Recent articles
Issue #015 Published: 14-11-2017 // Written by: ADEV
Amsterdam Danst Ergens Voor...
Welcome to the underground! We moeten het blijven herhalen, de Nederlandse dance scene is geboren in de underground. Vele huidige ADE goden kregen een kans op plekken ver weg van commercie en regelzucht. In het weekend van het ADE dansen de bezoekers steeds vaker op dezelfde beat en netjes in de maat. Tijdens het ADE zijn het kuddedieren, gaan ze van venue naar venue, als schapen op de Dam. ADEV (Amsterdam Danst Ergens Voor) vierde met een lichte tegenzin zijn 5 jarige bestaan, want de Amsterdamse underground staat zwaar onder druk. Dit jaar ging de manifestatie terug naar haar basis, een schel geluid vanuit de underground. Een harde stem tegen de vercommercialisering van de (dans) cultuur in Amsterdam. Op 21 oktober bracht ADEV het ADM naar het centrum van Amsterdam. Het ADM, als voorbeeld broedplaats in heel Europa, wordt na 20 jaar, bedreigd in zijn bestaansrecht. Want waar tegenwoordig alles in euro’s word gemeten bewijst ADM al 20 jaar dat zelforganisatie, tegendraads denken en onafhankelijkheid leidt tot een unieke aanvulling op het culturele, artistieke en politieke leven van Amsterdam. Het ADM strijdt tegen erkende vastgoed criminelen. De rechter besluit en de politiek is aan zet. Wij vroegen iedereen om zich uit te spreken voor het behoud van ADM, voor het behoud van de underground. Samen met een aantal soundsystems werd deze oerkreet tot ver in de stad hoorbaar. Photos: peter van bergen henegouwen       
Issue #015 Published: 09-11-2017 // Written by: Tom
18th birthday of the OT301
The OT301 was squatted on the 14th of November 1999 by a group of artists that united themselves in a vereniging called EHBK (Eerste Hulp Bij Kunst). In the past 18 years the collective has gone through a lot of phases because it has never been an easy job to run and maintain a building with a group of people in a democratic way. Running a non-profit organization like the OT301, with all its public programming, artist ateliers and living spaces takes commitment and lots of energy from all its members. It is a responsibility that you have to share because it is too much work for a single person or a small group. Although it hasn’t been easy sharing a building/organization with a mixed group of (inter)national artists and other open minded people, it created a vibe and atmosphere that can not be copied by commercial organizations or so called Broedplaatsen (that are initiated by the city government). Hard work pays off and creates something extraordinary. In places like the OT301 buzz-words like raw and authentic aren’t marketing slogans or styling efforts. It is the real deal! The average outsider or visitor might think that the OT301 has won all its battles since the vereniging bought the building in 2006 and slowly transformed into a well oiled machine but not all is what it seems. It still takes lots of energy and discussions to make the ‘right’ decisions, every day, week or month, again and again. A project like this (luckily) is a never ending project and besides the hard work it is very important to realize that the bricks itself are worth nothing. It is all about the people and the energy that they put into the collective and its activities. On Saturday the 11th of November the OT301 will celebrate its 18th birthday. In this case the 18th birthday does not mean that something is fully grown because the OT301 is in fact a never ending proces and it should always be a playground for those that want to experiment without the pressure of financial success. It can not be emphasized enough that places like this are important for a city that has always been proud to be open minded, creative, liberal and free. On the 11th the OT301 will be open from 13:00 till 05:00 hrs. There will be lots of activities during the day (and night). Let’s celebrate the 18th birthday of an experiment that values collective ownership, autonomy and self management more then anything else.     