It is not surprising that a Greek artist together with a Dutch artist grown up outside the Netherlands were treated as intruders when they came back to Holland five years ago. Everyone we knew was telling us that things had changed for the worse in the Dutch common life: unemployement had risen, tolerance had shrank. One would think that the art world is not affected by such things. Indeed, those who know how to work independently do their work under any circumstances. Those who wait for subsidies, have to wait. We landed in Transvaal and spent three years living and working in houses and streets that have already become images for the National Archive. Our publication project of 2007 can already be seen as documentation of a past chapter of The Hague.
It was printed in Dutch and published on the Internet in Dutch and in English.
‘I became the race horse of the talking media. 581 words per minute was a record that could not be ignored. At last could I talk; listening had suddenly become not applicable, or at least that became my starting point, and very soon my contribution to the rising media era. Again on travelling, on thanks and bravo’s with a fan club and a limousine added, I should be content. However, the more I kept talking during the day, the worse became my sleep. I had no nightmares; only a constantly repeating dream wherein I was walking through the hidden rooms of my life. They were rooms where I once had lived, with furniture and curtains that I couldn’t recognise, empty from people and sounds, every night a new room. Day after day I became obsessed by the hidden rooms trying to identify them. My famous blabla – without losing tempo – became blurred through intervening jumping words of other languages. I went to the psychiatrist seeking a meaning for all this. She generated no meaning but came to me with an advice: “stop talking”.
To my ears that sounded then as “stop smoking”, “stop drinking”, go to the monastery. Instead of that I took off to become an artist.’
Art is a constant experimentation, thus not compatible with ideas neither of surrender or compromise nor of comfortable self admiration. Continuing to do what you know best is like repeating the same successful experiment over and over and presenting the outcome as something essential. This recipe excludes failure and leads to frigid artistic achievements. Works where the human failure cannot be traced are as close to any truth as Hollywood films. Consequently, they are perfect for entertainment and decoration purposes.
I always thought that art was more linked to philosophy, including all contradictory hypotheses, decomposing and rebuilding, explaining a small pitch of the chaos or revealing it to us by a punch to the stomach. I fear that, just as in the world’s universities, here as well, humanities have lost ground to physical sciences. The new trend is to link the arts with experimentation where the arts are not the main factor. Link the arts to biology, to agriculture, to environmental studies, etc. and you have already neutralized them. Even more, a scientific experiment that is repeated as an artistic project is a parody underrating both scientists and artists for the joy of those who make careers on the back of disorientated fools.
Experimentation should appear from the artists’ working place; then only, biology, agriculture, environment, or anything else in the human or super-human sphere can be fuel for artistic creation.
Today I give to Arno van Roosmalen a book for self studying:
“Conversations with professor Y” by L.F.Céline, an old-time classic.
Quote: “. . . the crowd is already yanking out the trees, turning the Tuileire Gardens into an immense open space! to get a better look at his mug before they cut off his head, oh! ever so gently! with a tiny little blade . . . clown’s end, what they’re waiting for, not so much that he’s a cuckold, insipid pleasure! it’s having him bound to the trestle! or to the wheel! and making him howl there four . . . five hours . . . that’s what lies ahead of the artist! or clown! . . . b’God! . . . he only escapes their conniving brew by even greater cunning, brownnosing, hypocrisy, or by membership in an Academy . . . the big one or the little, or a Sacristy . . . or Political Party . . . just so many risky havens! . . . let’s not kid ourselves! how often they turn out for the worst, those so-called havens! . . . and those “commitments” . . . Great Grief! . . . even for those who have several “connections”! . . . They’re all pacts with the Devil! . . .”
The role of philosophers and artists (in the wider sense) in society is to contribute to the intellectual development of mankind. The consuming society of the last 30 years has twisted this role into a tool of entertainment, naming any shallow extravanganza an artwork, judging intellectual works as commercial products. Our administrators know that a tool cannot produce any threat, much more when it is there for sale; a free philosophizing mind is the biggest threat to a system that sells hot air; why? But just because it does not comply. Why it does not comply? Because it does not need what they are selling.
