Facts as an art form: Van Heeswijk and Paul Cox in Nieuw-Crooswijk21.11.2016
In the spring of 2011 I visited with a colorful group of architects, planners, urban planners and architects city marketers the capital of Ireland, Dublin. Within the framework of a European network, 'Inspiring Cities', we were shown around by the Rotterdam office Stipo in this city, ravaged by credit and construction crises. All restructuring processes were suddenly brought to a halt here. Ireland had previously experienced a period of lightning-fast economic growth - almost 12% between 1995 and 2000, more than 6% between 2000 and 2007. The 'Celtic Tiger' surprised the world. But critics spoke of Ireland as "the wild west of the European capital market," because the economy was provisionally underpinned by irresponsible loans, risk and speculation. It turned out to be a correct estimate, because the recession struck inexorably in 2008. Ireland became a fully written down debt nation, unemployment rose frighteningly and the long tradition of emigration was forced to pick up again.
Those cold statistics were also visible in the city. A phantom city now loomed outside Dublin's old city center, where banks, developers and corporations had left like a thief in the night. We looked out over a landscape of unfinished metro stations, vacant lots, unpaved streets, empty parking garages and semi-finished Vinex neighborhoods - sometimes with one inhabited street, where civilians had hidden themselves fearfully behind emergency fences and concrete blocks. In his book Regeneration: Public Good Or Private Profit? (2008) John Bissett outlined the failed revitalization of St. Michael's Estate in the Inchicore district of Dublin. This abandoned neighborhood only had eighteen families who experienced the tenth anniversary of the restructuring in 2008. "Their children grow up in a world of demolition and defeatism - they never saw a single freshly baked brick coming for the construction of their new homes."
Restructuring is "the largest and perhaps also the most difficult task in the field of architecture," wrote architect and planner Hans Teerds on the ArchiNed website (2008). In 1997, the now-discontinued Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment defined restructuring as a greater mix of living, working and recreation within urban areas. Under the influence of this mixing, the liveability had to be increased, so that the urban economy could develop in a more versatile way. In this program, special attention was paid to the physical living environment, infrastructure, urban facilities and local activities. The notion of restructuring was seen as an overarching model for all these interventions. While 'building for the neighborhood' of urban renewal in the seventies and eighties of the last century was still a genuine government program, restructuring wanted to give the market a leading role in driving and shaping the new city.
In fact, restructuring is the Dutch equivalent of the phenomenon gentrification, which can be translated as 'corruption'. Districts and neighborhoods are not only being revitalized in terms of urban development and architecture, but must also stop the exodus of the wealthy middle class from the city. In the wake of this development, the accumulation of lower social groups in old city districts is seen as a problem. After all, restructuring also means that these groups are scattered. "We are going to drive poverty beyond the Diamond of Rotterdam," said a proud manager of the Woonstad housing association, before bulldozers transformed a large part of the Crooswijk neighborhood into a moonscape. The Municipal Housing Company once took care of thousands of social rental homes, but since the company dissolved in Woonstad, policy changed. The old working-class district - where the sports heroes Bep van Klaveren and Faas Wilkes created a furore, but also the hip-hop of Def Rhymz and Dubbel Problem was born - should become an attractive neighborhood with many owner-occupied homes, 'within walking distance of the center' and 'with a view of the Kralingse Plas'. Sometimes the 'problem area' Crooswijk is no longer even mentioned. 'Stately living between Hillegersberg and Kralingen', advertised a website of the municipality of Rotterdam, intended to attract new buyers.
A front with stately, but mostly vacant houses now takes away the view of the desolate sand plain and building plots where the Wandeloord neighborhood was once erected. It was a busy and lively neighborhood, with narrow streets, equipped with garage boxes, workshops and retail premises. I lived there in the eighties of the last century. The neighborhood had all the characteristics of a 'arrival city'. Newcomers, often Berbers, but also squatters, artists and young Crooswijk residents were able to start up small businesses relatively cheaply here and start their creative or economic career. Mint was harvested in gardens, bands found rehearsal rooms, the snack bar functioned as a neighborhood center, artist Olphaert den Otter made his beautiful charcoal animation film here Swannzij (2005) and the local garage company loaned tools to local residents. No matter how deprived this type of neighborhood emerges from the statistics, Doug Saunders registered Arrival City (2010), it forms a necessary foundation for entrepreneurship, social and economic progression and urban innovations. His parole is: don't fixate on economic statistics, spend less time on planning and don't be afraid of cluttering.
