Recent articles
Issue #024 Published: 24-05-2019 // Written by: Jack Halpin-Doyle
Renegotiation of urban space skateboarding and gentrification
In cities, the effects of gentrification are vast and unpredictable. People become displaced, areas change from residential to commercial, and public urban space becomes increasingly privatised. Just like the effects, the responses and fights against these issues are also varied, whether they are taking place in cultural and activist contexts or by local community groups. One of the cultures, or subcultures, that play an interesting and important role in the fight against gentrification is skateboarding. Skaters have a long and complex relationship with urban space and gentrification. We can see creative ways in which skaters have re-appropriated both public and private spaces. If we take the values and intended uses of office blocks and other corporate buildings, which serve the interest of a small percentage of people and typically give little back to the cities they inhabit, then we can see skater’s interaction with them to be of cultural significance. Skaters use structures that represent the dominance of capital interest and turn them into obstacles on which they perform tricks. It is an act of self-expression and creativity, which in turn adds positively to experiences of space in cities. A notable and valid criticism towards a lot of art is that, however revolutionary or disrupting the message is, it happens within institutions which exclude certain groups or members of the public. Skateboarding as an art form goes tries to remedy this usual state of affairs. By performing in the public realm, skaters bring these ideas of rebellion and fighting against corporate power into the public sphere. Seeing skaters use symbols of gentrification as part of their craft is an important statement against gentrification. Developers can build offices and apartment complexes, which may even include specific anti-skating architecture, but there will always be people who will find alternative and subversive ways of interacting with these structures. However, as well as playing an important role in shaping visible responses against gentrification, we must also consider how skateboarding is also being used as a tool of gentrification. While a lot of skateboarding happens in uncontrolled, public environments, and always will, we cannot ignore the rise of skateparks and their role in reshaping neighbourhoods, especially in the last ten or fifteen years. While skateparks usually arise from a genuine demand and are usually community organised or orientated, there is also the inescapable fact that skate parks are often part of the gentrifying process. One of the ways this is possible is through making traditionally working class areas seem “safe” to both new and potential middle class residents. This process has been dubbed “skatewashing”, through which the opening of skateparks and is used as a marketing tool for the promotion of a particular neighbourhood. Skateparks are often installed alongside playgrounds and football pitches, and while these are positive additions for communities, they also act as markers of a newly “desirable” area. This is a complex phenomenon; while skateparks do act as important spaces where skaters can exist relatively unbothered, they can also signify gentrification and speed up the process of changing a neighbourhood. As well as aiding in the gentrifying process, skateparks also serve to take skaters out of the street and keep them in sanctioned areas. If we are to take skateboarding as a subversive act we can see how skateparks, especially when they come as part of an “up-and-coming” neighbourhood, are used as weapons in the arsenal of neoliberal urban planning. This is not to say that skateparks should not be built, but rather that we should examine the motive that goes behind their construction, the way in which they impact the area they situated in, and how they are incorporated into the city. If we look at London’s famous Southbank skatepark we can see where a local movement, Long Live Southbank, successfully stopped the park’s demolition and got the green light for the construction of a new section. This is the stuff that anti-gentrification dreams are made of: a skatepark being preserved in the middle of one of the world’s most expensive cities. Another good model of a city that has taken new and revolutionary approaches to incorporating skateparks into its cityscape is Malmö. Malmö has skaters that work with the local government, who build skateparks in the city centre, as opposed to the outskirts. Malmö also has architecture that is designed to be used by both skaters and non-skaters alike. This includes sculptures such as Alexis Sablone’s Lady in the Square, which resembles a face that can be used to skate or sit on. This blurring of the lines between purpose-built skate parks and public amenities has a variety of effects. As well as keeping skating in the public realm it also opens up spaces to new interactions between skaters and other inhabitants of the city. Not only does it encourage new relationships to form, it also stops the tradition of skateparks being built away from urban centres and being used as a way to market neighbourhoods, and thus speed up the gentrification process. While skateboarding has been co-opted by corporate interests, there is an essence to skateboarding that can’t be capitalized on, and it is this energy that can make skating such a valuable weapon in the fight against gentrification.   Photo: Nicholas Constant
