Recent articles
Issue #019 Published: 13-07-2018 // Written by: Berith Danse
Interview with Emma Hall on World Problems residency at Theater Oostblok
Emma Mary Hall (1981) is an actor, theatre maker and writer from Melbourne, Australia who makes solo performances and has been described as ‘radically personal’ and compared to the likes of Tim Etchells and Laurie Anderson.  Emma’s first piece, We May Have to Choose, which looks at the political impacts of social media, has been hugely popular worldwide since it premiered in 2015, and her second piece, Ode to Man, received the ‘best emerging writer’ award at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe Festival. In August this year, Emma will be the first artist to participate in Theatre Oostblok’s new International Artist in Residence summer program to develop her third piece, World Problems, hatched during a Cultureland residency in Starnmeer, North Holland. She will be working with Australian director Olivia Monticciolo and Amsterdam artists Sarah Nixon and Jasna VeličKovi during this time. World Problems is an experimental performance about ecological change and collective action, where the performer will build a world with the audience each night.  ------------------------------------------- Interview: ------------------------------------------- Emma could you tell us why you have chosen to do the second stage of World Problems in Amsterdam East this summer? There’s a very special energy to Amsterdam, a sense of perpetual motion that I wanted to capture in the physical elements of the performance. So, when Berith Danse at Theatre Oostblok offered us a spot in their new International Artist in Residence program, it meant I could work with an Amsterdam-based scenographer and composer, which is such a rare opportunity for an independent artist. It is a dream! And Theatre Oostblok is gorgeous, it’s a quirky little venue right in the heart of urban Amsterdam. I love how it is situated between the tourism and business precincts, the university, the parklands and the residential neighbourhoods. It is almost a microcosm of the forces shaping human lives. Could you tell us more about the urgency of making this project for you? I’m trying to work out how to stay alive when the future feels so uncertain. Climate change presents an impossible paradox: merely by existing in an overpopulated planet we are contributing to its destruction. And yet we all fight to keep breathing.  I believe we can only talk about future living and dying on this planet if we acknowledge our interconnected lives as world citizens. World Problems is really an experiment in how we can talk about a shared future within and across countries.  What does World Problems mean? It’s a very literal title. We are articulating, in a 50-minute performance, all of the problems facing the future of our planet: economically, socially, politically, and geographically. It is also a play on the catchphrase ‘First World Problems.’  Which problems that you are concerned about affect us too?  The perspectives you have in Europe, and particularly a commerce hub such as Amsterdam, are very different from ours in Melbourne. The Netherlands itself is a sort of triumph of ‘man over nature’. You built a country out of water. You are world leaders in engineering, and people look to you for advice on how to survive future catastrophic climate change. Australia offers a very different understanding of land and time. It has been a colony for little over two hundred years, but it is home to the oldest living culture in the world (over 40,000 years). And the story of how this land was violently stolen from its original inhabitants is sadly a sort of secret story. For many Indigenous Australians, environmental destruction began with European colonisation, and we are already living in a post-apocalyptic age. World Problems is trying to open up a conversation between these perspectives and activate people to understand what it means to fully engage in the world around them. How do residents from Amsterdam East connect to this topic do you think? I’m interested in how residents, like young professionals and international people living in Amsterdam East, put down roots in cities that are not their own. The residency gives us a special opportunity to open up the theatre during a month when most theatres go dark. The restaurant will be open all month and there’ll be special workshops and events in the evenings. We want to provide a space for nearby residents, who might not normally go to the theatre, to come in and have a chat. What role can Amsterdam residents play in your work?  At the end of our first week (on Saturday 11 August) we will be running a public discussion to get a sense from people who live in the area how they view Amsterdam and what role the city plays in global conversations about land and the future. We will also be running free writing workshops, looking at various tools and vocabularies for generating and performing text in contemporary performance, and set design workshops. We want Amsterdam residents to enter into this conversation and claim the space and ideas as their own, before the final performances on 31st August and 1st September.  What can participants expect from participating in the process of your performance? It’s still a mystery! We are experimenting with ways of activating people: energetically, emotionally and imaginatively. We want people to see the communities and connections they are already a part of. This might involve physical participation, or it might be more internal activation and provocation.  How can they subscribe and what they need to prepare for it? You can contact Theatre Oostblok through the website or simply mail There is no need to prepare anything accept that if you decide to participate that you also finish the period of the project. It can be both in English or Dutch no problem.  Where will the project go after Amsterdam? We will be premiering the final work in Melbourne in March 2019 at FortyFive Downstairs, an underground basement space in the centre of the city. How can they follow the project online? We will be posting regular updates on my social media accounts (Emma Mary Hall on Facebook, @emmamaryhall on twitter and instagram), and final details will be posted on the Theatre Oostblok website and Facebook as well. With this project we both want to make the wires visible on how people and especially creative people are connected worldwide. Berith Danse did a similar thing before in her former company. PROGRAM Talk and Meet Emma with participants and residents:   Saturday 11th of august: 20:00-22:00  Workshops on contemporary performance writing:  Thursday 9th of Aug 19:00-22: 00 Saturday 18th of August 10:00 -13:00 Workshops on interactive scenography design:  Thursday 16th of Aug 19:00-22: 00 Wednesday 29th of August 19:00-22: 00 Please come and enjoy this opportunity  More info here!