PROGRAM: ++++++++++++++++++++++++ 4Bid  Gallery (ground floor) From 14:00 hrs 4bid gallery will be open from 14h presenting an archive of event hosted by the space, together with an exposition of works which were made in the OT301 gallery during the weekly Life Drawing sessions. A collection of memories from our program of performances, exhibitions and discussions will be screened, in parallel with drawing sessions throughout the afternoon. We will bring you sweet music, creative freedom, experimental poses, projections, and, of course, a model to draw from. Let us share our passion for making things happen and involving interested people in it. ++++++++++++++++++++++++ Cinema - 19:00-23:00 hrs (2nd floor) Born in 1999 - Free Screenings: 19:00 The Iron Giant 21:00 Existenz Cinema bar open from 18:00-00:00 hrs ++++++++++++++++++++++++ Studios (ground floor) Studio 2 13:00-22:00 hrs: Various activity's, food, drinks, ping pong Studio 1 13:00-14:00 hrs: Aerial kids Okido Yoga class and presentation by: Youth circus OTt301 Max 6 kids sign in by sms or whats app (06-50998032) 18:00-18:30 hrs: Presentation of Movement academy OT301 and project Life for life OT301 18:30-20:00 hrs: Aerial therapeutics class by: Movement Academy OT301 Max 6 participants sign in by sms or whats app (06-50998032) 19:30-23:00 hrs: Aerial and dance improvisation, breakdance + Photo expo from Artistic Aerial photo shooting  at Movement Academy ot301  23:00-05:00 hrs: DJ/Live music night with: Bonnie Li (Live, French duo - Berlin based) Sycomor (Live act, French - Berlin based) Colin DJ’s Klerezooi Power vs Power  K2z3ko no28 Visuals by: Nuns with guns Art by: Royale Belleville/ Studio Inferno III Performance by: Movement academy Ot301 ++++++++++++++++++++++++ Bodlabot (1st floor) 14:15-15:30 hrs: Dance Improvisation Open Class In this class we start working using the floor as our partner to warm up and generate movement possibilities, to then move gradually up and create dances.  More information: 16:00-17:00 hrs: Chi Kung Open Class Chi Kung is an ancient art used in martial art and for health.  This open class is an introduction but also in depth study of a simple act of standing still. The material of the class will be rooted in ancient excercises and postures which are simple and easy to integrate in daily life. The aim of the class is to find esse in standing still, to improve circulation and strengthen the core structure of the body and mind. ++++++++++++++++++++++++ Peper (ground floor) Sub:terrein DJ’s: Franco Najera and Eskaym (Techno, House, Breaks, Jungle, Dnb) Programming different styles of electronic music on the one night. Mono-cultures are boring. Melt the genre silos. Exhibition: ‘Urban Legends’ collages by Svetlin Velchev. ++++++++++++++++++++++++ Artist: Ruud de Kort (1st floor) Open studio showing work. From 13:00-20:00 hrs ++++++++++++++++++++++++ Anamorphic studios (3rd floor) tba ++++++++++++++++++++++++ Facebook event >>>
Issue #015 Published: 07-11-2017 // Written by: Elkerlic
Futurologic Symposium and xx birthday ADM
Dear citizens, Since the earth’s population became more urban than rural the word gentrification is buzzing around in cities around the world. Ten years ago it was still an obscure phenomenon, now it is urgent to be aware of this unacceptable and destructive process which is noticeable in a lot of different aspects in society. Our 7th futurological symposium unveils effects, resistance and solutions against gentrification and focuses on the importance of saving the gentrified free cultural spaces. A three days symposium at the ADM 20th birthday festival about “Degentrification: a manifesto in action” After symposia were held in Ruigoord, the Netherlands, at the Boom Festival in Portugal, in Christiania in Denmark and in the Free Republic of Uzupis in Lithuania, this year the symposium took place at the ADM site. The ADM celebrated its twentieth anniversary as a free cultural space and is right now threatened in her existence. With the 7th symposium we wanted to come up with a number of concrete proposals to the municipal authorities regarding the need to maintain free cultural spaces and to create new ones as well. A concerned audience and about 50 presenters from academies, movements, and of course free cultural spaces from all over the world gathered in the inspiring surrounding of the Robodock exhibition at the ADM. Free Cultural Spaces promote diversity and mutual solidarity. No homogenization of the ab-normal, but a welcoming of the extraordinary. People of all walks of life meet each other in Free Cultural Spaces. These spaces are particularly well suited for exploring the unknown and pushing boundaries. Their personal charisma reinforces the bonds between urban, rural and neighbourhood dwellers, and their hospitality fosters a versatile cosmopolitan society. Free Cultural Spaces are not just festivals and squats, but include many intentional communities, eco- and organics initiatives, free schools, creative nomads and more. At the symposium several representatives of free cultural spaces talked about their specific situation in the light of gentrification:, the Independent Republic of Užupis (Lituhania), Christiania (Copenhagen), Ruigoord (Amsterdam), Erf 81 (Capetown), Poortgebouw (Rotterdam) and the Institute for (X) (Aarhus), the organizer of next years futurological symposium.  