Online only Published: 21-05-2019 // Written by: TAAK
Social Capital Round Table
What if... Artists around the table for area development 24 May 2019, 16:30 @ LIMA / Lab111 It's broadly agreed upon that artists are important players in urban development. Artists create monuments to what once was, and they create a bridge between an area's original residents and its newcomers. They observe changes critically and poetically. For example, the artist, whether intentionally or unintentionally, can fulfill the role of neighborhood coach, place-maker, connector, and driver of social cohesion for a greater quality of life in new and old neighborhoods. These 'soft values' are difficult to measure, yet ultimately materialize into a tangible increase in the real estate market. But where are artists when negotiations take place, plans are drawn up, decisions are made, and contracts are signed? Do they have influence once the neighborhood has become polished and lifeless? To what extent are they victims of, or on the contrary complicit in, the gentrification of neighborhoods to the tipping point on which consumerism and capitalism reign? Much has been argued about this topic in the art world, and we are therefore using the Round Table on 24 May at LIMA / LAB111 as part of Social Capital for a thought experiment. We propose the question: What if, for one year, the subsidies for art in the public spaces of the Amsterdam-West district are not spent on art projects, but instead on compensation for artists and local residents involved in sitting down at the negotiating table? Not as a sponge to be squeezed dry, but as a recognized participant in the decision-making processes of the municipality and project developers. During the Round Table we discuss the pros and cons, challenges and pitfalls of this plan together with the artists participating in Social Capital #2 in Amsterdam-West: Julika Rudelius, Lyubov Matyunina, bart & klaar, and Tao G. Vrhovec Sambolec. Also attending is senior urban planner Julian Jansen from the municipality of Amsterdam. Prior to the Round Table is the soft launch of the collective blog We> Me.Me. Despite the emphasis on individuality in our time, bart & klaar are curious about 'we'. Their We> Me.Me app offers a daily screen full of images, texts and art works about ‘we’. During the launch, writer Fiep van Bodegom will also recite from a we-column. Round table language: (mostly) English Location: LIMA / LAB111, Arie Biemondstraat 111, Amsterdam Entrance: free Start: 16:30 Register: info@taak.me Afterwards we cordially invite everyone to come to the Pesthuislaan on the WG-Terrein (a five-minute walk from LIMA), where at 19:00 Tao G. Vrhovec Sambolec presents Tuning In - the neighborhood, in collaboration with DNK Ensemble and the residents of Woon- en Werkvereniging WG-Terrein. During this intervention musicians, the public, and residents from their home on the street level of the WG-Terrein jointly intone the musical note 'A', blurring the boundaries between private and public, listener and performer. Until 20:00, followed by drinks, soup and bread at Bar Budapest (cash only). Social Capital The Social Capital Round Table is part of the multi-year art programme Social Capital by TAAK. Amsterdam is expanding rapidly because of economic and social forces. As a result, the public domain is under increasing pressure. Despite regulations, monoculture and commodification, how can we continue to see public space as a place for imagination and adventure? To address this question, TAAK launched Social Capital in september 2018, a programme consisting of interventions, presentations, workshops, performances, videos and installations at unexpected locations in various Amsterdam neighbourhoods.  The second edition of Social Capital starts on 23 May 2019 in Amsterdam-West. Developed by TAAK and LIMA, the programme includes the following participants: Lyubov Matyunina, Julika Rudelius, Tao G. Vrhovec Sambolec in collaboration with DNK Ensemble, and Bart and Klaar. These artists respond to changes in their immediate surroundings with (sound) performances and video installations at various sites in West. Have a look at www.taak.me for the full programme.  
