Recent articles
Issue #018 Published: 20-06-2018 // Written by: Stella Legioen
GESCHWISTER Voor Hannah van Binsbergen
Het einde van de wereld gaat niet over één nacht vuur. We fietsen langs brandende barricades over gebroken glas en stenen en krijgen, god zij met ons, geen lekke banden. We lenen onze bivakmutsen uit aan broeders en zusters van de nacht. U vraagt me wat vakantie is? Hamburg, 2017. Een meisje met opgetekende wenkbrauwen sloopt met opgeheven vuistje de sigarettenautomaat van naast de Rote Flora. Een jong koppel gooit een blusdeken over hun ontlaakte kliko. Mijn vrienden in het zwart gooien gestolen champagneflessen naar de agenten en we duiken voor een stenenregen, er waait traangaas en ik moet huilen van, wat, geluk? Een zwarte handschoen in het donker. Ogen van onder een balaclava. Ik hoor sirenes en maar één ding: ik ben er, Mokum. Niemand hier geeft om zijn eigen geluk. Wie valt krijgt vijf handen toegereikt, en wie tussen onze armen doorglipt wordt in een politiebusje gegooid en verteld: “Jij en wij hebben twee dingen gemeen: we dragen zwart en plegen geweld.” Blote vuisten volgen. Het beurse lichaam afgedankt. Maar ik moet niet te zwaarmoedig worden want dan haakt u, lieve lezer, wellicht af. Mitch is dood, Peike zit, smeris gaat vrijuit, maar wat kunnen we er nog aan doen. De jaren zestig zijn voorbij en niemand heeft nog zin om MP5’s af te gaan stoffen. Ze noemen mij Ulrike want ik schop wel eens tegen een steen. Ulrike met haar typemachine. Ik neem u niets kwalijk ook. Verzet is een verroestte term. We zitten thuis aan de keukentafel. Je schenkt wijn in en ik schrijf dit gedicht. Mijn kat klimt op mijn schouders en geeft mijn hoofd een kopje. Als ik goed luister hoor ik helicopters circuleren. Die doen me altijd even denken aan het Schanzenviertel. “Wat denk jij lieverd, wachten we op de apocalyps of breken we nu alvast de wereld af?” Je weet het niet. Zet je koptelefoon op. Luistert naar Rio Reiser, die zingt: “Der Traum ist aus. Aber ich werde alles geben, daß er Wirklichkeit wird.” Stella Legioen (1994, Zeeland) is een roodgelippenstifte relschopper. Ze schreef op jonge leeftijd al poëzie maar verruilde die mettertijd voor politiek radicalisme. Zoals dat gaat binnen de noodwendigheid verwelkomde ze de poëzie laatst terug in haar kast vol kunst en kunde. Van beroep is zij grafisch ontwerper, als dilettantisme zingt ze liederen van Schubert, maar haar roeping is de barricade.
Issue #018 Published: 18-06-2018 // Written by: Jasper Coppes
The Seasons alter
How to Save Our Planet in Six Acts by Philip Kitcher & Evelyn Fox Keller Book review by Jasper Coppes  ACT  SEVEN ANOTHER SEASON? In the studio Noon. Storm rages in the North of Amsterdam. It is the 14th of April 2018 and the winter seems to have extended far into spring. Rain pours down on the streets like in a movie-set, in an almost exaggerated manner. It splashes on the Perspex skylight of a studio building, amplifying the rainfall to biblical proportions. Inside the studio three artists/writers/designers are at work with their headphones on, their eyes plugged to the computer screen. Joe, one of the studio’s inhabitants, decides to make lunch. As he rummages about in the kitchen, Jo, his studio-mate takes off her headphones and strikes up a conversation. They haven’t spoken a word since she came in earlier this morning.  Jo: What a weather today huh? Joe: Sorry?!  Jo: I said… (louder) What a weather today?! Joe: (louder) Ah ok… yeah… it’s bloody raging out there! You were lucky to get in before it started! I thought spring was finally arriving. But it seems the seasons are all completely messed up.  Jo: Oh well, yes… We all know the climate is changing. In itself it has almost become a boring subject. Next summer will be wetter… blablabla… It’s no use complaining about the weather, as a Norwegian friend of mine always likes to say.  Joe: I’m not sure if I agree. I love complaining. It’s part of the culture I grew up in.   Jo: (jokingly) Yes I know, you guys love the good old whining. But are you going to do something about it, or what?  Joe: About what, for God’s sake? About the weather?  Jo: Yes, the weather.  Joe: Well, that I have to give to your Norwegian friend: I cannot change the weather. The weather is what it is. That’s why we complain about it. If I could change it, there would be no reason to complain. Other people might be able to change it, but not me.  Jo: Wow, your more old-fashioned than I thought! You should read this book I’ve recently read (points to a white-red book on her table). It’s really brilliant. It will change your mind… About the weather – and about many things, in fact.  Joe: (sceptical) So… tell me more?  