In my own memory, however, the neighborhood had a stuffy character - as if an eternal gray veil hung in the streets. You couldn't get a decent cup of coffee anywhere, the café on the corner had always closed the curtains, and eateries were not excelling in care and quality. In 1989 I left the neighborhood. Without homesickness. Some leniency is in order here. Because the micro-economic downturn on the left and right side of the Rotte had already taken place before, during the urban renewal. Until the mid-eighties the Zaagmolenstraat and the Crooswijksestraat were still littered with workshops in basements, small shops, countless shops with second-hand items, eateries, workshops and pubs. The sidewalks were used as display areas, functioned as community centers, and street foams were bent over boxes, bags and barrels. Beautiful ornamental paintings by Co Westrik and Woody van Amen colored the street scene. Youth center De Fiets was an exciting stage for hip-hop - a completely new phenomenon, and café Faas was the best pub in Rotterdam. Tram line 9 meanded through a busy and sweltering city life. Traveling through the Oude Noorden and Crooswijk was an adventure.
Tremé: a wounded city
The phenomenon of restructuring - that occurs not only in the Netherlands but everywhere in the global village reveals - is rarely characterized by tact or modesty. The upgrading of neighborhoods and neighborhoods is often accompanied by major logistical operations, devised by a pact from developers, corporations, contractors and civil servants. These public-private companies listen to illustrious names such as Pact op Zuid or OCNC (development combination Nieuw Crooswijk). The large scale of the interventions has transformed significant parts of our cities into temporary wastelands. In the Dutch film Skin (Hanro Smitsman, 2008) such a landscape served as a daunting backdrop. Against the background of the battered Nieuw Crooswijk restructuring area, the scroll print outlined the development of a Jewish boy into a racist skinhead. The tragic story and the horribly realistic scene of a closed-up Wandeloord push each other to an oppressive piece of city history. It is a reassuring thought that such a ravaged and crushed city exists only temporarily. Nevertheless, increasing numbers of people live in the chaotic reality of restructuring every day.
The HBO television series was equally moving and moreover sublime Tremé. The fourth and final season started in 2014. The feuilleton portrayed the famous intercultural musician quarter Tremé in New Orleans, just after the whirlwind Katrina destroyed the dikes and flooded large parts of the city. Gradually refugee residents return to their neighborhood. However, they discover that water is not their biggest opponent, but a conglomerate of insurers, banks, developers, politicians and the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). This alliance dreams of a physical and economic upgrading of New Orleans, where a new wealthy middle class will replace the old and impoverished black working class. The series outlines the setbacks and resilience of local residents in a city that is divided and mutilated. Thanks to its rich musical tradition and it Mardi Gras, the annual carnival, old New Orleans manages to keep going for the time being.
Processes of restructuring are especially visible in injured cities and districts, wrote Ida Susser and Jane Schneider in their bundle Wounded Cities (2003). Although these urban zones are subject to great pressure, they often turn out to harbor a special dynamic - think of the aforementioned television drama Tremé (where residents of New Orleans have a say in the episodes and themes). It is a misunderstanding to assume that passivity and resignation as a rule set the tone here. The ability to cope with loss, say goodbye, show resilience and prepare for the future is a challenging potential. Episodes of injury offer the opportunity to take collective action. Inspired by critic David Harvey, the study examines twelve cities that have fallen victim to globalization and upgrading. The aim of the company is not merely to criticize: by studying resilience and social creativity, the researchers hope to map out a new dynamic and to provide building blocks for a 'policy of restructuring'. Because the city is a political body, David Harvey noted in the bundle. 'The city is an organic life form that produces itself through human activity. A city grows, maintains itself or dies out. And on the way she goes through different stages. The city can be powerful or injured, healthy or sick, elegant or shamelessly ugly. '
Many urban sociologists, program makers, designers and artists (and increasingly often combinations of these professional practices) today intervene directly in the urban fabric of the restructuring zones - everywhere in the Netherlands. Sculptures and paintings seem passé, but the city itself now forms the working material. Hans Venhuizen, a planner trained as an artist, wrote with Game Urbanism (2010) a 'manual for a cultural spatial planning'. In their book Urban transformation in the meantime (2010) artist Sabrina Lindemann and architect Iris Schutten tried to find new impulses for the Transvaal neighborhood in The Hague. With House tree party (2010) artist Wapke Feenstra offered a series of interventions in the district around the Piushaven in Tilburg. Marjolijn Boterenbrood and Renée Borgonjen investigated in their Atlas Haarlem East (2009) the possibilities for artists in driving urban renewal. Gave a report of a series of artistic and creative interventions in a restructuring area in Utrecht In Overvecht: Art-Work-Place (2008), compiled by Ingrid Commandeur. These publications are only a small selection of the many artistic and cultural programs that took place in Dutch cities. Moreover, cultural interventions can often count on encouragement and financial support from developers and corporations. Because 'could it not even be that way', writes Leo de Jong, director of housing association Waterweg Wonen, 'that we need more knowledge from and with each other, gaining inspiration and developing activities together? Clear and true '. The corporations were still optimistic. Knowledge of the financial debacle surrounding the SS Rotterdam (Woonstad) and the wild trade in derivatives (Vestia) had not yet reached the general public.
