimed to retrace, reformulate and restore the social dimension of architecture. In some instances, this desire for social urgency manifests itself in dreams of bigness: future bigness in the case of new “smart” cities and sustainable tech-towns, past bigness in the case of nostalgia for historical examples of strong public architecture or urban design, for instance in the post-WWII planning apparatus in the Netherlands, or in the anonymous public works of the 1960s and 1970s applauded in the exhibition by OMA, Architecture by Civil Servants at the last architecture biennale in Venice. More commonly, however, “architecture of consequence” (to echo the title of an exhibition at the former Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAi) in Rotterdam) is envisioned within the domain of architectural acupuncture: well-placed, site-sensitive and bottom-up interventions. The 2010 to 2011 Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) exhibition Small Scale, Big Change, for example, showcased a selection of handpicked projects from the four corners of the world that according to the museum’s press release “signal a renewed sense of commitment, shared by many of today’s practitioners, to the social responsibilities of architecture.”

The exhibition The Good Cause: Towards an Architecture of Peace—initiated as a research and publication project by Dutch architecture platform Archis in 2010 and presented at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal before travelling to Stroom Den Haag—clearly taps into this trend. Duplicating both the emphasis on architectural micro-makeability and its projection of big-scale change, the show focuses on eight projects of architectural peacekeeping and social stability that tackle the role of architecture in territories engaged in or following periods of conflict. In turn, these case studies are linked to maps, schemes and diagrams of post-WWII wars, international laws and UN-based pacification methods—which in the case of this iteration of The Good Cause are connected to See You in The Hague, an umbrella program initiated by Stroom Den Haag that aims to shed light on the city of The Hague as a global centre of justice. In doing so, the project makes a claim to march towards a twofold goal: “on the one hand it aims to influence governmental political and military decision-making with regard to peace- and reconstruction missions; on the other hand it wants to provide architects and urbanists with extra tools and with insights into their action radius.” This goal resonates with the “forums” and “fields” method as developed by the research project Forensic Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London, which, among other things, extends architecture beyond the built object and nudges it into a network of discussion platforms and interventionist toolboxes.

The Good Cause similarly transposes architecture into a broad cultural domain: projects range from a historical reconstruction of a public garden to a manual for building typologies and regulations; architectural tools vary accordingly. Still, the feeling cannot be done away with that the main thematic of the show somehow neutralizes or at least papers over the interesting elements of these cases. For what is “the good cause”? Should not this category be questioned in each and every project, rather than assumed as the basis for their selection and presentation (as— the accompanying folder to the exhibition describes these as cases of “good practices”—is being done now)?

In an introductory note to the project’s website (www.architectureofpeace.org) the Archis team justly acknowledge that “reconstruction is a highly political process in which every step that is seen to favour one side over another can ignite new violence,” adding that “unbalanced reconstruction can create new inequalities, which would lead to new grievances.” Further, in an Archis publication that precedes this exhibition, Volume’s theme issue Architecture of Peace (2010), social scientist Gerd Junne is equally cautious about making big claims toward “architectures of peace”, which he fears are often at risk of capsizing into architectures of conflict: “You build in the wrong place, or with the wrong people, or with the wrong symbols … there is a very great chance you’ll get it wrong.” Indeed, it is the reversal of the exhibition’s title, Architecture of Peace: Towards the Good Cause, which would start to reflect on “the good cause” as an epistemological, sociopolitical and ethical horizon, and concurrently, begin to ponder the precarity of local works that reach towards a quasi-theological and, in fact, idealist goal. Before advancing micro-makeability as a panacea against all possible ills, this approach could chart the possibilities, challenges and limitations of practicing and/or placing architecture in communities plagued by a lack of resources, social sensitivities and other difficulties. Most of all, however, it would acknowledge the tension in connecting local projects to something as vague and universal as the good cause, which contends to inject these projects with architectural meaning and significance.