Jo: Well… it’s like a socratic dialogue – like the ones we sometimes organise in our studio. But in the book the conversation is between two people: Joe, a sceptical man like you and Jo, a passionate female climate activist. A bit like me (puts on a big smile, teasingly) In each chapter both of them become different persons. The only things that stay the same are their names. So in a way, Jo and Joe could be anyone. They could be you and me…  Joe: (even more sceptical) ha-ha-ha Very funny. Are you serious? They’re actually called Jo and Joe?  Jo: Yes, so… in fact they really could be you and me… having a conversation about climate change. If we would follow the structure of the book, we could now be writing the seventh chapter, the one following six previous chapters in which each time another Jo tries to convince you about the urgency of climate change. It’s really well set up… The first conversation is still a bit general – between two lovers sipping wine as they discuss different points of view - but with each chapter the conversations become more concentrated and more specific. And they include really interesting facts that lead to more constructive dialogues.  Joe: Like what? Can you give and example? Jo: Well… one part, where I really got sucked into the dialogue, was with a Jo from Nigeria who tries to convince a Western philanthropic entrepreneur to become more radical in his approach. You know, it’s the kind of organisation that pops-up all the time: companies that invest in small businesses in poor countries with the idea that they are helping people there. But they’re actually pushing them behind on the green energy revolution that needs to happen on a global scale. And to make things worse, we in the west still remain ahead of the game – we still let others do our dirty work. Which basically means that we’re letting other, less prosperous people pay for the global warming that our affluent countries generated. We profited from the industries that racked the world. So we should be the ones to pay.   Joe: Sounds complicated. Jo: Well, you know, it just shows how much climate injustice and what we can do about it is interwoven with social injustice. One does not exist without the other. You should really read the book!  Joe: Ok, it does sound interesting. But isn’t all this talking exactly what’s keeping us from taking action? All these interesting opinions? All this speculating?  Jo:No! It’s quite the opposite! The problem is that we don’t talk, and that keeps us from seeing what the actual obstacles are that block our ability to change our situation. The brilliant thing about this book is that you get all the facts, not in complicated scientific talk, but in the form of a dialogue between people with whom you can identify. It’s really amazing how much it pulls you into the discussion. As if you’re having these conversations yourself.  Joe: I’m getting curious… who did you say it was written by? Can we trust that the authors are correct about the perspectives that they put forward?  Jo: The authors of the book are both professors in Philosophy. One at Colombia University, the other at MIT. I’m not sure what that says about their reliability. But the book offers a complete index at the end with all the scientific references, so you can explore these for yourself, and have a properly informed discussion about them with others. That’s the whole idea, that we continue the conversation…  Joe: But don’t the writers of the book have a biased perspective themselves as well? What does a discussion that started in America have to do with us in Amsterdam?  Jo: In a way, yes, you’re right. The authors are American and the need for this discussion over there is every high. But the climate crisis is going to affect us all, especially in the Netherlands where we are with so many people, living so close to the sea. And… you know… remember the lawsuit that’s just been filed against Shell? That just shows to which degree the Netherlands is invested in businesses that damage the planet at large. The book does a great job at making you aware of the international perspective. Different cultures and nationalities come together. Jo argues for an immediate worldwide campaign to reduce the effects of global warming. And she emphasises that different nations should work together to establish a plan of action.  Joe: (rolling his eyes) Sounds like sci-fi to me. If you look at what’s happening today, we’re pretty far off from any constructive dialogue – not even between people in the neighbourhood, let alone between politicians of different nations.  Jo: But the conversation has to start somewhere, right? Joe: (hesitant) Maybe…  Jo: Do you remember that book you recommended me the other day? ‘Confabulations’ by the late John Berger? One of your favourite authors right? Very articulate and original thinker, you said. Well, he ends his book with the sentence ‘We will learn to wait in solidarity. Just as we will continue indefinitely to praise, to swear and to curse in every language we know.’ That’s exactly where ‘The Seasons Alter’ takes off, to continue the waiting and the praising and cursing we do into a direction that’s much more hands-on. We need to know exactly what our motivations are for not taking action, or doing only a little bit, or taking action in an unproductive way. We need to have a map of the whole spectrum of issues around climate justice, and it needs to be a detailed map; showing roads on which we can get together. What questions can we ask each other? What questions do we need to ask ourselves? The only way to find out is by talking about what we think, what we imagine, what we believe to be true. And to express how we feel. With a changing environment comes a change of our emotional landscape. Sharing that internal landscape might actually be the only way forward as the seasons are already starting to turn! Just read the book and then we’ll talk again…
Issue #018 Published: 16-06-2018 // Written by: Florian Cramer
# Leaving Facebook for good - or just for virtue signaling?
Thanks to the Cambridge Analytica scandal and popular political tv comedian Arjen Lubach, Dutch people are now on the forefront of breaking up with Facebook. On April 16th, activists of the _Facebook Liberation Army_ organized a Facebook break-up party in Amsterdam, their second after 2015, rehashing Dutch WWII resistance rhetoric to call upon people to join its ranks.  No doubt that Facebook deserves this. In a recent _Volkskrant_ article, a former worker for the company whose (minimum-wage) job it was to delete offensive content, blew the whistle on Facebook’s irresponsible policies towards its members and staff. Among others, he disclosed that the Netherlands are Europe’s capital of online racism and hate, and that company policies had prohibited him from doing something about death threats against activists like Sylvana Simons.  But Facebook is structurally no different from other Internet giants such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft. Spying on and selling out its users is the way the industry works. (User tracking tends to be even worse on news media websites than on the social networks.) It makes no sense to single out Facebook and Cambridge Analytica when, figuratively speaking, the whole Internet is Cambridge Analytica. Leaving Facebook for another mainstream social network is like ditching one’s Volkswagen after the Diesel scandal in favor of another manufacturer’s diesel or gasoline car. Leaving Facebook, but staying on commercial social media (including Facebook-owned Whatsapp and Instagram) is thus simply ridiculous.  Just as the alternative to a Volkswagen is not another car, but a bike and public transport, meaningful alternatives to Facebook and the corporate social media do exist. Diaspora is a non-commercial, decentralized, Open Source social network that provides the functionality of Facebook (still without events and groups, but with much better support for longer text postings and a less distracting user interface). It works surprisingly well - but only lacks a critical mass of users. Mastodon is a non-commercial, decentralized, Open Source social network meant to replace and even improve on Twitter, because it has well-designed functions for self-organized communities and against hate speech trolling. On top of that, both these networks are ad-free and don’t use opaque algorithms to filter people’s feeds. Such alternatives should be better promoted, with honest explanations of their pros and cons vis-a-vis Facebook, Twitter & company. Running decentral servers for Diaspora (called “pods”) and Mastodon (called “instances”) could be a worthy project for a renewed digital community media activism in a city that, more than twenty years ago, had been the pioneer of self-organized social media with _De Digitale Stad_ Amsterdam.  But even if that should happen, it will not solve the Cambridge Analytica problem: If everyone used Open Source networks or returned to blogging and homepages, their public content can and will still be data-mined by third parties. The deeper issue is therefore political: existing privacy legislation isn’t enforced, and (just like bank managers before and after 2008) Silicon Valley managers don’t end up in the prisons where they belong. Conversely among users, there needs to be more critical awareness that one should never post anything personal or private online which one wouldn’t also share on a public medium. Without thinking through these issues, the current Facebook farewell activism will likely end up being just as ineffective as the Post-Snowden crypto activism of the last few years and Linux install parties before that. Facebook-quitters will likely rejoin the network after a hiatus, if they haven’t stayed on Whatsapp and Instagram anyway. With too much symbolic campaigning and virtue signaling, the current Anti-Facebook wave is doomed to remain a storm in the teapot. Florian Cramer is a reader in 21st century visual culture at Willem de Kooning Academy Rotterdam and member of the core team of Rotterdam BIJ1.  
