On a summery morning of June, back in 2003 in Brussels, with the back window open, looking to a concrete terrace of some kind of underrated school and further at a distance to the train station Midi/Zuid, I saw a bird coming towards me. It flew right over my head and into the room/studio to the big double room with the arch, our living room. The bird decided to stay with us; both Koert and I were so happy to have this little friend around. It was climbing from our shoulders to our heads, chirping and making happy little gestures. We were feeding her as a baby, because a baby she was. It lasted three days. The morning that I found her dead I cried so much as if I was crying for all the cats I had buried in my life and all the people that I would never meet again.

Getting older, looking back, one expects to contemplate on past phases, places, houses; whatever sticks to memory. It is very common to use the word memory and memory content – personal or public – for producing art. However, the word itself has taken other connotations be it from technology, be it from cheap entertainment. Besides, you can now buy memory, literally, since you can put in there things you have documented and you want to keep. That is memory in fact; what you want to keep, because all the rest goes to other places and is recalled only under special circumstances. Then, linking memory with the passing of time as a theme is a fatal risk; unless you are called Proust or Shakespeare, who by the way burnt the image of a skull for everyone following. Maybe only philosophy can save the theme from slipping to kitschy works. But then kitsch can also be happily admired, however this artistic vision has also passed to memory already. To my understanding everything depicts the passing of time, because we, the spectators, are the carriers of time. When time stops either we are in love either dead (in both cases little we care about art).

Luckily, the dead don’t care about memory, neither for the passing of time; none of the two concerns them. But, what about the tail? The tail is a privilege of the ones closer to their dead phase. Like experience, it adds up, or like a collection of lived behaviours, at some point it is complete.  Our personal tail is complete when we are added as a knot to someone else’s tail; after a friend, a father, a cat, a bird, all those who have passed that person’s life and are now dead. Whether we like it or not, we are all connected through our tails. In fact, we form a huge net in space offered by our dead. At the idea of this drape, I smile.

In memory of Annie the cat


light experiment 1 from the series "the passing", 2000, 140x120cm


You are what you sell

Whenever I come across articles about the ways that artists make their living, what comes out is a big frustration with the artists trying to defend their artistic entity while earning money one way or the other. The “other” way is usually the case, meaning that artists have to do all kinds of irrelevant jobs in order to live a liveable life. Since the artists were detached from the old world’s patrons system, this was the price to pay for the gained independence. So, the majority of artists live a split life between a few hours of paid work and their studio. They always have to be prepared to wear a costume which never really suits them. Or, they have to share drinks and pleasantries with rich people. There we classify artists that do earn a living from their work. What did you think, that this was crystal clear earnings without side-effects and without extra (non artistic) work? Orson Welles was saying that he had spent half of his life trying to find money to realize his artistic projects. The thing is that artists have a hard life anyway; even more because they have to be on the defensive towards people who pester them by questioning their artistic existence when they have to wash dishes in order to preserve exactly this existence. Artists tend to resemble to the aliens of the film “district nine”: monster-citizens of the third kind that sprawl out incomprehensible sounds and are aggressive (or passive) over the top in their hopeless defence. Do we identify ourselves with this description?

Artists’ professionalism goes in levels:

Creation – Publication (exhibition) – Selling

For performing arts, like music or acting, where time is an essential factor, meaning that the work is created in time simultaneously with the attendance of the audience, the level “publication” coincides with the level “creation”.

For visual arts, the creation happens (usually) out of sight. The work is done in private and then it goes to the next level which is to be exhibited. For the intellectual world this is enough for including this work and its creator in the chambers of intellectual creation.

A professional artist according to some, including our incredible art center of The Hague ‘Stroom’, is the one who sells their intellectual creation. I suppose the more you sell the more professional you are, plus that when you do not sell for a period you are not professional for that period.

Under this thinking: the most exploited (to disgusting extend) Dutch artist was never professional. Was he an artist, or what was he anyway?

Would the American abstract expressionists ever have been “professionals” if the American politics had not decided to create an ‘Americanism’ in the post–war art history?

Was Rimbaud a poet or a weapon dealer?

Even mentioning these artists, it comes to mind the ridiculous assumptions about art creation that people who have never put their hands in pigments, or never have spent a whole working day repeating their scales, or even more never have felt absolutely crashed by their own vision, come to. I have always ignored them, or fought (with) them.

What makes a professional artist is the depth of involvement: be there with your work, always, body and soul, even if you sell your body or your mind here and there to support this commitment. No committees are necessary to “recognize” that. Each one should know it for him/herself.

sketches for plaster figures of approx. 30 cm high
to be reproduced in such a number as to fill up the floor of a
30 m2 room, title: ‘variable according to audience’

open hall

Walked in the Turbine hall of the Tate modern under sounds of a personally lived music time. Had to go up and down the stairs to be able to find a place to stand from where I could see the performance. Deep down in the hall, with simple slow movements, the choreography unravelled a sense of communication and continuation as well as a projection of the lines of the environment, including building and people. The voice of David Bowie and the imposing sounds of his music deepened the space even more and by doing so dragged along the non performing audience as well. Oh yes, there was performing audience!