The year started with big excitement: finally I got to rent a studio (one of the municipal studios that only members of Stroom can have) in the center of the city where I right away installed myself and set up my new working space. In February 2010, I received a letter from Stroom announcing me that they don’t recognise me as a professional artist anymore; note that I have been a member since 1997 with four years interruption because I lived then abroad. They judged my work activities of the last three years only. I became a mother three years ago so those have been the hardest years for keeping it up but I did continue, sometimes giving the focus on organising projects that involved many other artists (see at http://www.geborgenkamers.nl), sometimes by focusing on my own development. The fact is that starting off as an outsider, or more walking my own path, and being a foreigner in this country (not from the favoured countries nor from countries of conflict that are in fashion for these arrogant westerners over here), it was obvious year by year that this centre of arts did not want me in their feet; they just found the moment to expel me. I am sure that they have kicked out more people but noone talks. I do, and I continue to work on my own path. I still have the studio and I will report it as soon as something goes wrong with it.
In the meantime I am waiting for the apologies of Arno van Roosmalen and of Stroom.
The success factors for becoming (and staying) a member of Stroom: Dutch nationality, diploma from a Dutch art school preferably the KABK, knowing to sell yourself as an artist, being friend of the director or pretending to like what he considers art and be male or behave like a male.
Foreign artists, with studies, exhibitions and constant involvement with art, are treated as serfs who have to report to the master every 2-3 years about their activities and their incomes. This master though is financed by the state where these foreign artists also pay tax through their art organisations or individual movements or even through other incomes (day-time jobs, night-time jobs, private assets, etc.).
Arno van Roosmalen, director of Stroom, should apologize to the artists of The Hague and to the city itself for suffocating them in a mediocre provincialism (even for a state managed artworld as the case is in the Netherlands).
Stroom Den Haag , the euphemism of center of visual arts and architecture, treats the artists of The Hague as their employees and judges them every couple of years (not all of them and not all under same intervals) according to criteria that mainly have to do with earned incomes and commerciality of the work, but also skills (that one has for some years and then loses them), impact qualities (zeggingskracht) and proven achievements (by this, meaning mostly public assignments). Attached to the financial part is a more widespread issue of Holland where artists hang on subsidies in order to realize their ideas/projects and basically do not go ahead without a subsidy; try to belong to commercial clubs that ensures them a minimum of commercial activity (and also ping-pong bills and receipts back and forth between them to show incomes) and all that exactly to avoid being judged as non-artist (?), non-professional artist (?), an amateur (?). The question marks are addressed to Arno van Roosmalen, director of Stroom.
Stroom Den Haag misuses the authority that the city of The Hague has entrusted them. Arno van Roosmalen, director of Stroom since 2005, uses the money streaming in from the city of The Hague to build his own career as curator. Under pretext of “changing the way people sees art”, he imposes his view of art to the city’s artists instead of supporting theirs, including all those who go along and excluding those who have their own way of thinking.
Stroom Den Haag is an obstacle to the free work of the visual artists of The Hague; artists are requested to comply with the taste and the ideas of the director and his committees (consisted by “fellow” artists and a gallerist!). This is the present “professionalism testing committee” (toetsingscommissie beroepsmatigheid): Simone van den Heuvel , Maurits van de Laar (the gallerist) , Maarten Schepers , Zagara and Marian Zult .
Stroom Den Haag is a discriminating organization. More on that issue will be written in the near future.
For the ones outside Holland: Stroom Den Haag is the organisation responsible for the visual arts and recently also the architectural matters of the city of The Hague. It is set up as a Stichting (foundation or association) with independent management, but which runs on money subsidized from The Hague. Its mission is to facilitate the work of the visual artists of The Hague by managing the municipal ateliers, the subsidies and the exhibition opportunities. In practice that means that a non-stroom artist can not request a municipal atelier which would be rent at a low price, cannot request a subsidy for his/hers activities and projects, cannot request contribution to exhibition expenses, cannot be listed in the national database for visual artists (http://www.kunstenaars.nu) and is not invited to participate in exhibitions because a group exhibition in order to be subsidized by Stroom must have 50% stroom-artists participation.