Issue #018 Published: 31-05-2018 // Written by: Rob Talin
City Memento: Silosofie
Every issue of AA we will try to highlight a squat of Amsterdam. A lot of these places are now part of history, but they’ve contributed to what Amsterdam is. We speak to free spirits that have lived, worked or performed in these places and try to give you a feeling of what the place and its members were about. There are specific spaces in the city that are especially worth to remember. Spaces that have been evicted, closed and gradually disappeared from our memory in the past few years. Silo of Amsterdam is one of them. Silo used to be an enormous space hosting a very active squat on a prime spot on the shore of the river IJ facing the harbour of the Old Houthaven district. It’s initially been used for different purposes, but mainly as a grain silo for the city. In the 1980s the silo ceased its old functions. Shorlty after, it got squatted and became an independent venue attracting galleries, music studios and huge self-organized events. It became a a multi-functional space and one of the cultural landmarks of the city for over 10 years. It avoided demolition after being restored by the squatters and got listed as a ‘national monument’ in 1996. However, those living in Silo got evicted eventually at the end of the 1990s. Today, there is nothing about the building that would hint at its squatting heritage. It hosts luxurious apartments let by real estate agencies. Rob interviewed Maik, a former Silo inhabitant, about what it meant to be part of the Silo movement during its golden days.  Can you tell me a bit the story of Silo and the background of this period in Amsterdam? The atmosphere was very free in the 90s in Amsterdam, compared to the ‘80s which were way more violent years with evictions and the riots happening. Silo was much more focused on saving the building to create a safe space for art  culture and improvised architecture, than it was on being a hardcore political squat. We were much more interested in constructing new things, making alternative plans and finding ways of financing them. Maybe that’s also why we eventually lost the building, i.e., because we didn’t have a barricades spirit.  Those were different times: the 1980s were the height of violent squatting, no-future and punk movements, after which came the happy 1990s where people were more into constructing things, while the squats in the city centre were mostly gone. People who used to live in these squats had moved to the IJ-riverside, to places like Westerdoksdijk, Vrieshuis Amerika, Pakhuis Wilhelmina and indeed, to Silo. Silo represented maximum freedom in maximum space when it got squatted in 1989. It was an incredible building to be in, constructed as it was like a machine; not made for humans to live but for storing and pumping grain around. So it was very solid and totally soundproof.  Making it inhabitable took an enormous effort. There was lots of dust, rats, old machines and metal everywhere and we were only a small group of people. Then we started collecting material the city provided us with for free: stuff from containers, steel and wood. We were recycling materials from the inside as well: pipes, machineries, thick walls, all used to build improvised recycle houses and workshops. My flat was on the 9th floor and, of course, there was no elevator. Can you imagine? Eventually, there were about 40 flats and a total of one 150 people involved. Plus there was a massive basement used for huge parties and exhibitions. We started a gallery, a restaurant, an organic bakery, a music space, ateliers, studio’s and a radio station. It needed to be pretty well organized so there was a fairly strict policy for people who wanted to get in: you really had to contribute to the collective. At the time, I was completely new to Amsterdam, coming from Rotterdam, and Silo looked like a surreal dream and a community that I absolutely wanted to be a part of. It was open to the public 3-4 days a week at least and the events were most of the time SOLD OUT. In retrospective, Silo in the 1990s was an unintended trendsetter for today’s urban lifestyle: eating organic, veganism, recycling, DIY, partying and independent culture. Back then, we called this lifestyle Silosofie. How did it get then evicted at the end of the decade? In 1995 we heard that the city council and many influential politicians wanted to redevelop Silo into luxurious apartments. We were living there for 7 years more than and felt that we saved the building back in 1992, so we started talking to architects, city planners and a housing corporation to propose and finance our own alternative plan for development. Eventually, though, the Rabobank investors put so much pressure on the alderman that he went with the banks and the investors.  