Recent articles
Issue #014 Published: 21-09-2017 // Written by: Rob Talin
Jeffrey and Cecilia Babcock recently released their book ‘Séances’ – Re-wiring Images in the Amsterdam Underground, in which they describe the history of Jeffrey’s ten years’ adventure of Underground Cinemas. This program consists of weekly screenings of movies that were forgotten, censured or otherwise maltreated for years, in a constantly changing list of underground cinema venues in Amsterdam. The book does not only depict a historical archive of the cinema adventure but also of the transformation or disappearance of cultural free spaces in the city due to gentrification processes (at present, one of the venues hosting Underground Cinema, the Spinhuis, is threatened to be closed down). The motivation for Underground Cinema is the ritual quality that watching films together engenders. As the authors write, “Underground is primitive imagination in the caves of deeper dreams (1)”. With the program they aim for people to gather together, quietly and in the dark, and to examine their own way of life in an encounter with something that may be new for them, even if it is only for two hours. I had a talk with Cecilia and Jeffrey about their book and their vision about the future of Amsterdam. R: Could you tell me a bit more about  your book? What does ‘Séances’ mean, for example? J: In French, a séance is a film screening, while in English the word refers to the dark rooms where people come together to conjure up spirits from the past. That’s pretty much the metaphor of cinema for me: we’ve just watched a movie, and though most of the people in it are dead now, we are watching them as if they were alive. It’s about bringing history back to life. C: There’s an element of collective magic: it’s not at all like watching the movie on your laptop screen. There’s a strong element of ritual. J: When I started screening movies, I was thinking about a form of nomadic cinema, which travels around the city, instead of doing screenings in a fixed location. This strengthens the connections within the alternative circuit. So for example when someone comes to De Nieuwe Anita, they can find out about the Vondelbunker, Joe’s Garage, Cavia and all the other underground venues. The book charts the history of this project, from the beginning ten years ago, through the student movement three years ago, up until the present. The book reinforces this nomadic idea, it scatters in many different directions. What we wanted to do, was to open many different possibilities to access underground culture, so the readers can decide what inspires them and what does not inspire them while they go through the book. It’s a series of sparks that can take you in many directions. It was also important for me to document today’s underground scene so that the memories and images stay around at least for a while.  R: Speaking of that, how do you see the future of Amsterdam, in terms of free spaces and cultural gatherings? J: I don’t see a real wave of new things happening, to tell you the truth. But I’m from the ‘80s, which was a very specific time. Some things are happening, a new sort of bottom-up culture is growing in the north of Amsterdam, but much of that is driven by young entrepreneur types. These new initiatives are mostly fashionable and are used to gentrify areas of the city. This is not what my cinemas are about. They’re not just about going to see a movie but about the whole experience and situation involved in watching a neglected or deleted movie, a film with a message. They can be political movies, films about disturbing or unusual topics that are treated with an innovative, different approach. This can provoke a reaction, a debate or reflection. Doing these screenings proves that there is another way of doing things. These ‘alternative-ish’ spaces so in fashion now are not really disrupting anything. Instead, I would like to see a true alternative, in terms of people’s lives. And I think this will arise, because the spirit of Amsterdam as I knew it in the ‘80’s is still here, lingering below the surface. In fact that’s why I can still have the Underground Cinemas in five or six places now (Cinemanita, Butcher’s Tears, Budapest, Film Cavia and Spinhuis). It’s still possible in Amsterdam. C: The main problem is that people don’t see the difference between a pop-up and a squat. This is a shame because right now there aren’t enough people doing stuff with a long-term perspective, without this ‘pop-up frame of mind’, so things cannot survive and persist. I hope that people realize that they can start projects, not for just two months, but for an indefinite time, even if they as individuals can only be involved in them on and off. And I hope that the people who join the alternative scene will really be engaged with it, and not just seeking to fill up their CVs with interesting projects. Sometimes it seems as if people organize pop-up projects so that they can meet like-minded people and build a career for themselves. It would be nicer if they could dream of building a culture for the future instead.  R: So why do you keep on living and working in Amsterdam? Why not relocate somewhere less capitalistic and with more new impulses, like Berlin for instance? J: I’ve seen wild old Berlin cave in to the same blueprint of gentrification as all the other cities across Europe. My cinemas wouldn’t be possible there. For what I’m doing, there’s still more freedom, or more autonomy, in Amsterdam. When I was in London, the squats were totally different from the ones here. Squatters in London didn’t have any legal rights; they could only stay in a space for a couple months, so they never took care of the places at all, and just trashed them. After all, they were constantly pushed around from one place to another. It was chaos. Then I came to Amsterdam and found that people were totally organized. On the Herengracht, where I was living, there was a phone-tree, with which you could call ten numbers, and then those ten numbers would call another ten numbers, and so on. If a squat was in trouble, within minutes you could have a huge amount of people on the street in almost no time. I think that’s the reason why people are still fighting here, because they were always so organized and committed to what they were doing. Séances is available at Fort van Sjakoo, San Serriffe, Boekie Woekie. (1) Jeffrey and Cecilia Babcock, Séances’ – Re-wiring Images in the Amsterdam Underground, Amsterdam 2017, p.17.