All these are places where you can feel free in a visible and tangible way. However, free cultural spaces all over the world are threatened by gentrification, each of them in their own specific way. But gentrification affects a lot more different aspects within society as it encompasses problems of all kinds, ranging from the reduction of social housing, alienation within neighborhoods, commercialization of city-centers, diminishing the variety and color of the city, dedication to overconsumption and a culture of greed, in short social and cultural exclusion.  Cody Hochstenbach (NL) for example did point out how gentrification directly increases inequality. Thus also the breeding ground for creativity and new ideas and these are needed to prevent the city from degenerating into humdrum. He stated that gentrification is certainly not an automatic process like many policymakers want us to believe, but a deliberate composed strategy developed by the ones with power instead. Over the last thirty years a shift from social democracy to liberalism took place in Amsterdam. Wouter van Gent (NL) showed us that the gentrification frontier advanced and working class voting blocs diminished in the last decades which permitted a new middle class hegemony to institute policy changes to further push gentrification.   At the same time people are fighting back like Brian Doucet’s presentation showed. Late last year, a diverse grassroots movement emerged to oppose the city’s housing plans from Rotterdam with a referendum. For several reasons the referendum was ignored by the city council, but because opposition and resistance was focused on a city-wide issue, rather than a specific development or estate, gentrification and displacement became major topics of conversation. As a result, the question: “Whose city is Rotterdam?” was discussed across the city. In Berlin we see that the lack of rental housing, rising real estate prices, and gentrification did result in for example a “Milieuschutz”, the protection of certain milieus, a law to actively block gentrification through regulation in five areas in Berlin. Andrej Holm (Ger) did show us how he is active in this process and tries to re-arrange and improve more existing laws for fair and social housing in Berlin in such a way that the results of these laws cause less gentrification and inequality. We also learned about initiatives to combat gentrification in Milan, Lisbon, Barcelona, London, Berlin, Vilnius, Copenhagen, and towns and cities in Serbia, Poland, Russia, South and Detroit. Doucet stressed the need for indigenous, radical ‘activist-leaders’ in Detroit.  Many of these people also operate on the edge of the city (or at least outside its downtown), but the message from his book “Why Detroit matters”  is that if we want to have a fair city, then these visions need to be much more central in our collective thinking about public space. Marko Aksentijević (Ser) tells us that more and more people from Belgrade have learned to be deeply suspicious after decades of dodgy sell-offs. Now they are protesting against the expensive housing on the waterfront with their group “Don’t Drown Belgrade”. Sometimes thousands of people are protesting with a big plastic duck as a symbol. “The word duck in Serbian means fraud” explains Aksentijevic, “it’s a symbolic way of saying the project is really Belgrade Water-fraud.” Despite all these demonstrations the waterfront development still continued, but many people get aware and engaged in their movements. Also some unexpected forms of gentrification were presented. The influence of urban greening demonstrates that such initiatives, while positive for the environment, tend to increase inequality and thus undermine the social pillar of sustainable development tells Roberta Cucca (Aus). Although greening is ostensibly intended to improve environmental conditions in neighborhoods, it generates green gentrification that pushes out the working-class.  