Issue #019 Published: 09-07-2018 // Written by: Tres Perros
Homeless: Diogenes in Amsterdam
It is the first time in a long time that the sun is shining again in Amsterdam. The whole weekend lies ahead. Everyone is in a rush to make the most of it before the rain returns. In front of the supermarket, like every day, Theo stands next to his backpack, the street papers he sells tucked under his arm.  “Hi Theo, how is it going with you today?”   “So so.”  “Well … at least it’s a nice day.”  “Nah, it’s not a good day for me.”  Perhaps when everyone is in a rush to make the most of their day, Theo stops existing for them. This does not just mean that everyone is too busy to stop and buy his paper. All the laughing couples, all the excited children, all the smiling passers-by, they give Theo an acute sense of his place in the city. He stands right next to them, but between him and them exists an invisible and impenetrable divide: they have homes; he is homeless. Recent figures published by Statistics Netherlands (CBS, Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek) show that the number of homeless people has soared in the past few years. In 2009 there were 17,800 homeless people in the Netherlands. In 2016 this figure nearly doubled to 30,500 homeless people. Especially remarkable is the sharp rise of the number of homeless people under thirty and homeless people from non-Western backgrounds: from 4,000 (2009) to 12,400 (2016) young people living on the streets, and from 6,500 (2009) to 14,900 (2016) non-Western homeless people. Indeed, the intersection of these two groups, young non-Western people, has more than quadrupled between 2009 and 2016.  Behind these dry numbers are multiple human tragedies. However, as the CBS informs further, one important limitation of their official statistics is that they only cover homeless people who are on at least one of the existing registers for social care and shelter. They don’t include for example those people without papers who can’t reveal themselves to the authorities and therefore aren’t on the books anywhere. Charities try to keep track of their numbers, but as the Trimbos Institute notes, reliable results are difficult to achieve. A recent official inquiry into homelessness in Amsterdam complains in a similar vein about absent or inconclusive records from the municipality (Rekenkamer Metropool Amsterdam, Wachten op opvang, 2017: 6).  Before addressing these striking blind spots, let us return to what official numbers state beyond doubt: the sharp rise of homelessness in the Netherlands. The cluster of reasons for it include social benefit cuts, a shortfall of affordable housing, restrictive rules around shelter and homeless care. What makes this sharp rise of homelessness truly remarkable, however, is the fact that it started shortly after the four largest Dutch cities – Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht, also known as the G4 – developed and implemented a detailed seven-year action plan against homelessness. This initiative dates from 2006 and is known as the G4 Homelessness Action Plan. The 2006 Action Plan had four major aims: (1) reintroducing homeless people to regular work and permanent accommodation, (2) reducing controllable reasons for homelessness like forced eviction, (3) post-incarceration re-socialization programmes, and finally (4) the reduction of public nuisance and petty criminality caused by homeless people.    That public policy has not succeeded to curb homelessness is clear from the numbers. In particular, it has failed to deliver on points (1) and (2) of the Action Plan. But the puzzling fact remains that homeless people in, for example, the city of Amsterdam seem to be less visible despite this failure. We have stumbled on this disturbing state of affairs twice already in the course of this article: Theo is overlooked in broad daylight by those around him – this tells us something about how little the phenomenon of homelessness strikes us in ordinary situations. Maybe it is no accident that it is on tourist blogs where you find some degree of astonishment about the virtual absence of homeless people in the streets of Dutch cities (e.g. Then, it is evident that official bookkeeping on homelessness fails to register the actual extent of homelessness, even by its own admission – this tells us something about structural problems with homelessness policy. While the G4 Homelessness Action Plan failed to reintegrate homeless people and to