Issue #014 Published: 19-09-2017 // Written by: Roberto Bacchilega
The 2017-2018 cultural season marks the ten-year existence of AstaroTheatro, an inspiring moment to take the opportunity to define who we are, to look back as well as to create a vision for the future. The small theatre space of AstaroTheatro opened ten years ago instigated by wishful thinking and undefined artistic dreams, but with one clear will: to form the ground for independent research and experimentation in theatre and the arts. An authentically creative place, unsullied by the logic of corporate entertainment and moneymaking or by sponsored and marketing-based, so-called ‘creative’ economy. Defining what you don’t want to be implies you are at the same time in search of your positive identity. And since our identity and our existence are defined by the existence of many other people we work with, here is a a list of the varied productions by some of these other people operating within the AstaroTheatro Collective: English language theatre plays and theatre performance Italian language theatre plays by contemporary Italian playwrights  Dutch language theatre and performance International poetry performance International theatre performance  Dance performance Visual performance  Exhibitions and art installations Workshops and education Readings Live music Documentary and fiction movie screenings Book presentations Lectures and debates Story Telling ‘OpenPodium’ (an extremely successful event giving space to experimentation and try out to many artists) The above list of productions makes clear that a broad Collective of independent artists operate inside the space of the theatre. As a production house AstaroTheatro currently accommodates three international theatre groups. Apart from this, the space is regularly scheduled to host external artists and the Collective collaborates with other performers and groups. AstaroTheatro Productions are performed outside the theatre itself during festivals and in several venues in Amsterdam, The Netherlands and other countries. So far so good. It feels nice to consider the past and the present and to sum up the activities of this small theatre. But because AstaroTheatro has a strong will to live for many more years, it’s necessary to shape a few ideas for the future, so as to foster continuity and assess what to take with us from the past into the times to come. We can call this:  ‘Manifesto Poetico’ or ‘AstaroTheatro: Tales of the Unexpected’ Our lives are communal; we need to be social to survive. The neoliberal assumption of individuals being responsible for their (material-economical) wellbeing within society (read: market) leads to the commodification of mankind, a world where everything and everyone is a commodity, a product. This is true for the arts as well. We witness the growing pornification of theatre in order to sell, its reduction to an empty shell, flashing from the outside but devoid of authentic, unexploited meaning within. The exploration of meaning is at present dangerous territory, mined and savage, where artists need to move with care.  As artistic director and performer at AstaroTheatro I have always tried to produce and to promote engagement within the arts, a theatre with something political or social to say, though sometimes more subliminal or subtextual than is immediately evident at first glance. A meaningful theatre representing non-mainstream stories and talking a different language than poisonous and toxic neoliberal corporate dialectics.  Take for instance the meaning of the ‘think positive, be confident, optimistic and happy’ mantra of neoliberalism. This hedonistic commandment calls for a society on the road to oblivion - not too many questions asked and a brainwashed entertainment with acrobatic extravaganza, special effects and easy emotions for everybody. But this ‘recreational culture’ means exactly the agony of theatre and the death of culture itself. At AstaroTheatro we acknowledge catharsis, we are aware there is no comedy without tragedy and above all we are not afraid to perform a theatre that wants to be uncomfortable, painful, inconvenient. We know theatre has to raise questions, to question the obvious and not to give populist ready-made answers. It needs to show the unexpected, the marginalised, the oppressed, the victim of class injustice and the feelings of shame, rage and solidarity. Our Western society, which we are told to be proud of, rests on embedded racism and discrimination, on the acceptance of stereotypes and on normalizing prejudice. It’s the duty of theatre to play a key role in unmasking and decoding this vicious use of meanings and notions by creating and demonstrating a different, more authentic narrative. Then, take the notion of ‘freedom of speech’. Too often we see the abuse of this meaning, decontextualized for political purposes, used to throw poison on the democratic debate or to mock and to victimize minorities, thereby justifying fascist propaganda. Engaged theatre is conscious of the context of meaning, knows its words, establishes a communication with the audience based on the grassroots, unexploited and yet complex sense of the message. An intimate relation with the audience remains our priority at AstaroTheatro. In physical terms, the small size of our theatre space promotes closeness between performers and audience. But it’s more than this. We strive to achieve in practice the theory of ‘breaking the fourth wall’ in theatre. We don’t believe in a Cartesian dichotomy where the theatre is a box containing an active actor and a passive spectator. And we don’t have the arrogance to think we can determine what the spectator will perceive from our performances. We know different people, different audiences will filter meanings through their own experience. So we offer an open vision, layers and inputs and above all an urge for activating and opening up, while making clear what we stand for. The Collective wishes to foster an emancipated audience in an immersive experience. This goes beyond a performer merely coming down from the stage and acting with the audience. If we want to talk to the audience, our performances have to be challenging, stimulating and meaningful. And for this we need a surprising narrative, a narrative that does not follow the mainstream logic of media and power, a truly alternative narrative. An unconventional, non-bourgeois narrative that is also human, touching and apparently around the corner. We need to tell stories that tickle our fantasy as victims of corporate mediocrity, a fantasy killed by the banality of daily social exploitation and frustration.  