Issue #024 Published: 20-05-2019 // Written by: Katie Clarcke
The New Veganism: Cruel Optimism
Simon Amstell’s 2017 mockumentary Carnage was a breakthrough for the vegan movement. Set in a utopian 2067 where everyone is vegan, it tells a story of how, due to the threat of climate change, society shifted to veganism, and how the older generations are having to “come to terms” with their carnivorous past.  In one scene, a psychotherapist named Yasmine Vondenburgen holds support sessions for former carnists to lift their guilts over carnism. Davina, a patient of Vondenburgen’s, faces the trauma of recollecting that Edam was a cheese she once consumed, and subsequently breaks down in tears. Using humour to promote what has mostly been considered a sub- or countercultural movement, it helped to normalise veganism and indicated the growing interest in - and provided a loving portrayal of - veganism as a cause and a lifestyle. Contemporary documentaries on the likes of Netflix continue to profile climate justice movement. As this topic becomes evermore mainstream and urgent, veganism as a lifestyle choice continues to be promoted as a way that helps an individual “save the planet.” A movement that once took an abolitionist stance, and sought the liberation of non-human animals, has mutated into a pragmatic movement that seeks a sustainable future for humanity. And what better way to sustain the future of humanity than to visit that pricey vegan hipster joint, and post a selfie from there as an Instagram story? In Amsterdam, these types of vegan establishments are on the rise. They offer an ethical alternative to the local steak houses. But they also sign employees up on precarious zero hour contracts, and the high-demand food crops, such as soy, that their products rely on perpetuates the fact that the West  continues to over-consume at the expense of disadvantaged countries. What once was an anti-capitalist collective movement, a punk voice for animal liberation, has taken a sharp right and has become a lucrative strategy for entrepreneurs. Activism has become an accomplice to capitalism. Punk vegans argue that no ethical consumption can exist within the borders of capitalism. You’ll spot their stickers that read “Dier vriendelijk vlees bestaat niet,” Ethical meat does not exists,  on the street lamps of Amsterdam. It all seems a far cry from the graffiti that says “Go vegan or go home!” on the walls of a newly established Vegan Junk Food Bar. One of the results of neoliberalism, and the high individualism of consumer culture, is that  human beings are encouraged to take up Catherine Kaputa’s idea of “you are the brand.” You are an entrepreneur. You are the winner. You are the loser. In conversation with vegan restaurant workers it became clear that to me that those individuals were taking personal responsibility for climate change, or for animal slaughterings, because they felt like an embodiment of neoliberalism. Instead of demanding action from corporate giants, neoliberal individuals grow anti-capitalist ideologies within capitalism, spreading hashtags throughout vegan community, showing off their activist work for brownie points on a CV, and build vegan businesses  that aim to be at least half ethical. In a recent interview, Armain Schoonbroodt, a vegan thinker and founder of VeganAmsterdam.org, envisions a vegan world where all businesses are vegan. He muses that veganism being trendy is useful for the movement, in that it helps to introduce veganism to people that can later adopt a deeper meaning. Whilst this pro-active and pragmatic approach to making waves in society should not be overlooked, it is important to address what can only be described as cruel optimism. Not only are trends short lived, meaning the movement may lose attention sooner rather than later, but a vegan business, like nay business, brings with it the entrepreneurial spirit of competition. Competition leaves little room left for the collective, which has been the primary motor behind the vegan cause for decades now. The longevity of the vegan punk counterculture has been hit by the self-righteous neoliberal leaf blower. If you continue forth with the vegan movement, it is important to ask yourself if you are vegan for the cause or for the commodity?  
Issue #024 Published: 19-05-2019 // Written by: David Benjamin
Ecodorp Ppauw in Wageningen bestaat vijf jaar
In het laatste weekend van maart vierde het ecodorp ‘Ppauw’ in Wageningen haar vijfjarig bestaan. Het dorp ligt in de afgegraven vallei waar zich voorheen het lokale Pieter Pauw-ziekenhuis zich bevond, en wordt omgeven door bossen die uitlopen in de Veluwe. In 2013 is het terrein ludiek gekraakt door een lokale band, aangevoerd door de eco kunstenaar Erik Groen. In de daaropvolgende maanden is stap voor stap goodwill gecreëerd bij de eigenaar, omwonenden en gemeente voor het sociaal-ecologische project. Op het festival kwamen veel puzzelstukjes bij elkaar. Twee dagen lang werd er genoten van alles wat er, ondanks tegenslagen, is bereikt op Ppauw. Het dorp functioneert inmiddels volledig samenvoorzienend, deelt kennis van zaden tot tiny houses, nodigt de regio uit voor het tweewekelijkse eetcafé, en werkt met veel initiatieven samen die zich thuis voelen op het terrein. Naar aanleiding van de verjaardag heeft het ecodorp bovendien een aantal kunstenaars uitgenodigd om een speciaal project op te zetten. Zo konden deelnemers bijvoorbeeld ‘Levend Bouwen’ met Bob Radstake, een van de initiatiefnemers van het Living Village festival in Dalfsen. Een van de laatste vernieuwingen op het terrein is de ‘Rurale Universiteit Wageningen,’ die op zaterdag werd geopend. Deze verfraaide kantoorkeet met ronde tafel – uitkijkend over de vallei - moet het hoofdkwartier worden voor een burger- en studentenbeweging in Wageningen die de universiteit weer dichter naar de gemeenschap trekt. Het stadje van 38.000 inwoners kent al een enorme Levenswetenschapuniversiteit, maar sinds deze is verhuisd uit het centrum van de stad naar een hypermoderne campus lijken stad, land en universiteit steeds verder van elkaar vervreemd te raken. Gelukkig ligt Ppauw al op een enorme natuurlijke campus om te leren van mensen, bomen en dieren. Wie langs wilt komen op Ppauw is van harte welkom op het tweewekelijkse eetcafé . Maar ook voor individuele bezoeken, overnachtingen of projecten is er plek. Stuur dan even een mailtje naar info(at)ppauw.nl Foto: Mali Boomkens