The project of the Michael Clark company spread in the summer months – displayed as a live artwork – presented open rehearsals there in the turbine hall and involved more than 70 persons of the audience who were taught during this period and performed together with the dancers of the group at the final shows.

I find it superb the fact that more and more art projects look at art with an inclusive mind and the thought of involving rather than excelling alone. The idea of direct contact with the non-skilled in a specific field and the elevation of all through the extra effort of the skilled and the non-skilled together, is certainly not new; however, it is becoming more eminent now as a back wave to the ones who entrenched the artists’ professional activities with arrogance and fear and called that ‘a career’. That is the job that mostly art administrators learned to do (see Arno van Roosmalen, director of stroom den haag), encouraged by the curators era which is already fading away. The Internet world has opened a path of openness and accessibility; the real creators of our times and those who support them know to which door they turn their back and on which path they can walk in good company.

open rehearsal, Michael Clark company, Turbine hall 29 August 2010
open rehearsal from above, Turbine hall, Tate Modern, 29 August 2010

Thank you Madrid

Coming back from a short visit to Madrid, I found a two pages letter from the director of Stroom, Arno van Roosmalen. What a relief! I appreciate his effort to make me understand what Stroom is there for. Slaloming through the words explaining that Stroom is an independent arts center assigned by the city of The Hague to manage the art matters of the city; making clear that artists are recognised or un-recognised as professionals according to criteria that have to do with public achievements, namely sales, subsidies, interviews; and making more than clear that if you work outside the clique, and go ahead to organise your own projects involving other artists, it does not count as involvement in the arts, it is rather for amateurs and hobbyists. In brief, indie can not exist in The Hague. The more he wrote, the more I realised I really have nothing to do with them. Their values are good for “yes master” artists. The only problem remains, and on that Mr. van Roosmalen had nothing to say, that Stroom is a monopoly. Artists outside stroom cannnot rent a municipal low cost atelier, cannot get support for their exhibitions, can hardly participate in stroom subsidised group exhibitions, etc. That is where my anger focuses; otherwise, of course a stichting can hire and fire as it wishes.  I will continue picketing but light hearted from now on. Next one to bother is the ‘cultuurwethouder’ of The Hague.

The unimportance of Stroom stroke me already in the airplane. And then a real city bathed us in sounds of liveliness and struggle/fun (yes, simultaneously). What we saw in Madrid was so uplifting! You know, the big masters are hanged in the museums like eternal martyrs, prickling the people to bring out their best and even more reminding the artists that the goal is still there. Any aim, any comparison and any lesson to be learned stands there. The more you see the more you understand.

Thank you Madrid; once again you filled my lungs with the full air of the city and un-dusted me from the provincialism that sticks on my clothes together with the dampness of The Hague.

in the corridors of museum Reina Sofia

The arts of The Hague are in the hands of an un-skilled career freak

darkhead, S.Kapnissi 2009


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! . . .”

Fundamental inequality between artists living in the Netherlands

The situation of artists living in the Netherlands is based on a fundamental inequality that merely has to do with where they live, meaning in a city or in a village. To say it very simple, there is a website www.kunstenaars.nu which plays the role of national database meant to present the visual artists of Holland. To be listed in the database, not to talk about requesting any financial support,  you have to be recognised by one of the arts organisations that correspond to an area of the country. Area can be a province, like the case of Zeeland or a municipality like the case of The Hague. The State gives money to the provinces that choose if they are going to support the arts. The Hague is a special case where the money goes directly from the municipality to Stroom together with the authority to support the arts in the city, please note, as an absolute monopoly. But the issue of this article is that artists living e.g. in Voorburg, or in Leiden, or in any of the villages of for example the province Zuid Holland have no chance whatsoever to any recognition or no-recognition of their artistic status. For a couple of years there existed an artists centre for Zuid Holland which lost the financial support of the State in 2007 and since then ceased to exist without further comment. The listing of the artists of Zuid Holland disappeared at the same time from the national database mentioned above. In the same way, when an artist is disqualified his/her listing appears blanc on the internet, all information and images are erased as never existed. I am sure that they erase our faces from the group photographs as well; nowadays it is even easier than then.

There are artists around that know the situation much better than I do so I am inviting them to explain more clearly and in detail. Please talk!