Stories with depth and layers addressing our conscience and giving fresh life to the debate on ethics. Through this journey AstaroTheatro wants to remain a space for an emancipated audience keen to further its emancipation process, a space facilitating a mutual exchange of energy at all levels between performers and audience. In this perspective the word ‘community’ makes sense at AstaroTheatro. One more note about the situation of the audience in the context of cultural venues and theatre spaces in Amsterdam. AstaroTheatro is located right in the heart of Amsterdam, an extremely gentrified city. The city centre and all surrounding neighbourhoods are invaded by tourists and exploited by a real estate sector pushing prices to levels only affordable to the (corporate) rich. As a result the Amsterdam population is ‘yuppie’, hedonistic, prone to partying all night long, but usually not interested in culture and absolutely not in non-mainstream culture. The terror of consumerism is everywhere while big retail stores and chains take over the city landscape. Truly alternative cultural spaces are scarce in the Dutch capital and they are in a constant struggle for (financial) survival. Theatres in particular are very few and constantly struggling to attract audiences and pay the bills. Being situated in this environment, AstaroTheatro is fully exposed to all these phenomena. Since there is no direct solution to all this, the best we can do is to not give up and to make our voice heard over and over again in order to create an alternative narrative. How to create while one is controlled by others, how to create without the security of creation, how to find a security which is inevitable if we want to express ourselves Jerzy Grotowski Last but not least, I feel it’s time to analyse the creative process leading to a theatre performance at AstaroTheatro. I am very much aware of the importance of the process in the creative process, that means not only being concerned with keeping the creative flow organic, but also acknowledging the importance of an immanent, non-hierarchic process.  Looking back and evaluating how productions have come to light in the past is a good way to learn lessons for the future. At this point I need to say that staging a play written by, let’s say, Samuel Beckett, Bilgesu Erenus, David Ives or Edoardo Erba easily involves a transcendent mode to approach the creative process. This means the performer delegates somebody outside (above) to be in charge as playwright, director, producer. The actor becomes ‘specialized’, as so do all other agents staging the play. This creates not only a fragmented and hierarchic way of working, but alienates all participants from the production itself. The director becomes ‘the external eye’, the playwright the literary authority to relate to. Knowing this all too well, and knowing how common this transcendent mode of creating is in mainstream theatre, at AstaroTheatro I have always tried, we have always tried, to make inclusive theatre, where everyone could have his/her say. In a small environment where performances have to be miraculously adapted to the space, this comes naturally and spontaneously. I don’t have the illusion of this bottom-up theatre always being successful and surely there is still a lot to learn in this direction for the future.  Over the years AstaroTheatro has been steadily heading towards a creative process where the material bodies involved do no obey commands issued from a transcendental source but generate their own rules and forms of creation. If we want to move on to immanence in performance, we have to break apart the hierarchical organisation and strict division of labour that plagues both neoliberal corporations and the culture industry. The violent, polarized society we live in demands new strategies, alternatives to mainstream theatre that are as competitive and specialized as mainstream society. All this means in a way the politicization of the process, de-individualizing an individualistic society. A course AstaroTheatro has already started but that surely will progress in the future to a more self-organized theatre. Rehearsals should more and more become moments where performers engage in the process of authorship through multiple discussions, improvisations, learning to feel the others and the space. Egos are tamed, the Collective creates. This working flow is extremely stimulating and challenging and already present in AstaroTheatro. Lessons are learned for the future, even (or especially) from disagreements, while enjoying the thrill of a collective work. What counts in the end is artistic freedom in constant investigation. As a performer like any other in AstaroTheatro I had to learn there is no separation or hierarchy among body, mind and spoken word. We communicate simultaneously with all our faculties - a lesson easily learned, but in practice a never ending journey of rise and fall. All this makes for marvellous moments during rehearsals. We learn to work with our body, our breath, our voice in a non-judgemental way. We explore the space and we interact with the other performers. New exercises are welcome and constantly proposed. We are in the process of learning that physical exercises, improvisations and experiments allow the body to introduce new ideas during rehearsals. The body does the thinking, in a way. We seek a deeper interaction by ‘feeling’ the other performers while at the same time being a total actor.  While several playwrights operate inside AstaroTheatro adapting and rewriting their scripts in a truly equal, horizontal relation with the performers and the space, only recently have we started writing our own plays as a collective group. This is an exciting and rewarding experience we will be glad to continue over the coming years in our theatre. And AstaroTheatro has and will keep its international character. That means among other things not a monocultural approach to culture but a pluralistic view of reality. Our work constitutes a response to the call to create an activism and a hunger called theatre. We cannot emulate or reproduce the experience of the Living Theatre of Judith Malina or Julian Beck. This would be silly and anachronistic. But we can learn lessons from this process of artistic creation and we can work to make our own Living Theatre. Because it’s time for resistance, time to reverse the horror. Ten years of AstaroTheatro? This is only the beginning! I am endlessly grateful to all the people (artists, audience, friends, advisers and other loonies) who passed by and to all the people who are still active and will be active at AstaroTheatro. What I have written here and also what I have not written here is because of you. Who I am is because of