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Revolution at Point Zero. Discussing the Commons with Silvia Federici and Tine De Moor

Last year, New York-based activist and philosopher Silvia Federici lead two days of lectures on the commons from 31 January–1 February, organised by Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory in Utrecht, centred around the ideas raised in her book Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle (2012). In introducing Federici and announcing “Composing the Commons” as a motto guiding the coming years’ program at Casco, Casco director Binna Choi mentioned that Federici’s presentation was part of the living research project initiated in 2009 titled the Grand Domestic Revolution (GDR). Choi detailed how GDR explores communal ways of working and living involving a wide a range of activities inspired by nineteenth-century Materialist Feminism, a movement that organised cooperative domestic work. Various types of collectives or groups have been engaged in the development of GDR since, she continued, creating a network of collaborations spread throughout different countries. Where the domestic space is conceived of as a “ground zero” for starting change that can apply to a broader social realm and social systems, the commons is at the core of this change.

In addition to Federici, on the first day of lectures at Casco contributors included Tine De Moor, an outspoken voice in the Dutch discourse around the commons and director of Institutions of Collective Action and professor at Utrecht University, and initial respondents Dutch artists coalition Platform Beeldende Kunst and artist Elke Uitentuis from Artists Occupy Amsterdam. Eluding strict definitions, the commons were then discussed in presentations by Federici and De Moor and subsequent Q&A sessions with the audience. De Moor pinpointed the way in which self-organised groups or so-called private-public partnerships are often market-driven, concluding that commons are not a weapon against privatisation but an alternative which should operate in parallel. Federici’s position, on the other hand, gravitated towards how the commons—or the practice of commoning—can be a transformative form of reproduction, leading into a discussion wherein the notion of building a commons intrinsically means building a collective subject with the desire to reclaim resources.

Here follows a condensed and edited report of the conversations on 31 January and 1 February.

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Commonist Aesthetics
and more to come

Open! has been online for 5 months now, publishing columns, essays, book reviews and artists’ contributions on topics that it has been involved with since 2004, back when Open was still an actual printed publication – see Back Issues. Now an online publishing platform, Open! has been busy exploring the changing conditions of the public domain and the notion of publicness from a variety of international and interdisciplinary perspectives as well as examining the consequences that the recent privatisation, mediatisation and globalisation processes have on our social and artistic practices.

For its launch in September 2013, Open! invited a variety of theorists and artists to submit short texts on pressing topics that focus on the subject of art and the public domain. These contributions were published between September 2013 and January 2014 and can be found in the Column section on the homepage. They address a broad range of artistic, social and political issues that are relevant to Open! and its readership. We also published a number of unique essays, including a lively discussion between Camiel van Winkel and Steven ten Thije on the subject of contemporary art discourse.

In the mean time, Open! appointed author and editor Janine Armin to work on the book review section to make it a more solid and prominent part of the Open! site. The results of these changes will become evident in the near future.

Although we want to maintain the freedom to publish individual essays of interest, we are going to begin focussing more on the structural elaboration of a few specific themes: beginning with Commonist Aesthetics, which will be followed by Regimes of Illegality and New Forms of Political and Social Mobilisation. The theme of Commonist Aesthetics is a collaboration between Open!, art historian and critic Sven Lütticken – who is also a member of our editorial board – and the Utrecht-based Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory (www.cascoprojects.org). Both Open! and Casco are very involved in the issue of commons and related re-evaluations of the notion of ownership and power relations. Last year, Casco organised Revolution at Point Zero, a two-day symposium that attempted to define the commons in the fields of art and social work. Scholar and activist Silvia Federici and Tine de Moor (Professor of Institutions for Collective Action in Historical Perspective at Utrecht University) were the distinguished speakers at the symposium.

Commonist Aesthetics allows us to introduce “the idea of commonism” – not communism – a topic that various writers and artists will explore and expand upon in the coming months. In his short introduction, Lütticken describes commonism as a constellation of practices and lines of thought that generates productive tension. Commonist aesthetics are related to the world of the senses or a “residually common world”.

The texts we plan to publish will cover the notion of commonist aesthetics in various ways. We will commence this new theme with essays by Jodi Dean and artist duo Klaas van Gorkum & Iratxe Jaio, which will later be followed by an extensive report of Revolution at Point Zero symposium, in which Silvia Federici and Tine de Moor will both have their say, and with contributions by Marina Vishmidt and Kerstin Stakemeier, among others.

March 2014

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