It would also be very interesting to know how the situation is in other countries. Artists out of Holland let us know!

keep what you really need, S.Kapnissi 2010

Arno van Roosmalen, the two weeks notice have passed

Upon advise of the Legal Aid Bureau (Rechtshulp) of the Municipality of The Hague (Gemeente Den Haag), I asked some two weeks ago the director of Stroom to send me an extensive explanation of his decision to not recognise me as a professional artist any more. The two weeks have expired, and nothing has been heard from Stroom. I assume that he has nothing to say, or he chooses to ignore me which shows once more the lack of respect to the people that he is supposed to work for. His silence will be reported to the Discrimination Bureau (Bureau Discriminatiezaken) where my partner Koert van den Beukel has already made a complaint; the complaint has been filed and the Bureau is waiting for more complaints in order to start an investigation.

For my Dutch speaking readers I publish here the first letter that I sent to Stroom when this story started. The english translation will follow.

Titel: You gotta be kidding Mr Arno van Roosmalen/en aanhangers

Voorwoord: STROOM, hits scoren hoort bij voetballers en bij bonus jagers. STROOM moet de Haagse kunstenaars hun werk laten doen.

Het thema: U en uw commissie hebben besloten om mijn beroepsmatigheid als beeldende kunstenaar ineens niet meer te erkennen. Dit bericht kwam natuurlijk als een schok voor iemand die al twintig jaar werkzaam is als beeldende kunstenaar en circa tien jaar lid van STROOM.

Het commentaar en bref: De Haagse kunstenaars zijn niet uw werknemers die u kunt ontslaan wanneer hun werk en activiteiten (van de laatste drie jaar!) u niet bevalt.

Een stedelijk kunstenaars centrum hoort de kunstenaars van de stad te bedienen en niet andersom; vooral als deze een monopoly van de stadskunstfaciliteiten vormt dat praktische gevolgen heeft op de mogelijkheden waarop kunstenaars hun werk kunnen uitvoeren. De manier waardoor u dit monopoly bestuurt is beschadig voor de vrijheid van de kunstenaars.

U positie geeft u wel het recht om te zeggen “jouw werk hoort niet bij mijn clubje’s imago”. Dat is meer eerlijk.

Over publieke kunstactiviteiten, laat me u herinneren dat initiatieven zoals “de geborgen kamers” waarin ik een van de hoofdorganisators ben (en verder de Stichting Gaidaro die sinds 1999 actief is), zijn precies aan het publiek gericht, alleen niet aan het elitaire publiek van uw dromen. U wilt horen over kunstkringen, en pulchries, en lijsten van verkopen dat zorgvuldig door uw kunstenaars wordt opgesteld, zeker bij de kunstacademies geleerd. Deze lijsten heb ik niet, en dat is mijn bewuste keuze. Ben ik daarvoor geen beroepskunstenaar?

Het woord “marktgericht” zal ik negeren want dat is een bijwerking van kunst. Het woord “markt” gecombineerd met het woord “kunst” vind ik allergiogoon. Ben ik daarvoor geen beroepskunstenaar?

Over mijn vakmanschap hebben lang vóór u andere instellingen positief besloten. Ik wist niet dat een ambtenaar (en zijn hof) hoger dan de kunstacademies zijn mening over kunst kan stellen.

Over zeggingskracht… de discussie is eindeloos.

Ten slotte, u kiest om de polyphonie van deze stad te wurgen en een beleid van uniformiteit te leiden. Waarschijnlijk bent u absoluut eigentijds bestuurder want hoge positities zijn zeker niet uitverdeeld buiten de politieke richtingen.

Gelukkig dat uw gezag voorlopig niet levensbedreigend is en kan me niet weerhouden van werken (of toch wel?). U wilt me elimineren van de Haagse en de landelijke kunstenaars bestanden maar ik besta wel als kunstenaar in deze stad, bij andere landen en natuurlijk bij internationale dergelijke bestanden. Dus, elimineren lukt u niet echt. Hoewel, en sinds voor een tijd is Den Haag mijn woon/werkplek: Wat u wel hebt gedaan is het leven belemmeren van (nog) een beeldende kunstenaar . Nog een kerfje op uw stokje, u zou trots kunnen zijn op uzelf.

Aan de kunstenaars van de commissie, Marian Zult, Zagara, Simone van den Heuvel en Maarten Schepers: de (kunst)geschiedenis bruist van voorbeelden waar men door zijn eigen vakgenoten werd uitgesloten vanwege zijn werk, mening, andere manier van doen, ideeën, etc. Het is interessant om te zien dat die “vakgenoten” zelden de geschiedenis in gaan als iets meer dan belachelijke personen (op zijn minst). Iemand zou zichzelf moeten vragen waar hij/zij de grens zet tussen de nood voor succes en het gedrag als de koning’s charlatan.

Arno van Roosmalen, director of Stroom Den Haag, this time you blurred it

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.

If I am to die I might just as well have three legs, S.Kapnissi 2010

Stroom Den Haag is a discriminating organisation

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).

Self admiring neurotic corps (to be), S.Kapnissi 2010

against the stream (tegenstroom), the case of Stroom Den Haag and what the artists of this city have to face

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.