prevent homelessness, it succeeded in the realization of point (4), cleaning up the public image of Dutch cities by making the homeless invisible. Here we find two kinds of invisibility, which are not mutually exclusive: while we might be less sensitive to homelessness around us (in part, perhaps, because the homeless do not fit our stereotypes), the state has simultaneously been working hard to render homelessness invisible, for example, through strict enforcement of vagrancy laws. The policy on homelessness indeed rests on an ambivalence. On the one hand, there is some understanding that society should invest public resources in order to help the homeless. On the other hand, there is a drive to suppress what is perceived as the unacceptable lifestyle of the homeless. A recent research paper formulates this side of the ambivalence succinctly: “the aim is to combat their [perceived] amoral lifestyle and curb the nuisance they cause, even if this only involves them being visible” (Graaf, Doorn, Kloppenburg & Akkermans 2010: 6).   It is necessary to caution against a misunderstanding at this point. In talking about homelessness in terms of lifestyle we do not mean to suggest that homelessness is a voluntary choice. It rarely ever is. Taking drugs might be a lifestyle choice; drug addiction, a major problem among the homeless, isn’t – nobody chooses it. For our purposes, therefore, choice and lifestyle are two separate concepts. We want to speak of homelessness in terms of lifestyle, because this allows us to say that homelessness is a possible, even likely, outcome for those who cannot live within those frameworks of life – lifestyles – that society accepts and reinforces. How strong the motivation is to make these unwanted lifestyles disappear is clear from the fact that even failed attempts to offer homeless people support, to give them shelter, to look after their various other needs, such as the G4 Homelessness Action Plan, manage to make them disappear from the streets. What waits for those outside the circle of municipal shelters and recognized rehabilitation and reintegration programmes are overstretched emergency facilities, and beyond those the municipal vagrancy and loitering laws (see for example Gemeente Amsterdam, Algemene Plaatselijke Verordening 2008: art. 2.20). These regulations make it difficult for homeless people to sleep outside, as they commit a crime by their very presence in public spaces at night.  Homeless people in the streets of Dutch cities are caught in a spiral of exclusion and criminalization. They are invisible because they have to hide away with family and friends until their hosts can’t continue to shelter them any longer. They sleep in the open in obscure spots where they can’t be discovered (De Groene Amsterdammer, “Zelfredzaam zonder dak”, 20 December 2017). Despite being perfectly well organized to do his job as a street paper vendor, Theo belongs to this group of homeless people. Sometimes he is sleeping rough, sometimes at his friends’ who drink too much and get into fights, sometimes, when he can afford it, at a youth hostel, “to get a break from the crazy people”. The G4 Homelessness Action Plan does not apply to him. To get access to municipal shelter and rehabilitation facilities, homeless people need to fulfill stringent requirements (cf. H. Obink, “Amsterdamse daklozen krijgen te weinig hulp”, Trouw, 15 December 2017). They need to go through complex procedures to prove that they can’t help themselves; they need thorough documentation to be eligible for admission; they also need to demonstrate that they have some connection to the municipality where they ask for help, sometimes reaching back several years. Theo fails half these entrance criteria. He is one of the 66.7% of applicants who get rejected by the Amsterdam shelter system, often without further explanation (Rekenkamer Metropool Amsterdam 2017: 30-4). While the G4 Homelessness Action Plan doesn’t help Theo, the very same Action Plan makes sure that he needs to find ways to stay out of sight.  