you. Roberto Bacchilega Artistic Director and Performer at AstaroTheatro  Here are a few highlights of what you can expect from the 2017-2018 Program-Ten years AstaroTheatro: • 7-17 September: annual participation in the Free Fringe Festival Amsterdam with two plays: ‘Themis and Lombroso’ by Bilgesu Erenus and ‘The Grouch’ adapted from the original play by Menander • October: performance of ‘Adam’s Other Rib’ by Joaquim Pedro Ferreira in Pisa, Italy, and participation in the project of performance and workshops ‘Timelessness’ with Professor Russolo and His Noise Intoners in Portogruaro, Italy • October: hosting the play ‘Quando Quando’ by Teatro La Ribalta • November: hosting the musician James Oesi and the band She-Owl • November, December: Three AstaroTheatro Productions: ‘Volcanos’, a collective production, ‘Treading the Abyss’ by Joaquim Pedro Ferreira and ‘Monsieur Teste’ by Paul Valery • From January 2018: comeback of the magic AstaroTheatro ‘Openpodium’ • 27 March 2018: World Theatre Day Amsterdam event organized by AstaroTheatro • May 2018: AstaroTheatro Festival: three days of uncontrolled arts   Photos: Tatjana Todorovic      
Issue #014 Published: 14-09-2017 // Written by: Sinsin collective and others
Free Fringe festival Amsterdam the showcase for Amsterdam’s Real Fringe
Let’s cut to the chase. If you read Amsterdam Alternative, you probably already know how it goes. Free Fringe Festival Amsterdam is one of those low on budget, big on creative freedom events that used to spontaneously erupt all over Amsterdam in squatted venues and public spaces. There has been a palpable change and the joie de vivre seems somewhat diminished, but the scene is still there, more concentrated, more focused, more determined. If you don’t know already, here’s the skinny: Free Fringe Festival Amsterdam is a shadow festival to Nederlands Theaterfestival, which runs at the same time, 7 – 17 September. Lofty stuff indeed. Meanwhile, at the grass roots, 2017 is the 6th year that Free Fringe Festival Amsterdam has run 10 days of new, traditional, underground, autonomous events: plays, dance performances, all kinds of music, art, film, video games, animation, readings, exhibitions & entertainments, in several city centre venues, all for free. If you like numbers, that means there have been 60 days and 60 nights of Free Fringe Festival Amsterdam so far.  And FREE doesn’t, in this case, mean ‘crap’. Read on to see what this year has in store: FAY’S FILM FESTIVAL 2017, 5th Anniversary  This is Fay’s Film Festival’s 5th year and it promises to be the biggest yet with screenings in Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul and our beloved home base, Amsterdam. As well as cutting-edge cartoons and films from Japan, Australia, America, China & Europe, we will premiere OTAKU BOI, a groundbreaking 4D performance by Future Cartoons. The artists use a meld of projections, animation, props and live performance, to create on stage the tiny 1-room apartment of Otaku Boi, where he plays video-games and battles his inner demons.  Other highlights at Fay’s Film Festival include Sawako Kabuki, Japan’s most perverted animator. Having previously screened her films Anal Juke, Master Blaster and Don’t tell mom at Fay’s Film Festival she now returns triumphant with her newest film, Summer’s puke is winter}s delight, which has just won the Jury Prize at Annecy! We also have some bizarre creepy groovy 3D from Faiyaz Jafri and Ryuyo Eto, sexy stop-motion by Kirsten Lepore and banana shenanigans from Australian Julian Frost. Further, there will be some pearls from Japan by the students of Tama Art University, one of the world’s top schools which nurtures ball-breaking independent animators.  Fay’s Film Festival is at 19:30, Saturday 9 September at Vondelbunker.  Also, screening courtesy of Fay’s Film Festival, for the first time outside Japan, is Guy Pearce’s Difficulty Breathing, shot in the slums of deep Osaka (at SICK Art Exhibition 13:00, Saturday 16 September, Vondelbunker).  Warp Zone Video Game Art Show invades Amsterdam!  Warp Zone showcases all forms of art that pay tribute to the wonderful world of video games. Celebrate video game culture in an afternoon of art, chip tunes, performances, games, good company and beer! Previous years showcased artists from Tokyo, Amsterdam, New York and Australia. This year includes music from Carf Darko, The Pixel-Art Gallery, Magic Card paint-overs, interactive 2D art and all sorts of playable games old and new.  In the Vondeltent outside will be the chill zone - enter and prepare for audio bliss! gHST RADIO will captivate your mind, body and soul with ambient beat remixes and droned out delays of legendary street performer gHSTS & gUITARS broadcasting live. Bring your battery operated radio, phone or headphones that can pick up a FM radio signal or avail of those provided, to be part of the sound experience. The celebrations continue in the evening at Vondelbunker with Fay”s film festival at 19:30 and Warp zone after party from 21:00, with acts, stand-up comedy from Neville Raven and music galore with Horizon tide, Cloudy daze, Wondertrees & Innocent youth (DJ/VJ). All proceeds raised at the bar contribute to keeping the Vondelbunker’s doors open. So you can get drunk AND feel good about yourself for keeping such a fab location running. ;)  Doors open 13:00, Saturday 9 September, Vondelbunker.  SICK Art Exhibition  SICK is a group exhibition of artworks united in their power to fascinate and disturb the viewer. These works deliberately or unconsciously transgress the bounds of propriety. They utilize scatological subjects, express innately subversive qualities or take an outsider stance. Some present other ways of seeing and experiencing, some deal directly with ‘sickness’ as a subject and some are just plain sick.  SICK is part of a ‘dirty’ weekend at Vondelbunker on September 16th. In the afternoon there will be installation, video, live-art, underground films & paintings.  From 21:00. on we have SICK music night with Forgotten matters (film-performance), Kim Dealer & Mylo Cywitz (IT/DE electronic garage opera), Grandpa death Experience, The skanky Crack whores, Black tarantula, Monica & the explosion and Donkey kung-fu. Art exhibition from 13:00 Saturday 16 September, Vondelbunker.  Warning! some people may take offence at the artworks on show.  