The living streets (Leefstraten) in Gent are an example described by Cedric Goossens (Be) of degentrification. It is a grassroots greening initiative (Leefstraten) to examine how greening initiatives can be entangled with or engender processes of gentrification and displacement. Degentrification implies decentralization of (often historical) centers. The centralization of suburbs is not always covered by city councils. If we want to make a city bigger or smaller, we have to consider it in its entirety. Trans-industry exceeds industry. Trans-industrial landscapes lie in the margins of cities, just like cities lie in the margins of trans-industrial landscapes. A trans-industrial landscape is characterized by synergy between, for example, culture and nature, between the center and the periphery. That’s why Freeport Ruigoord has been saved. Enclaves of freedom like Christiania, Ruigoord, ADM and Uzupis are places of attraction for Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Vilnius, respectively. Ownership management sees competition as a driving force for the economy. If competition plays such an important part, let’s not compete for being ‘better’, but take care of places where individuality and difference can still blossom. The free cultural space is the first link in the creative (thinking) process. Industry and trans-industry are the last links. At the end of the FCS Symposium, we managed to issue a Manifesto entitled ‘Pretty Vacant’ in praise of the extremely diverse range of Free Cultural Spaces around the world.  A number of concrete proposals regarding alternatives for an again livable and creative city. The preservation of the last free cultural spaces in the margin is at stake, but attention to a creative drip for the city center is also required. It is not just about Amsterdam. The statement to be made about the importance of new free cultural spaces in the inner cities will be sent to the municipal councils of various major cities at home and abroad, so that they will be infected with the ‘freedom virus’. Best, Elkerlic Ps. It’s a manifesto in action, so to be continued. See you next year in Aarhus and soon on the streets of Amsterdam! Thanks to Maik ter Veer, Alan Dearling, Ralf van der Schaar, Menno Grootveld, Eric Duivenvoorden, Ernst du Pon, Frank Sol, Hay Schoolmeesters, Patrick van Ginkel and Aja Waalwijk ================================= Manifesto Pretty Vacant A manifesto on Free Cultural Spaces 1. We are the inhabitants and users of Free Cultural Spaces. People of all walks of life meet each other in Free Cultural Spaces. These spaces are particularly well suited for exploring the unknown and pushing boundaries. Their personal charisma reinforces the bonds between urban, rural and neighbourhood dwellers, and their hospitality fosters a versatile cosmopolitan society. 2. There are Free Cultural Spaces on land, at sea and in the air: walls, buildings, plots of land, canals, the ether, the world wide web. Free Cultural Spaces are every-persons-land. 3. In an (over)regulated society the autonomous value of Free Cultural Spaces as a major force behind new creative developments needs to be recognized. There is a need for ‘freespatial culture’: for permanent, temporary and nomadic spaces where people can come to their senses. 4. The attractiveness of cities is not only based on our identity as owners and consumers, but also on our identity as creators. A creative atmosphere, a green environment and a free cultural climate are therefore at least as important as economic considerations. An unbounded experience of space and time always “pays off.” 5. A free cultural climate is at odds with the proliferating gentrification. Instead of attempting to eject (less affluent) elements in order to upgrade neighbourhoods or districts, Free Cultural Spaces promote diversity and mutual solidarity. No homogenization of the ab-normal, but a welcoming of the extraordinary. 6. In opposition to the increasing pressure of rules and gentrification, Free Cultural Spaces emphasize the production of disorder, bringing life back into soulless urban landscapes. Sometimes making way for metropolitan development is unavoidable, but it is in the interest of all communities to keep the values and the functioning of free cultural spaces intact. 7. Inhabitants and users of Free Cultural Spaces readily assume responsibility for their realization and internal organization. It is, therefore, in the best interests of civic administrations to provide suitable space for and to play an active role in the enabling of new Free Cultural Spaces. 8. When city councils foster an even distribution of Free Cultural Spaces, spontaneous Zones Of Opportunity (ZOOs) will arise everywhere, in city centers as well as on their peripheries. And it must be “the responsibility of the community as a whole” to provide alternative locations whenever existing Free Cultural Spaces disappear. Manifesto by: All participants and audience of the 7th Futurological Symposium on Free Cultural Spaces, Amsterdam, October 2017.  