There was one last big party on new year’s eve and thousands of people joined. Then the council didn’t want to wait any longer. In January 1998 we had two weeks to leave Silo and collect all our belongings. Politicians and officials suggested some of us to move to ADM (the biggest art space and residence of Amsterdam still existing and active) located on the west borders of the city. Others helped to build spaces such as Plantagedok and De Pepper cafe in the OT301.  One of the positive things that came out of this sad story was the Robodock Festival created at the ADM wharf: a great cultural and experimental happening, focused on Robotics, futuristic inventions and performances combined with an ambition of political and social awareness. It got later moved to the NDSM wharf and then became one of the victims of the gentrification of Amsterdam Noord. And yet, Robodock was the living proof that the most exiting things in a city always start in the subcultural underground … How do you see the future of these kinds of places like Silo and ADM? ADM is now literally in limbo, I hope it survives. I feel actually a bit disconnected with city life as it is today. There is hardly any alternative space left and the temporary broedplaatsen always come with ulterior motives, functionalized for urban development purposes. Artist are made completely expendable this way. Hopefully the DIY culture still survives inside some smaller broedplaatsen and new squats through people taking their stands politically for the sake of alternative spaces and live styles throughout the city.    Photo: Dave Carr Smith
Issue #018 Published: 26-05-2018 // Written by: Nicholas Burman
What ‘Free’ University? The Case of De Verrekijker
In late February 2018 Dutch news outlets started posting stories regarding the potential closure of Amsterdam’s Vrije Universiteit’s (VU) autonomous squatted space, De Verrekijker (DV). This conjecture followed the space’s hosting of a controversial panel event which included Jordanian/Palestinian activist Rasmieh Odeh on February 27. A Brief History Coming out of the New University Movement, which spread through Dutch cities during the Maagdenhuis occupation at the University of Amsterdam, DV was founded in 2015 in a storage facility of a VU building set to be demolished in 2020. The Movement was formed to discuss the lack of possibility for self-organisation by students and staff and a lack of transparency regarding administrative processes at universities, as well as to open up discussions on racism and sexism.  The last remaining student-ran, campus based autonomous space in Amsterdam, DV had had a relationship with the University based on informal verbal agreements. The VU was unwilling to put anything in writing regarding De Verrekijker as this would have legitimised the space. DV’s events listings weren’t particularly threatening (yoga classes, free film nights, reading groups). However, they did position themselves as a place for political dialogue. It was a truly international space, much needed at a university whose current trend is internationalization. Non-commercial, available to be used by students for events, it provided facilities on a non-political basis, such as free food, hot drinks and clothes. It also worked as a networking space, where students from different faculties could exchange skills and interests. The ‘Controversial’ Event Odeh is a Palestinian rights activist who was convicted by an Israeli military court in 1970 following her confession of involvement in the 1969 Jerusalem Supermarket bombing. Since her release in 1980, she has maintained that her confession was obtained via torture and that she is innocent of all allegations.  She was invited to give a talk by far left student group Revolutionaire Eenheid (RE) on her experiences. The event had two locations before finding itself at De Verrekijker; those other potentials received threats which lead them to cancel their hosting of the talk. To be clear, RE support Odeh because they believe her innocence, and her claims of violent treatment in the hands the Israeli police.  As news about the Odeh event started to circulate, so did the interest from the press. A rule, written into the VU’s code and adopted by DV, is that journalists cannot operate on campus without prior permission. Because of this, DV’s blanket policy is to not admit journalists into their public events.  Reporters did turn up to this event, and after being refused entry reported the event as clandestine (despite it being advertised online, which is how they found out about it). The most damning criticism against DV - promoting anti-semitism - stems from refusing an Israeli journalist entry, but this refusal was equally applied to journalists from De Telegraaf and ANP. The ANP photo which illustrated articles about this event (taken through a window pane, stark white light in the corner) certainly makes the meeting look secretive. However, the session was streamed live via Facebook, and the video has been uploaded in full by RE. The Public Prosecution Service watched the video and stated that no punishable statements were made. Another rule, albeit unwritten, between DV and the VU was that the University needed prior warning to any events which posed a risk to safety, specifically when more than 85 people were expected to attend. Because they did not consider it a ‘high risk’ event - an assessment shared by two police who inspected the event - DV did not notify the Uni about Odeh’s talk. It’s this lack of clearance which the VU claims provides a primary reason for the decision to shut down the space. The VU’s Response The University’s Executive Committee soon issued a statement that it would evict the space. This happened just weeks before the space would have been entitled to Dutch ‘huisvrede’ laws that secures squats certain legal rights if they are over three years old.  