Quentin Threadbare’s Free Fringe Theatre Roundup Six years ago whilst taking a stroll through the bushes in beautiful Vondelpark I stumbled upon Free Fringe Festival Amsterdam. In that first year it was a good deal smaller than it is now. But there, beneath a bridge in the underground venue of the Vondelbunker I saw a show that has remained with me. It was a play about two tramps of Amsterdam – or ‘nietsnutten’ as they are known, a musical comedy that had me pissing myself with laughter. And as the years have passed and the festival has grown what has sprouted forth in subsequent editions has been delightful. And it’s all for free! That’s another thing. Without the product placement and heavy corporate presence of official, heavily funded events, FFFA is free from the shackles of corporate middle of the road mediocrity! And every year since then, when September starts to turn the summer to Autumn, I prepare to discover what wonders will be mine at this year’s FFFA.  Unable as I am to bi-locate, I must decide on which events I’ll attend. So, my gallant reader, bear in mind the variety of shows and events. This year caters for a wide spectrum of interest. Do peruse the website ( for the calendar of events and details of the gems on offer. Being a man of the theatre that is my first port of call.  The Grouch, translated by Vincent Rosivach and adapted by Zbigniew Maciak, is on at Microtheatro in Warmoestraat. It is based on Menander’s Dyskolos (“The Difficult One”). First produced in Athens in 316 B.C., this Ancient Greek comedy gives a portrait of a mean, troublesome man, who hates literally all humanity and is forced to embark on a deeply spiritual journey. Hank Botwinik presents traditional white face mime at Mike’s Badhuistheater during The Boerhaaveplein Festival. Sin Sin Collective are also at Badhuistheater with The Hellfire Club featuring animation, live music & theatre. Sin Sin Collective’s One Day We Will All Be Free takes the checkered history of De Vondelbunker as its subject. Find out what happened that infamous night when Nico & Mick Jagger dropped by. AstaroTeatro & Alli Mana Group are doing Themis and Lombroso by Turkish playwright Bilgesu Erenus, a dialogue between the Themis, Goddess of Justice & criminologist Lombroso, inventor of innate criminal theory. Experimental Theatre includes SHE SMOKES by teatro*L I L A at SICK Art Exhibition & Het Duister by Marthe van Bronkhorst, both at Vondelbunker. (written by Quentin Threadbare) Book Launch: an excerpt from Zoo Drawings by Molly Heady-Carroll  “Look! That man is drawing!”  Most weeks, when I visit Artis to draw, somebody will make this statement to their child. Personally, I do not mind which pronoun people use when referring to me. I would rather they do not realize their mistake and get embarrassed than correct them. But it does make one wonder why on earth this happens every week. My observations after visiting Artis so frequently is that parents often narrate their children’s visit and try to keep them moving along from one interesting thing to another, hoping perhaps to eventually make it to a playground where the parents can have a coffee. Many a time I have seen a parent secretly glimpse the information board (so as to not break the illusion to their children that their parents know everything) and confidently tell their child that the animal they are looking at is a Squirrel Monkey (when in actual fact it is a Hyax). To them, I am perhaps just another interesting thing they can point out to their child and do not find it necessary to observe exactly what it is they are looking at. It is so frequent that I am referred to as a man, I began experimenting with different clothing to see what pronoun people refer to me with. Despite wearing various combinations of big earrings and low cut tank tops, I was still referred to as a man. Eventually I did discover that dresses finally make people refer to me as a woman. Perhaps my focused energy while drawing is sometimes not associated with women. Perhaps my build and dark hair is too different compared to the typical slim and blond build of Dutch women. Who knows…But it’s interesting to think about while drawing at Artis!  (written by Molly Heady-Carroll and reproduced with permission of the author) Festive Festival Opening + Exhibition/Book Launch of Zoo Drawings’by Molly Heady-Carroll is on Thursday September 7th, 8PM, Astarotheatro (Sint Jansstraat 37, Amsterdam)  Free means free Now in its sixth year, this unstoppable annual event remains a free & accessible podium for artists and audiences alike, an extraordinary celebration of all the arts: new, traditional, underground, weird & wonderful.  Love goes out to everyone, the artists, the audiences, techs, venues, toilet cleaners, all at De Vondelbunker for their dedication & integrity.  Thanks to Peter for the tent, Roberto at AstaroTheatro for being a rock & all who have donated time and effort purely for the fun or for love of what they do.  If you have any queries about Free Fringe Festival Amsterdam, feel free to contact  Remember: One Day We Will All Be Free  For more information, press and archive,  visit  
Issue #014 Published: 13-09-2017 // Written by: Stijn Verhoeff
Onder de paraplu van het klimaat geïnspireerd door de klimaatactie Code rood
Het is maandagochtend en ik begin voor de derde keer aan dit artikel over de klimaatactie van Code Rood. Afgelopen vrijdag dacht ik het stuk af te hebben. Ik had er een volle week aan gewerkt en ik stuurde het naar een aantal vrienden, op zoek naar de bevestiging van de kwaliteit. Na het weekend zou ik nog een paar puntjes op de i zetten en weg ermee. Mijn werk zou erop zitten. Tijd voor een welverdiend weekend, het was bovendien heerlijk weer.  Terwijl ik in de zon lag en naar het wielrennen keek, kon ik mij er niet van weerhouden af en toe de mail te checken. Langzaam kwamen de eerste reacties binnen. ‘Hmmm, tja.’ Leuk stuk, of nee, dat zeiden ze niet. ‘Waar ben jij in dit verhaal?’, schreef een eerste lezer. ‘Wat voelde je? Wat dacht je?’, schreef een tweede.  Wat voelde ik? Wacht even, hadden ze wel het stuk gelezen dat ik ze had gestuurd? De klimaatactie van Code Rood ging over samenhorigheid. Over wij in plaats van ik. Of sterker nog, over zij: The birds and the bees, het stervende koraal. Arbeiders in kolenmijnen in Colombia. Inwoners van Groningen.  Als de klimaatactie van Code Rood iets was, schreef ik in het stuk, dan was het een solidariteitsactie, een oefening verder te kijken dan de eigen neus lang is. Na een lange beschrijving van het reilen en zeilen op het vierdaagse klimaatkamp nabij Station Sloterdijk en de bezetting van een kolenopslag in de Amsterdamse haven was ik tot de conclusie gekomen dat klimaatactivisme veel verder gaat dan het terugdringen van de co2 uitstoot.  De stelling was dat de klimaatproblematiek als katalysator, als paraplu zou kunnen dienen voor de vele verschillende struggles, de vele emancipatieprocessen die de laatste jaren voor een tweede, derde of vierde keer op zijn gekomen. Het veranderende klimaat zou ons kunnen doen beseffen dat wij één kunnen zijn, samen zullen moeten komen en onze krachten zullen moeten bundelen om te kunnen strijden tegen onrecht, ongelijkheid en uitbuiting. Tegen dat wat ook wel het witte patriarchaat wordt genoemd.  