Issue #014 Published: 02-11-2017 // Written by: Jaap Draaisma
The Rise of the Creative Class “Aan de kant; Scheuren door de Creatieve Stad” was de titel van een bijeenkomst op de NDSM in 2004, georganiseerd door de Vrije Ruimte en anderen om tegenwicht te bieden aan de jubelverhalen over de Creatieve Stad.  De goeroe van die Creatieve Stad, Richard Florida, was vlak daarvoor door de gemeente naar Amsterdam gehaald om zijn boodschap te verkondigen: Amsterdam moest de loper uitleggen voor internationale Hightech-, ICT- en ‘creative industry’-bedrijven moesten de ‘creatieve klasse’ binnenhalen. Dat zou veel werkgelegenheid en economische groei opleveren, rijkdom en welvaart voor iedereen brengen.  De Vrije Ruimte zag dat anders: die aanpak van de creatieve stad zou tot het verdwijnen van de goedkope plekken voor kunstenaars en creatieven leiden, de stad onbetaalbaar maken en daardoor slecht uitpakken voor de mensen die niet ‘hoog opgeleid en creatief’ zijn. We voorzagen dat mensen plaats moesten maken voor het grote geld, de buitenlandse investeerders en de buitenlandse huizenkopers. Nee, zeiden de gemeente, de Kamer van Koophandel en De Waag op de bijeenkomst: wees blij dat al die investeerders en mensen met geld naar Amsterdam komen, dat is werk voor iedereen en komt iedereen ten goede (in economische termen: door het trickle down effect profiteert iedereen).  Amsterdam Superstar Helaas, helaas, wij hebben gelijk gekregen. Amsterdam Creatieve Stad is – in de termen van Richard Florida – een ‘superstar city’ geworden, waar de rijkdom absurde vormen heeft aangenomen en de ongelijkheid waanzinnig is toegenomen. Er is wel meer werk gekomen, maar dat betreft vooral tijdelijk en slecht betaald werk. De inkomens van de mensen met lage opleidingen zijn de afgelopen 15 jaar nauwelijks gestegen, terwijl het leven in de stad schrikbarend duur is geworden en het aantal rijken en superrijken in Amsterdam is geëxplodeerd. Aanvankelijk maakten huurwoningen op grote schaal plaats voor koopwoningen voor de middenklasse; nu zijn deze voor de middenklasse te duur geworden.  Was de creatieve stad altijd al een ramp voor iedereen met een laag inkomen, nu wordt ook de middenklasse slachtoffer. Kleine speciaalzaken verdwijnen, alsook de kleine, goedkope culturele voorzieningen.  De toegankelijke en open stad gaat eraan. Kortom: de stad zit in een vette nieuwe stedelijke crisis.  En dat is niet alleen onze analyse, de goeroe zelf heeft dit ontdekt en onderbouwd in een nieuw boek: The new Urban Crisis, dat verscheen in april 2017. Crisis, what crisis? In het grootste deel van het boek ‘bewijst’ Richard Florida dat de superstar cities, de creatieve steden waar alle succes en rijkdom zich concentreren, in een diepe crisis zitten.  Daarmee haalt hij deels zijn boek The Rise of the Creative Class (2002) onderuit. Wel zijn  de steden die de Hightech, ICT, creatieve industrie en creatieve klasse hebben binnengehaald inderdaad de meest succesvolle steden geworden, met de hoogste economische groei, de meeste banen en de hoogste rijkdom. Maar dat heeft niet geleid tot welvaart en perspectief voor iedereen. Integendeel, de kloof tussen rijk en arm is absurd groot geworden, de armen zitten steeds meer opgesloten in arme wijken met slechte voorzieningen en verbindingen, de steden worden ontoegankelijk voor nieuw talent en de middenklasse wordt weggedrukt door de rijken.  Er ontstaan zo binnen de stad twee steden: de succesvolle, rijke stad en de arme stad. Dit thema, verwoord in The Tale of Two Cities, was het programma waarmee Bill De Blasio in 2014 burgemeester van New York werd.  The Failure of the Creative Class Florida stelt nu dat onder het motto the winner takes all de rest van de stad en van het land wordt leeggezogen. Tot zijn verbazing werken de herverdelingsmechanismen niet meer. Want in de nieuwe economie van Hightech, ICT en creatieve industrie zijn geen vakbonden, en betalen de grote bedrijven geen of nauwelijks belasting. Het succes is gebaseerd op het principe van clustering en concentratie, wat leegzuigen betekent en dus vampirisme, in de economische theorie ook wel kannibalisme genoemd. Door neoliberalisering en globalisering is de mogelijkheid om te herverdelen verdwenen. Enorme segregatie binnen steden en tussen steden en de rest van het land is het gevolg. En ook het trickle down effect werkt niet meer, er sijpelt geen rijkdom meer naar beneden. In de geglobaliseerde economie wordt dat wat door de creative class wordt bedacht in lagelonenlanden gemaakt. Dat levert hier geen industriebanen op, waardoor de ‘arbeidersklasse’ er weinig tot niets aan heeft en armer en gefrustreerder raakt.   