Why this effort to suppress the visibility of homelessness? Just for the sake of argument, let’s turn around the perspective. Whereas current policy assists the homeless on the premise that to help them is to make them conform to given societal standards of human functioning, helping the homeless could also mean to accommodate society to what is officially perceived as an aberrant lifestyle. Helping the homeless could also mean to create conditions that make it unnecessary to render “dysfunctional” lifestyles invisible. Meet George. He lives on the streets of Amsterdam because he is struggling with a serious drug addiction. He is one of those cases deemed recalcitrant by the authorities, because he doesn’t seem able to reintegrate on their terms. When activists took over unused premises somewhere in the city and opened an informal social space there, George became a regular. Gradually, he took over tasks. He cleaned the space after closing times, ran the bar, and was entrusted with the evening’s revenue. George flourished, despite his ongoing drug addiction. Most importantly, he moved among non-homeless people and, unlike Theo outside the supermarket, had their recognition. The unavoidable had to happen, of course, and the Amsterdam authorities ordered the activists to leave after about two years. When George heard the news that eviction could not be averted any longer, he burst into tears.  This may be mere anecdotal evidence. But it provides enough contrast to the prevalent picture to illustrate how little it takes to keep homelessness in view and at least to suggest how effective this could be in breaking the paralysis along with the stigma of homelessness for the homeless person herself. That society is on the wrong track and has to be shown this fact about itself by stark contrasts is one of the central teachings of Diogenes of Sinope, one the most recognizable homeless people in history. He famously lived in a large grain jar in the marketplace of Athens, confronting the Athenians with his unusual way of life and his philosophical antics. One anecdote has him light a lamp in broad daylight and walk around the city with it. Asked what he was doing he replied “I’m looking for an honest man” (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, 6.2.41; compare Nietzsche’s madman from Gay Science, bk III, §125). Another anecdote has him taking his breakfast in public, which went against Athenian custom. An unfriendly crowd gathered around him, accusing him of behaving like a dog. Diogenes retorted that the crowd behaved like dogs, watching him eat (DL 6.2.61). When he was captured and sold as a slave, and people asked him what he could do, he replied that he could be someone’s master (DL 6.2.29-30). Diogenes challenged society around him by turning their stereotypes and preconceptions upside down. The phenomenon of homelessness holds up a mirror to society. It shows us the limits of our freedom and our norms. It shows us that to be valued as a person, to be visible, is, among others thing, to fit what Foucault called the truth regime of capitalism: to be part of the circuit of production.  The notion of homelessness, then, is not only about a lack of shelter, but quite literally, a lack of home. The homeless are not only without shelter, they fail to find a home in our society In a series of articles, we will explore the notion of homelessness further through interviews, philosophical reflection, and literature.    Photo: Pablo van Wetten
Issue #018 Published: 28-06-2018 // Written by: Sun Meng
Going Under
We could not escape the City. The Floods had taken back much of the land and destroyed many buildings. Sure, the City was not hit as badly as others and the centre was fortified against the sea with a sturdy retaining wall, but the old buildings weren’t made for the new weather. The hard rain and the heat. The Monsoon. But the City adapted quickly. It was remarkable really.  As a political island-state, the City had an air of Utopia and it was never short of capital—or architects—but after the Floods things changed. After the First Pulse, the City declared a state of emergency. When the waters subsided, its infrastructure was severely affected. Its Nervous System went into shock and needed rewiring, and its inhabitants were plunged into a housing crisis. The City appealed to the private sector, of course, and some Game Investors pounced on the opportunity to install something new. Tabula rasa. Sure enough, whatever public land that was not flooded was leased out, with designs of transforming the urban playground into a semi-private garden of the future — for our safety and security, of course. The spaces where we once roamed free became near impossible to find. We were rained out, then reigned in. What remained of social housing had a waiting list that stretched back to the last century, long before the Floods, and rents in the new buildings