Ik noemde het uit Amerika overgekomen Intersectionality, het idee dat verschillende maatschappelijke problemen, zoals racisme, gender-ongelijkheid en armoede, geregeld samen vallen en daarom in elkaars relatie bezien moeten worden (en alleen dan kunnen oplossingen gevonden worden). Ik stelde dat verschillende groepen ondanks of juist omdat ze verschillende problemen hebben samen kunnen komen. Antiracisme-activisten hebben het immers over het sluimerende neokolonialisme, terwijl feministen de eeuwenoude gender-ongelijkheid benoemen. En zij kunnen allen niet genoeg gehoord worden, maar hoe zou het zijn, schreef ik, als alle krachten gebundeld worden en onder de paraplu van het klimaat ten strijde trekken tegen de hypocrisie van een verderfelijk systeem? Doet de Amerikaanse opperkoning graaigedrag ons niet beseffen dat een grens is bereikt? Is het niet aan ons allemaal om op te staan en gezamenlijk op zoek te gaan naar alternatieven? Waarom, vroeg ik mij dus af, zou ik, zoals mijn kritische lezers mij voorstelden, mijn persoonlijke perspectief over dit verhaal moeten leggen? Barst onze publieke opinie niet van de opgeblazen ikken? Is het columnisme als levenshouding niet onderdeel van hetzelfde probleem? Namelijk dat het individualisme, hoe emancipatoir het zich ook uitdraagt, allesbehalve samenbrengt? En is het samenkomen, de groepsonderneming, niet de opdracht van deze tijd? Geregeld lijkt een columnist, en vergeef me mijn cynisme, eerder bezig een te impuls geven aan zijn of haar eigen carrière (met een uitnodiging van Zomergasten als kers op de taart) dan de betreffende zaak voor het voetlicht te brengen. Sommige tendensen kunnen nu eenmaal niet los gezien worden van het tijdsbestek waarin wij leven: facebook en twitter zijn niet alleen maar ontstaan omdat de techniek het mogelijk maakt. Deze sociale media zijn allereerst afspiegelingen van onze tijd, de lucht die wij inademen: het kapitalisme. Het klinkt wellicht vies of misschien achterhaald, toch kunnen we het beestje, of zeg maar gerust beest, beter bij de naam noemen.  Laat ik eerst voordat ik doorschiet in deze tirade kort uitleggen wat de Code Rood klimaatactie precies inhield. Op 24 juni jongstleden, precies twee jaar na de gewonnen klimaatzaak van Urgenda, bezetten ruim 300 activisten een kolenopslag in de Amsterdamse haven. Ons eigen kleine en schattige Amsterdam blijkt namelijk de grootste benzinehaven van de wereld en de op één na grootste kolenhaven in Europa (na Rotterdam) te zijn. Miljoenen liters olie en tonnen kool gaan in het westelijke havengebied jaarlijks aan land en worden systematisch doorgesluisd naar tankstations of kolencentrales in Europa en daarbuiten. Amsterdam is een essentiële schakel in de distributie van fossiele brandstof en daarmee meer dan medeverantwoordelijk voor het veranderende klimaat.  Dat het bewustzijn over dit veranderende klimaat gestaag groeit, weten we. Het kan ook niet anders want de gevolgen worden met de dag zichtbaarder: bossen staan in de fik, mensen raken ontheemd en slaan op de vlucht, eilanden worden overspoeld, diersoorten sterven uit, etcetera, etcetera. Het verhaal is ons allen bekend.  De politiek werkt echter onvoldoende mee. Tegen de klimaatzaak van Urgenda ging onze Staat in hoger beroep, en inmiddels zijn we alweer twee jaar verder en wachten we nogsteeds op antwoord. Ondertussen wordt nota bene onder leiding van Gerrit Zalm, zoon van een kolenboer en commissaris van Shell, het energiebeleid van het nieuwe kabinet samen gesteld.  Genoeg reden voor een groep betrokken burgers om onder de naam Code Rood de eerste burgerlijke ongehoorzaamheidsklimaatactie te organiseren. Want dat het moment is aangebroken om naast de juridische weg ook andere pressiemiddelen in te zetten, is volgens Code Rood zonneklaar. Zo schrijven zij in hun manifest: Wij zijn ervan overtuigd dat het gebruik van deze actievorm een noodzakelijke en legitieme stap is om klimaatverandering te beperken. Met onze actie willen wij de alarmklok luiden voor de hele samenleving: Sta op! Alleen met massaal verzet zal het lukken om een einde te maken aan het tijdperk van de fossiele brandstoffen. Nood breekt wet! Punt.  En zo trokken op zaterdagochtend 24 juni 2017 vanuit een tijdelijk kampement nabij Station Sloterdijk ruim driehonderd vrouwen en mannen in een stoet richting de Amsterdamse haven. Allen liepen in witte pakken. Het nummer van een advocaat van Code Rood op de arm gekalkt. Telefoon en identiteitsbewijs thuisgelaten, eten en drinken in de rugzak. Stro was in zakken gestoken, mocht de politie met geweld optreden, of anders om op te zitten. Het kon weleens een lang dagje zitten worden.  Na een klein half uurtje lopen en de stemmen al bijna schor kwam de stoet tot stilstand. Drie flinke spandoeken werden er tegen een hek gehouden, grote gaten werden er in het hek geknipt en met zijn allen tegelijk klauterden de groep activisten het terrein van OBA Bulk Terminal op. Kolenbergen prijkten fotogeniek op de achtergrond. De vijf werknemers van de enorme opslag en doorvoer voor onder andere kolen en staal hadden tegen de driehonderd activisten niets in te brengen. Even probeerden ze de massa nog met een waterspuit op andere gedachten te brengen, maar het maakte geen verschil. De groep verspreidde zich in allerlei kleine groepen over het terrein. Gigantische graafmachines en hijskranen werden beklommen, spandoeken werden uitgehangen en de bezetting was begonnen.  Sommige groepjes bleven urenlang op dezelfde plek, een pak speelkaarten bij de hand, andere trokken het gehele terrein over op zoek naar ik weet niet wat. Er werd gefrisbeed en gedanst. Een jonge man hield spontaan een lezing over blood coal mijnen in Colombia, waar paramilitairen met goedkeuring of zelfs tegen betaling van de mijnbedrijven werknemers onderdrukken, uitbuiten of vermoorden. Er werden teksten in de kolenbergen geschreven en er werden kranen bezet.  