Issue #024 Published: 17-05-2019 // Written by: Pablo van Wetten
An Interview with Jeffrey Babcock
Ext. A bench in front of the Athenaeum Bookstore - Day Jeffrey and Pablo have known each other for years, and whenever they run in to each other they find a wall to lean against, or a bench to sit on, and make some time to shoot the breeze. This is the first time they have actually arranged to meet ahead of time. Fade in, mid conversation. Jeffrey I always pay with cash because I feel every time you pay with a card you are voting for a cashless world. What they really want is a cashless society because once that happens we’re fucked, they can monitor every fucking little move you make and in reality you don’t have money anymore. It’s the bank that has the money then and allows you to have some, but if you have cash you can... Pablo Bury it… Jeffrey Yeah Bury it whatever you want to do with it, and it also creates an alternative economy in the city. You know if everything is totally official we’re kind of screwed... So I refuse to go to places that demand you can only use a card. The Eye Filmmuseum for example (laughs). I went there once and the computers broke down, and since they didn’t allow people to pay with cash, everything was blocked. People wanted to see the movie, but they could not see the movie. Pablo So they should’ve made the movie screening free and everybody would have had a good time right? Jeffrey Definitely, that’s what life is about, that’s what this city used to be about, having a great time! I came to Amsterdam in 1985 and there’s a big difference between the city then and now. Just yesterday there was some great news though. There is a squat called the Klokhuis on the Zeeburgerpad over by The windmill in the east. Well, they got an eviction notice. I showed a movie there before the eviction date, but they decided to take it to court and that’s not easy to do actually. First of all three people have to sign their names to the complaint, and of course they go on the shit list with the government… they don’t make it easy for people. And then yesterday I found out they won! First time in the last 10 years that squatters have won a court case, and I was really supporting them because even if the odds are totally against you, you might get a good judge one time, and if you win the case you have a precedent to go by in the future.... So let’s jump to London 1984 where I was arrested on ridiculous charges and I even spent some time in prison before I got out on bail. So I was forced to live in London waiting for my trial. One day I had to go to a little hearing with a judge, and the judge looked at the papers and said there is no evidence at all for the accusation, and then the judge says “Everybody’s free to go.” My lawyer said there was no chance of this happening, legally yes it’s possible, but he had never seen it happen. Then I found myself speeding across London in my lawyer’s car, and so then I learned you never know what’s going to happen next. You should always go for it and be as strong and positive as you possibly can, even if the odds are totally against you. And so that’s how I felt with these squatters also, it’s really great that they took it to court. I think it’s wonderful. Pablo That’s fantastic. Is that the place that was going to be torn down anyway so they might as well let the squatter stay there for the remaining two years? Jeffrey Yes I believe it’s two years. At the same time, it was a judge, a single person, maybe one of those old-school Amsterdam people in the system still, and so it wasn’t a decision of Femke [Halsema, the mayor of Amsterdam]. If it was up to Femke I believe they would be out. The city of Amsterdam is trying to  eradicate as many alternative spaces as possible. So in terms of squatting they don’t even want people to stay in a place even if it’s going to be torn down in two years. They don’t want positive examples of people doing things in alternative ways. They don’t want examples of people doing things outside of the marketplace in the city anymore. Pablo In all the years I know you you have seem to really have focused on that single point more than anything else, the disappearing alternatives. Jeffrey Yeah, well Amsterdam used to be a city of alternatives. Pablo Is that what drew you to the city? Jeffrey Yes, alternatives were the mainstream in Amsterdam. And alternative isn’t a single direction, it’s about diversity. And we’re not talking about diversity only in terms of gender or skin color - we’re talking about diversity in radically different ways of living. Amsterdam was great because people could move here and jump into the city and live here even if they had no money. There were two economies in Amsterdam in the 1980s: one was the official economy which is all around us right now, and you could choose for that option; but you could also live in a cashless