Door het succes van de creatieve stad groeit de zogenaamde Service Class (de verpleegster, buschauffeuse, horecapersoneel, politieagente, onderwijzer, schoonmaker en ook de meeste kunstenaars, toneelspelers en muzikanten) enorm in aantal banen, maar die banen zijn slecht betaald en vaak tijdelijk. Van één baan kun je in de dure stad niet leven. Er is veel werk, maar een groeiend deel van de bevolking hoort bij de ‘werkende armen’.  Florida gaat fel tekeer tegen de huiseigenaren in de superstar city: zij zijn de parasitaire klasse die slapend rijk wordt. Door de explosie van huizenprijzen in superstar cities worden zij rijk, zonder iets te doen, terwijl anderen dubbele banen moeten nemen en dan nog in armoede leven.  Maak de stad radicaal anders Het boek beschrijft vooral de nieuwe stedelijke crisis. Pas in het slothoofdstuk komt Florida met voorstellen om die crisis aan te pakken. De superstar city is de kip met de gouden eieren, die moet je dus niet slachten, schrijft Florida, want dan ben je de bron van economische groei en welvaart kwijt. Om de stedelijke crisis te overwinnen is juist méér stad, méér concentratie nodig. Met een radicale herverdeling moet de hele samenleving gaan profiteren van die superstar cities. Florida doet een aantal voorstellen voor die radicale herverdeling:  1. De lonen voor de service workers enorm verhogen. 2. Veel meer sociale huurwoningen bouwen (wat Amsterdam nu van plan is). 3. De grond in gemeente-eigendom brengen, zodat deze via leaseconstructies de enorme toename van de grondwaarde kan afromen (wat Amsterdam net heeft afgeschaft). 4. Beperkende regels voor stedelijkheid en hoogbouw afschaffen, maar als gemeente er wel voor zorgen dat er gemengde wijken van hoog- en middelhoogbouw, van oudbouw en nieuwbouw, van wonen en andere stedelijke functies ontstaan.  5. Investeren in mensen en arme wijken: onderwijs, openbaar vervoer, voorzieningen.  6. Op grotere schaal weer zelf produceren in plaats van de productie van goederen uit te besteden aan lagelonenlanden. Denk bijvoorbeeld aan het maken van echte lokale productielijnen en het opschalen van de ‘makers beweging’.  It’s the society, stupid! Wat duidelijk wordt bij het lezen van Florida’s boek is dat de urban crisis eigenlijk geen stedelijke crisis is, maar een crisis van de hele westerse samenleving. De industriële maatschappij leverde voor het grootste deel van de bevolking welvaart en perspectief, terwijl de huidige creatieve maatschappij tot een diepe kloof in de samenleving leidt, waarbij er voor de meesten geen muziek meer in zit. De creatieve stad heeft het pad geëffend voor een beleid waarvan wij vandaag de perverse gevolgen moeten dragen. Hoe liberaler, vrijer, diverser, succesvoller een stad, hoe groter de kloof tussen rijk en arm, hoe meer segregatie. Hoe meer creatief talent een stad weet aan te trekken en hoe meer ze de culturele waarden die daarbij horen verkondigt, hoe verbitterder de rest van de bevolking zal worden. De haat tegen alles wat liberaal en creatief is, groeit verder. Als het niet lukt de culturele strijd – in de breedste zin van het woord – met de ‘klassenstrijd’ (die van werk, inkomen, armoede en welvaart) voor iedereen te verbinden, dan zal de crisis nog dieper worden. Florida legt dan ook een rechtstreeks verband tussen de nieuwe stedelijke crisis en de overwinning van Trump.  En dat brengt mij terug bij de discussie op NDSM in 2004. Het is duidelijk dat de Florida cheerleaders van toen een belangrijke ideologische bijdrage hebben geleverd aan de stedelijke crisis die de Amerikaanse geograaf zo helder beschrijft. Voor ons als Amsterdammers moet dit een grote rode waarschuwingslamp zijn. Wij zeggen: AAN DE KANT met je creatieve stedelijke innovatieprojecten, je smart city en andere technocratische oplossingen. Die betekenen alleen maar meer van hetzelfde ideologische gemeier, het meedraaien met de neoliberale wind. De echte uitdagingen liggen elders: in het collectief organiseren van een nieuwe politiek die de stad teruggeeft aan haar burgers.  Richard Florida zal dit keer niet door het Amsterdamse gemeentebestuur uitgenodigd worden.