En het bijzondere was dat de meesten hun mobieltjes thuis hadden gelaten, mochten men opgepakt worden dan zou de politie de identiteit niet kunnen achterhalen. Er werden dus geen op de eigen borst kloppende selfies gemaakt en dit was precies de reden waarom ik mijzelf niet centraal wilde stellen in dit artikel over klimaatactivisme. Kijk mij even cool activist zijn. Ik wilde Code Rood prijzen. Ik wilde met mijn stuk deze club anonieme, maar zeer betrokken burgers bedanken en hun horizontale organisatie een extra zet meegeven. Zij hadden zich immers in het belang van ons allemaal en de wereld in het bijzonder uit de naad gewerkt. Geïnspireerd door de Duitse klimaatactie Ende Gelände waren zij maanden bezig geweest om het vier dagen durende klimaatkamp te organiseren. Gezamenlijk hadden ze een actieconsensus en manifest geschreven. Samen met andere collectieven zoals Rampenplan, die de veganistische keuken verzorgde, en Stroomversnellers, die workshops gaven over het leren om samen de wereld te veranderen, hadden zij deze eerste Nederlandse burgerlijke ongehoorzaamheidsklimaatactie mogelijk gemaakt. Onafhankelijke advocaten hadden zich beschikbaar gesteld mochten er arrestaties plaatsvinden. Een mediateam zorgde voor de fotografen en de contacten met de pers. Het ‘politieteam’ was in contact met de politie, voor wie de-escalatie als toverwoord gold. Dit wordt ook wel repressieve tolerantie wordt genoemd: de boel tolereren, rustig houden en vooral niet groter laten worden, want dan radicaliseren de activisten en is de politiek nog verder van huis.  Ik wilde schrijven over hoe een kleine splintergroep ‘radicalen’ zich had gedistantieerd van het softe activisme (lees: gebellenblaas) van de rest en waarom het goed was dat ze er waren geweest. Terwijl het leeuwendeel van de activisten het terrein verliet, bleef deze kleine groep hoog verscholen in een kraan zitten. Later op de dag werden ze opgepakt en vervolgens hebben ze bijna een hele week vastgezeten. In mijn ogen hadden ze met hun onverzettelijkheid alle andere ‘activisten’ een spiegel voorgehouden. Want wat houdt activisme precies in?, schreef ik. Hoe belangrijk vindt men de klimaatzaak en hoe ver is men bereid te gaan? Wat is productief activisme? En hoe krijg je een zo groot mogelijke groep mensen op de been? Kan activisme mainstream worden en is dat goed? Ondertussen zapte ik van het door poen aangedreven wielrennen naar het nieuws, waar de anarchisten, antiglobalisten en vast ook klimaatactivisten zich tijdens de G20 in Hamburg lieten zien. Mijn perspectief kantelde nogmaals. Kijkende naar het gevecht tussen de stenen gooiende linkse radicalen en de politie, met hun monopolie op geweld, realiseerde ik mij hoe weinig wij van alles wat er in Hamburg gebeurde meekrijgen. Niet alleen blijft wat de politici achter gesloten deuren bespreekt geheim, ook de ideeën die in duizenden gesprekken van demonstranten worden ontwikkeld verspreiden zich slecht. Het spektakel van de sensationele overtredingen neemt het simpelweg over van het complexe verhaal over een imperialistisch verleden, een neokoloniaal heden of een alternatieve toekomst.  Nieuwe ideeën of overtuigende argumenten worden niet gehoord en de publieke opinie is eensgezind: het destructieve gedrag van de ‘links radicalen’ gaat veel te ver. Maar hun antwoord, als ze niet opgepakt zouden worden of een andere manier van communiceren zouden hanteren, zou de zelfkritische vraag zijn wie er met de systematische roofbouw aan de andere kant van de planeet, met het steunen van schimmige praktijken en het uitbuiten van arbeiders in landen ver weg nu eigenlijk een grens over gaan? Zijn wij dat niet allemaal?  Tijdens de vele discussies tijdens de Code Rood actie was het idee van the global north versus the global south mij duidelijker geworden. Het zuiden – denk aan de droogte in Oost-Afrika of het overstromen van eilanden in de Stille Oceaan – betaalt de prijs (typerend woordgebruik in deze context) voor het handelen van de economieën in het noorden. Wat de linkse radicalen in Hamburg niet wisten te communiceren is dat wij hier meedraaien in een systeem dat deze praktijk in stand houdt. Wij burgers, die stroom voor onze smartphones nodig hebben om op de hoogte gebracht te worden van het allerlaatste nieuws. Inclusief de winnaar van de Alpenrit. Of de toestand van minderbedeelden wereldwijd. Een Australisch activist kon het wat mij betreft niet beter benoemen: ‘The big question is how to be a better ally.’ Hoe een betere bondgenoot te worden. En dit geldt voor ons allemaal: de links radicalen, anarchisten, kosmopolieten, wetenschappers, arbeiders, feministen, antiracisme-activisten, studenten, en noem maar op. Want hoe steun je een zaak, ook als het niet direct jouw eigen zaak is, op een juiste manier? Hoe breng je een geëngageerde massa samen die zich in wil zetten voor zaken die ver voorbij het eigen bord, de eigen agenda, de eigen cv, whatever gaan? Zijn de meesten van ons niet klaar met het lege individualisme? Kunnen wij niet in het samenkomen, in de actie, de zin en de schoonheid van het leven op deze planeet vinden? In plaats van in het door etterende consumentisme en verkapte hedonisme?  ‘De hel, dat zijn de anderen’ zei een existentialist ruim vijftig jaar terug. Zouden wij niet nu, aan het begin van een nieuwe tijd, met z’n allen ‘De toekomst, dat zijn de anderen’ moeten zeggen? Ik bedoel dan niet dat anderen de problemen voor ons op mogen lossen, maar dat ieder van ons de ander een toekomst gunt.   Met dank aan Jasper de Bruin en Egbert Born Drawings: Marwa Mezher  
Issue #014 Published: 11-09-2017 // Written by: AA + Matt and Jen
Cinema of the dam’d
End of September the OT301 cinema re-opens its doors after a small break. The new collective that}ll be running the cinema and bar is called ‘Cinema of the Dam’d’. We’ve spoken to Matt and Jen from the collective to learn more about their project. When did the Cinema of the Dam’d project start? Matt held his first screening at the OT301 cinema as a guest programmer three years ago. It was a double feature of obscure 70s horror films called “Oedipus Wrecks” about creepy men/children. During the break between the movies, he came out and did a striptease in a creepy baby mask. There were about 14 people in the audience. It was a very strange, but appropriate debut.  We met later that year and realized that we shared a lot of the same sensibilities about film and performance, and also had very complementary tastes. When we first started hanging out, we were constantly showing each other our favorite movies. Eventually we wanted to show them to others. So we started programming together and hosted movie nights at various underground venues in Amsterdam, including a farm, a bunker and canal cruise boat. Recently, our friend Jacopo has joined us in programming and launching the cinema.  Why is it called Cinema of the Dam’d? First of all, we love puns, so “Dam’d“ is simply a reference to “Amsterdam.” But we also chose it because we show “damned” films. Underrated, obscure, overlooked or just plain odd movies that have fallen through the cracks, been forgotten or cursed by the money-driven film industry. We are particularly interested in films that have never been released in the Netherlands. “Damned” also refers to the subject matter of the movies we tend to like best, stories about misfits, weirdos and outsiders. So, the name has many meanings for us. What kind of films/events will you program? There is no typical film program. On any given night you might see a kung-fu classic, an undistributed indie, a political documentary, rare music videos, X-rated cartoons, cat videos, old Hollywood trash or a 70s TV movie. There are always short films, trailers and other surprises.  