society. That’s really a cashless society, if you can live with no money (laughs), in a positive way! A huge part of the city was squatted, so people without money could come and live here and not worry. Pablo How would you describe the movies you show? Jeffrey I feel that every film I show is absolutely unique. I focus on films that are disappearing. So my criteria is basically to save these forgotten films and get them screened for at least one night… There is darkness you know, the darkness of the internet, the overloading of information. Because people can’t see their way through it they just gravitate to what they all already know, and so my film screenings are a way of interrupting that situation and therefore they function as a sort of filter. If people want to take a chance and see something different then they can come to my nomadic cinema. Pablo And to see movies together. Jeffrey Right. Collectively, not like some lonely motherfucker on their laptop. Pablo Also Jeffrey I’m a big fan of your mailing list can you talk about that Jeffrey Well the mailing list is based on friends telling friends, so there is no website, there is no social media, there is no advertising. It’s all based on friendship and it’s grown tremendously. The history of cinema is very rich and what is playing downtown, especially in relationship to superhero movies and everything, is becoming so narrow in terms of content but also in terms of style. And so let’s go back into the history of cinema and look for other possibilities because there are so many. So what’s fresh now is going back to look at those films because they are bringing something new to you. I also want my audience to be roughly equal in terms of gender, so if for instance I notice there are less women coming, that means something to me, and I have to change the programming... On the square in front of the bench our two friends watch a worker load heavy barrels into a truck, he seems to take pleasure in making as much noise as possible. On the benches around the plaza many people sit staring at their mobile phones. An Italian tourist with red eyes eats a chocolate muffin. There is a nasty wind; it’s almost too cold to sit outside. Pablo Do you consider yourself a champion of the underdog? Jeffrey Well, for me a city is built on diversity and poor people are a part of that diversity. You can’t just put them in a ghetto on the outskirts of town on the other side of the fucking highway and then just clean up the entire center and expect it to be a livable place. It won’t be a living place, it will be like a museum, a sort of a dead zone. If you go to Paris, the centre is largely dead, you can feel something has been ripped out. For instance, Le Marais is a quaint area but you just feel it’s dead. Everything is well painted on the surface, but the atmosphere and the energy... everything is dead about it. And so this is also what they’re doing to Amsterdam, they’re killing the spirit, they are killing the creativity, they’re killing the artistry, they’re killing the history. You know this city still has it, it’s still there. They haven’t smothered it out totally and that’s why we have to tap into those aspects and bring them back to life again. They are like embers and if you fan them you can make them come to life again. And in terms of people at the bottom I really respect them a lot. For instance the people at the Zeeburgerpad. I offered them some money because I knew they had court cases coming up and they didn’t even have heaters last winter, and they said, “well you know if we really need money we will come to you but we would rather fix it ourselves, we can always go to the junkyard, find some old heaters, repair them and install them ourselves.” And I thought to myself, yeah, that’s right, if you can do it yourself you should always do it yourself, and you can apply that to the filmmaking process also. You don’t necessarily need a subsidy, you can work outside of that system also. We have too many artists now just filling out paperwork, trying to get money from the government, to allow them to be creative, supposedly. But creativity is a part of life. Pablo Amen Jeffrey (Laughs) Pablo We almost forgot to mention the places you show films... Jeffrey You know I’m showing movies four or five times a week. And once again the cinemas are based on diversity, so I think the places are very different from each other. It’s hard for me to say which one I like the most because what I like is the difference between the places. For me that’s the strong point of the cinemas. I have some steady places at the moment but at the same time I’ve had a lot of places that have come and gone over the years and I can’t even begin to describe all the places. From churches to offices and everything in between. I feel Cavia’s film programming is getting sharper all the time. Most lately I am showing movies at the Paleisstraat and that’s important for me because it used to be a crucial squatted art gallery called ‘Aorta’ back in the 1980s, so for me it feels like home in that space. Pablo turns off the recorder and the friends decide to move to a cafe to warm up a bit. Through the window, they can be seen to be talking but they can’t be heard. Instead: the sounds of the city. Cars and pigeons, bicycles and the wind. Their view is blocked by a young woman taking a selfie. She seems pleased with the result. ------------------------- Jeffrey Babcock is a film programmer, writer, and cultural activist. He is the recipient of the AFK Amsterdam prijs voor de kunst 2019. Pablo van Wetten is an Amsterdam based multimedia artist and performer.   Photo: Lorelei Heyligers