were pitched far above what we could afford. Then other kinds of walls went up. Gentrification. The new buildings came with their own kind of people. Regulators who ensured everything was kept according to their order, that everything worked smoothly and that everyone stayed in their place. They did not police, as such, but installed a new kind of Governing System, that wasn’t immediately obvious. There was no list of rules and regulations. Participating and accessing their world seemed to have more to do with who you knew and how you interfaced; how you held your body and spoke. To us, theirs was a world obscured by code words and secret handshakes. If we did not somehow already know what to do, it was as if we were invisible. It was said the City had become a theme park of its former self a long time ago, but it remained eccentric and embraced experimentation. It had a reputation for being open-minded, hedonistic, and according to the Conservatives, debauched. This latest intervention was not so much a top down effort to bring order to chaos, but something much more pernicious. A new paradigm had been initiated. If we couldn’t comply we would be marked, marginalised and managed as artifacts of a bygone era. Junk media. Inoperable and inefficient. Obsolete. For some time we tried to fit into the gaps and get on with our lives. Our numbers had thinned. Those who remained had nowhere else to go. The cracks and interzones let in just enough air to keep us alive, but we were also trapped. I might have a job for a month running a speakeasy for a start-up, or be able to access some cheap space for a few weeks between contracts. It was hustle and motion. A kind of micropolitical activity that was stimulating, for sure—a buzz—but ultimately exhausting. It was nerve-wracking trading on favours and credit, working for Kleingeld and wondering where one would be sleeping next month or next week. Without alternatives, we pulled in tighter and dug in. As part of the detritus of the Alt Stadt we thought of ourselves as the City’s cultural base, its DNA. We just had to work out how to express it. The City had become, not entirely hostile, but somehow allergic to us. If we wanted to survive we had to inoculate it. My grandparents arrived from the Mega-Cities, standardised box-developments rolled out over the ruins of the Alt Welt after the last Big Water. It was a hostile era. Migrants were treated like criminals, who could be warehoused and managed as an industry resource. During the Clean Up, there were opportunities to work in the Arid Zones and my Elders engaged a broker to arrange a contract. They became Working Poor; effectively indentured labour, struggling to pay off their contractual debts. Theirs was a common migrant story. Work hard against all odds. Sacrifice, save, invest, repeat. Build something to pass on to the next generation. The Long Game. My parents built on those foundations and pulled themselves out of debt. But I didn’t want those things. Growing pains. Was I spoiled? Probably. I refused to comply with family expectations and became something barely recognisable to them. A hybrid? A bastard? A mutant. I can appreciate my Ancestors’ efforts, and with some hindsight, I realised that their gift—my inheritance—was just enough freedom to choose. ‘Give ’em enough rope…’ Well, I didn’t hang myself. Rather, I cut loose.  When I arrived to the City, I had a little money and a handful of contacts. I moved into a space with some friends of friends; five or six of us occupying one hundred square metres with a sink and a shower in the kitchen. We curtained off enclaves and built our beds high, close to the ceiling, to make the most of the space beneath. There was a steady flow of characters passing through. I wanted to experiment. Sex and drugs, of course, but also with living communally. The variety of lifestyle choices and ideas I was exposed to was stimulating and for the first time in my life I felt free to experiment and grow. One morning in the kitchen a lover blew some kind of tobacco up my nose. It seared my nasal passage and my nose began to run. I thought I must be bleeding as my eyes puffed and reddened with tears. Minutes later, when the haze subsided, my mind was perfectly clear. I could see the social façades that governed our day-to-day lives and for the rest of the morning I felt self-assured and decisive. Re-living this memory, in the aftermath of Gentrification, it struck me that this was what we needed now.   