We choose themes for our programs instead of selecting by country, director, or genre, which is the norm. This is a more flexible and playful way to show movies and it allows them to be seen in new ways. We also like to combine “high” or arthouse film with “low” or genre cinema. For example, last year at a symposium on the apocalypse, we screened a double feature called “Love at the End of the World” in which we showed Tsai Ming Liang’s beautiful sci-fi romance The Hole alongside the quirky American thriller Miracle Mile. Both of these films are terrific and almost never screened in cinemas, much less together.   What is your background? Matt is originally from San Francisco and Los Angeles, where he got experience as a film festival programmer, movie critic and theater manager. He still works each summer for the Sundance Film Festival. He’s also (slowly) working on a PhD at the University of Amsterdam. I am from Detroit and Philadelphia and have a background as a librarian. I am a cinephile with deep knowledge and love for genre films and exploitation cinema. I am also a noise musician. Most importantly, like many young Americans, our first jobs were working behind cinema snack bars. So, we’re more than qualified.  When will you open your doors at the OT301? Ooh, and why are you at the OT301 now?  We are planning to open the cinema doors on Sunday, September 24th with a daylong marathon of free movies. We joined the OT301 collective, because we have been active here for almost four years and we love the creative community. We recently moved a couple blocks away from the building, so this is our neighborhood, our home. Most of all, we love the cinema at OT301. As the screening room for the former film academy, it has a ton of history. Its screen is bigger than those at many fancier Cineville theaters. So we see an opportunity to bring some fresh energy and ideas to the cinema, because we think it’s an important part of OT301’s history and of Amsterdam underground film culture.  What can we expect from the Cinema of the Dam’d? First, we are putting a lot of love into the space. We tore out two layers of carpet and put in a fresh one. We’ve also improved the lighting and sound, and changed the seating. On the programming side, you can expect more special events, including silent films with live accompaniment, “slumber party” sleepovers and  rainy day Sunday “hangover” matinees. We’ll also host regular guest programmers and Q&A’s/screenings with visiting indie filmmakers.   Will the Cinema of the Dam’d be different then other cinema’s? We hope so! Besides our unique style of programming, we really want to bring a sense of fun and community to the cinema experience. This means doing things differently than other theaters. People should feel at home when they’re in our cinema. Though we’re Americans, we hope we understand what gezellig means and feels like. So we’ve got a few rows of traditional movie seats, but we’re also going to have couches and beanbags if you want to get more comfortable. Also, you know how the Eye won’t let you go to a movie if you show up 5 minutes late? We think that’s silly. It’s not church! At Cinema of the Dam’d, you can show up or leave whenever you feel like it. In our bar, we want to cultivate a space where people can have pre-and post-film discussions. So we’ll have a large communal table to encourage this sense of community. Finally, we’re bringing our lifelong expertise to the snack bar by serving freshly-popped popcorn.  What do you think about underground cinema in Amsterdam? Since we both love movies and come from DIY subcultures, underground cinema has been an essential part of our lives. In contrast to mainstream or “official” film culture, these screenings are vital sites of connection and discovery. Underground cinema audiences tend to be international, curious and deeply engaged with movies. It’s a community driven by a love for films as an art form, not by market demands or cultural trends. At its best, this community introduces audiences to new films and supports new talent, while also reviving older films that can bring insight to contemporary culture. Films, like any piece of art, are not static. Though they are rooted in history, they can also come alive in new ways and take on new meanings. This requires thoughtful programming and adventurous audiences. Amsterdam has both.  What would be your dreams for this project? We’d like to spend the first year making technical improvements to the cinema and bar, while building a bigger audience for the film programs at OT301. We also want to work closely with guest programmers to expand the breadth and diversity of the films we show and the audiences we can reach.  Finally, we’d like to be able to premiere new undistributed films that would otherwise never screen in Amsterdam. For instance, last year, we partnered with TranScreen for the Amsterdam premiere of the American indie Tangerine.  Even though the film was already on Netflix, the event was a huge success.  What kind of events have been planned for the coming months? We’ll open on Sunday, September 24th with a day of free programming. Then, we’ll start rolling out our first thematic programs. We’re planning a program called “Teen Peaks,” with films featuring actors from Twin Peaks when they were young. Since the new series deals with aging, our program rediscovers the babyfaced early films of Laura Dern, Sherilyn Fenn and Kyle Maclachlan. These films are all special and rarely shown. Even if you’re not a Lynch fan, we think you’ll love them. Also, in honor of the late George Romero, who invented the modern zombie genre, we’re presenting “Zombies with Braaaains” a program of non-traditional zombie films that use the genre for thoughtful social critique. Finally, our favorite event happens on Friday, October 27th. It’s the third annual “Halloween Horror Movie Marathon,” a top-secret program of horror movies and short films, running from sundown to sunrise. We’ll haunt the theater, keep the coffee brewing and throw a costume contest at midnight for those that are  feeling festive. If you like horror movies, dressing in costume or are just an insomniac, we want you to come.   If folks are interested, they can check out our website at Photo: Cinema of the dam’d