On the morning of March 15 regular contributors to DV arrived on site to find that security had broken the locks and entered the space. Nevertheless, DV members managed to enter the premises and resume the occupation. A tussle followed, which resulted in a professor of social anthropology at the VU, Dimitris Dalakogloul (a supporter of the autonomous space), being threatened with a screwdriver. The VU subsequently apologised to Dalakogloul and said (to DV) that security acted overzealously. Neither the VU’s Worker’s or Student councils were consulted about the eviction. Since then, DV had been attempting to open up a dialogue with the University’s Executive Committee. It had minority support within the Worker’s and Student councils, but all members had been left in the dark regarding the Executive Committee’s actions. This scenario highlights the distance between the University’s actions and student and staff involvement, the exact opaqueness which the New University Movement had been battling against. In not wanting to entertain the idea of any resolution which resulted in DV continuing, the VU seemed to be more mindful of internet commentary than input from their own community.    Debating Debates       DV claimed that the VU stated the Odeh event wouldn’t have been cleared even if it had been presented to them ahead of time, so there’s a suggestion that it was the content of the event which is the problem.  With the content of Odeh’s talk being deemed legal by the Public Prosecutor this raises the question of whether the VU should limit legal speech due to its political position. Isn’t the role of an educational body to promote dialogue, not limit it? Various other ‘controversial’ names are associated with official university activities, especially large corporations whose logos adorn research trips involving students. Odeh’s innocence is indeed determined by her audience’s trust. Still, she was breaking no laws by being in the Netherlands, and she broke none during her speech. No one is expecting the University to take a position on this or any other particular political situation. But media in the Netherlands, the arts especially, regularly deal with the Israel-Palestine conflict, Ad van Denderen’s recent retrospective at Amsterdam’s Huise Marseille is a case in point. How come publicly facing bodies like this can approach this subject, yet university students can’t?    Support had come from a range of places, including political party Bij1 and Tel Aviv University student organization Jabha Tau. Sadly, with negative press around the space not balanced by positive reports, by April DV realised they had lost the PR war and their central purpose (to improve university life) had been overshadowed by the controversy.   Looking Forward De Verrekijker eventually agreed to vacate the space on the condition that the University open up a substitute. Not necessarily a bar, but a series of events where the political focuses of DV could continue to engage students and improve university culture. DV members were cynical as to whether cooperation would be very forthcoming after giving up the thing which made their voices heard. On April 11 the VU issued a public statement announcing legal action against DV in order to get them to vacate the space. They wrote that “the collective has repeatedly failed to comply with the agreements made.” They said that they are “committed to a policy of cooperation” but only following an eviction of the space. Fearing legal costs and wasting energy on a lengthy legal battle, DV was voluntarily vacated on April 21. An independent, student-run space for debate should be part of any university’s infrastructure. With all the talk about millenials’ lack of political engagement, institutionally sabotaging this student-run initiative is not only be unfortunate but also irresponsible.      Right now, student fees are helping to fund the building of flashy new buildings. Unless the University intends to fully degenerate into a lackey of corporate and real estate interests, at least a bit of campus should remain reserved for the purpose of serving its constituency, its students.  What sort of future can we look forward to, to paraphrase the VU’s recent catch phrase, when we are able to purchase endless cans of Coca-Cola, but are not able to discuss? Photo: Angelo Zinna