Issue #018 Published: 27-06-2018 // Written by: Clara Davies
Minds Of Amsterdam
Martina Raponi – Amsterdam Alternative Interview At 15.10 on Wednesdays- Miss Martina and I share cigarettes, a series of random YouTube videos, and a passion for the same perfumes. Half-Italian and half a part of every city she’s lived in since leaving her hometown, she writes and talks about Noiserr, an art I had never hear of. Self-made, raw and authentic, this woman is a hurricane. If you are as curious about her as I am at this point, you can go look for her Butcher’s Tears where she curates the Noiserr events on a monthly basis.  1. First thing first - what is Noiserr? Noiserr stands for Noise Reading and Research. It is a monthly event which aims at gathering people who are interested in discovering theories and practices which revolve around Noise, or that have to do with it even indirectly. 2. Tell me how you got into it and what fascinates you about it! Noiserr was born thanks to an email I received by its co-founder, Max Hampshire, in September 2016. He had heard that I wanted to start a reading group about noise, and contacted me. We had a beer exchanged our experiences, thoughts, and passion about noise, sound and experimental music. After that, we started meeting regularly, bringing our favourite books about noise and our favourite noise practitioners, and thinking about how to set up a noise project, without flattening it into a “typical” reading group. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading groups even when they are a bit stiff and slow, but with Noiserr we wanted to design a format which would allow us to navigate theories and practices of noise in a way that could fully reflect the nature of the subject. What we ended up doing was selecting fragments and excerpts from our personal book collections, and we designed a constellation of keywords around which we agglomerated groups of texts. Some keywords refer to different texts and thus a multitude of investigative directions is potentially present. We usually start from one text, to then navigate the Noiserr Readerr in a cybernetic way according to the connections between texts and to what the participants suggest in synergy or in contrast with each other. The reading group doesn’t focus on written text only, we also “read” sound, still and moving images, works of art, performances. I always try to avoid directing the reading group, even if sometimes it is unavoidable. Noiserr is a way for me to continue researching a topic I wrote a book about (“Strategie del Rumore. Interferenze tra Arte Filosofia e Underground”, Auditorium Edizioni, Milano, 2015) and open up to group-thinking, which is something I needed in order to avoid replicating my own ways of conceptualizing the topic and creating references to it, calling into question what I wrote in the past in order to bring my understanding of noise to another level. Noise is a fascinating, elusive, mutating topic. There are many, often are mutually exclusive understandings of noise. I became aware of this after a finishing my book, because I ended up having more questions than answers. Noise is a topic that raises many issues and causes debates. I am not a fundamentalist nor a fetishist of noise, and despite being desperately in love with some of the harshest noise practices, I also acknowledge how, nowadays, they manage to challenge a system, instead of replicating their own niches. This is a very uncomfortable thought and position, but it shouldn’t be misunderstood, since I still believe that independent practices (and noise/noisicians fall into that category most of the times, which is also something that can be debated, to be honest) need to be supported and protected at all costs. And again, here it’s clear how some practices manage to be labelled “noise” in terms of music genre, while others can be labelled as such mainly because of the disruptive potential they have: more to discuss! #noiserr 3. How receptive do you feel Amsterdam is to the Noiserr scene? Noiserr has been received quite positively. Since its public debut in April 2017 it has been hosted by Butcher’s Tears Side Room/Side Real. BT is one of my favourite spots in Amsterdam, and I have a great respect for the place, its mission, and the people that run it. I am also very grateful for the work Janneke Absil has done in order to create a consistent image for our communication, which means that Noiserr can be advertised physically on printed paper in alternative places in Amsterdam. Our participants are made up of returning readers who have been there from the beginning, people who joined only for a few times and those joining only for one session. Everybody is welcome to participate, since the reading group doesn’t evolve in a progressive way. Each session is different and tries to be as open as possible, so we can all be on the same page in terms of understanding what is being watched/read/listened to.  4. If you could share a drink with anyone dead or alive – who would that be? I would share a glass - or rather a bottle - of red wine with my grandfather. He died when I had written only 12 pages of my book, and I wish he could see my endeavour accomplished. Jacob Bannon from Converge can join this drinking session too, order whatever you want from the menu, I’m paying. 5. What are your plans for the near future? At the end of April 2018, Noiserr is finishing a series of three co-hosted sessions, and between May and September all sessions will be rebranded as “Regenerative Feedback + Noiserr”. This is part of a collaboration with the Regenerative Feedback project. I co-curated the New York reading groups that prepare the festival, and will I facilitate the reading groups in Amsterdam, at Butcher’s Tears, and in Rotterdam, at WORM’s Pirate Bay. For the aftermath of Regenerative Feedback I am sure Noiserr will have to take an extra step, and I am currently working on it. Links:  
Issue #018 Published: 26-06-2018 // Written by: Jan Kees Helms
Photo report - We Are Here demonstration
Photo report - We Are Here demonstration