Issue #014 Published: 24-10-2017 // Written by: eve kalyva
It is not very often that I find a video projection I am interested in watching to the end. Let alone watch twice. The Circle Of was a pleasant surprise, and a very engaging experience. The big room of the Dokzaal was transformed into a cosy and relaxing setting. Cushions, rugs, blankets and bowls with fruit occupied the biggest part of floor. On the high ceiling, there was an intricate mesh of handwoven screens. They hung in well calculated distance in relation to their size and their function pushed one’s imagination farther than a giant dream catcher: their centre served as a semi-transparent, multi-layered projection surface. The video lasted about 45 minutes and was accompanied by live music. I was immediately captivated by the experience and progressively got lost in space and time – a space and time that this multi-sensory work commanded very well. Soft, distant views of what could be blue skies were projected onto the ceiling screens and accompanied by a tranquil, dream-like melody. Seamlessly these images turned into close ups of vibrant colours and organic forms quickly alternating and rotating through the depths of the meticulously crafted netlike surfaces, while lyrical crescendos and improvised percussion echoed across the room. Not before long, this got dissolved and replaced by some lingering views of some past memory or encounter and floating sensations set against a resonating flat minor. Above and beyond me, chimes and bells were disappearing in the distance. Finding the right balance between visual input, audio and space make-up in order to achieve an immersive but also a thought provoking experience is a challenging task. It requires creativity and imagination, and there is no doubt that Eszter Horváth and Zsolt Sarkozi who conceived the project and their collaborators Caroline Lindo and Gábor Hartyáni had plenty of that. But perhaps more importantly, one needs good technical and formal grounding to be able to perfectly combine and execute such a three-dimensional ensemble of images, sounds, surfaces and sensations. This installation/performance was finely tuned and progressed naturally, mesmerising and inciting one to wondering what there is to be seen and what could be there to be seen but also recalled, imagined and projected.  Now and then, the textile screens moved and jingled. This very simple idea has a remarkable twofold effect. First, it adds to the feeling of losing one’s self inside the space. The circle in the ceiling becomes a hole in a lowering sky – a sky that arches over the city but which also becomes inverted revealing kaleidoscopic views of the latter’s contents. In this sense, the screens form a tunnel of vision and imagination that connects the here with the out there, the now with some other time and our bodies with the world and the others around us. Second, these physical and sound vibrations have a grounding effect. Enhanced by fabric details hanging perpendicularly to the rest of the projection screens, they interrupt the unfolding of the immersive experience and draw attention to the act of being immersed. They make one realise the process of losing one’s self in space while underling how space supports this act. They draw attention, in other words, to the materiality of the medium and the physicality of the act. This idea of providing a point of reference for the viewer helps conceptualise the dialectics of experience and has the critical potential to cancel any escapist tendencies that immersive installations often evoke.   According to its creators, one of the ideas behind The Circle Of is the interest in making the viewer aware of the projection screen and, more specifically, of the act of watching a projection. In strict terms, a projection is a one-way linear relationship between an aperture (often mechanically controlled) and a neutral surface. One of the ways to draw the viewer’s attention to how projection is formally supported and therefore conditioned is to break the frame and the composition of what is being projected (its time, space and contents). Another way is to disturb the projection surface by altering its orientation, texture, colour etc. The dialogue with live experimental music rather than a set score can also serve to ground the viewing experience. The Circle Of masterfully combines all the above and being based on improvisation and site specificity, it has the capability to expand further this engagement with the medium, the carrier and the positioning of the viewer.  Lying on the floor, I could feel, see, hear and imagine the dialogue between the ground pressing my body and the ceiling which was beyond my reach. It was a dialogue between the image and the sound, projection and matter, my body and space, me and others, transparency and colour, the rational part of my brain recording all this and the most subtle forms and hues my imagination could evoke. Realising what is still possible to do has a cathartic effect. What would the implications be, lyrical or otherwise, to conceive a hole in the sky looking right back at us? Image credits: The Circle Of, 13-14 May 2017, Dokzaal. Eszter Horváth and Zsolt Sarkozi (video and concept), Caroline Lindo (textile artwork), Gábor Hartyáni (live cello music). Photo by Eszter Horváth.