An exploration of that mutual fertilization between urban developers and the creative industry also offered the British author Charles Landry The Art Of City-Making (2006). In an earlier specification he had already published an optimistic manifesto, in which developers and policymakers were encouraged to make more use of the creative potential of the city. His book The Creative City (2000) was intended as a toolbox for urban innovators, as the cover stated. Numerous everyday practices, methods and examples of urban innovations were brought to the attention of the reader. According to Landry, urban planning and urban development are often hopelessly outdated, because their technological and bureaucratic nature prevents openings from being opened to software solutions, interculturality and creativity. However, this somewhat chaotic but optimistic work was overwhelmed by The Rise Of The Creative Class (2002). Both titles were, wrongly, soon identified with each other. Economist Richard Florida also advocated more creativity in processes of urban development and awarded the new creative class a vanguard position in that endeavor. The better a city takes care of its creative class and the better a city manages to retain that class, the more prosperous the economy and tolerance will develop. This idea was perfectly linked to the global pursuit of restructuring and better conditions for setting up newcomers in expanding cities.
But that was not what Landry intended. In the opening sentences of The Art Of City-Making he claims that creativity is being held hostage by the discourse of the creative class, in which deflection, commercial real estate policy and the strengthening of the middle class have been declared core values. Creativity needs to be redefined, independent of professional professions, on an everyday urban level. He also argues for a shift in the focus from product innovation to social and other facets of creativity. Because the value-generating capacity of a city is not only determined by physical and economic aspects. 'What a city gives life, meaning and meaning, are the actions of people in a physical environment. Decor and play may not be identified. We have expected too much from the professional caste who designed our physical environment. And isn't she, more than others, responsible for the cities in which we live today? " Exactly here, in the interzones between stage and play, the cultural city makers have nestled themselves. Physical, urban, social or cultural problems are mapped, investigated and then transformed into potential and concrete design practices.
As Wounded Cities the area explored between metropolitan processes of decline and prosperity, so Landry opened a domain between art and science. He argues for an inventorying and experimentation method and insists on the need for verifiable hypotheses. Only then can cultural interventions be connected to the spatial or urban agenda. But objectivity is not his goal. He borrows the subjective perspective from art, so that the human factor and the perception of the city are drawn into the discourse of urban development.
From Landry's perspective, the artist now functions as an artist-researcher. But what type of research is actually designed here? Artists like to talk about anthropology, planning and social geography as inspirations, but their cultural interventions usually lack the formal, academic frameworks of the scientific disciplines. Rotterdam exponents such as 'anthropologist' Jan Konings and 'planner' Hans Venhuizen also refuse to define themselves as an artist. Behind that attitude is an interesting conception that might be interpreted as 'experimental art'. The idea is derived from Colin Bennett. In Politics Of The Imagination (2002) he described the work of data activist Charles Fort as 'facts as an art form'. Fort unfolded in four books, published between 1919 and 1933, his philosophy of it intermediatism and introduced the hyphen (the hyphen) as the core of his views. The essence of our knowledge, Fort asserts, lies not so much in fixed concepts, categories and media, but rather in the intervening field of tension. This American skeptic, a descendant of Dutch migrants, was wrongly perceived in his life as an opponent of scientific thinking and an advocate of an esoteric philosophy. He preferred to speak of humor. He indeed denounced the absolute claims of science to truth, but rejected the equally absolute claims of theosophical and other holistic worldviews.
Fort used the empirical or experimental method as a literary model. He thereby created a unique artistic genre: the genre of the forgotten data. Appeared in 1919 The Book Of The Damned. Thanks to a modest family capital, Fort was able to spend his life in the libraries and archives of New York. There he became obsessed with the exclusive method of scientific research. Researchers collect data, but in order to formulate verifiable propositions, they must also eliminate data that does not fit into statements with universal validity. Fort became an activist and set himself up as an advocate and mouthpiece of ejected data, which he called 'damned data'. In his 'book of the damned' he addresses meteorology. For years he studied scientific journals and noted deviant, curious and crazy observations of meteorologists who had never reached the epistemology of meteorology. He then classified his damned data into numerous categories. This created an ingenious card system that gradually overgrown his house. The Book Of The Damned offers a hilarious summary of its analogue database. In twenty-eight chapters he deals with yellow rains, red rains, black rains, rains of stones, rains of prehistoric fist axes, rains of fish and frogs - all neatly labeled with sources, dates, locations and the names of the observers. In the meantime, he happily speculates, creating the contours of a damned but cheerful universe. With the beautiful feature film Magnolia (1999) director Paul Thomas Anderson brought an ode to this universe, in which an intriguing and coherent mosaic is laid from shards of seemingly random events.
More systematically, this activism took shape in the work of philosopher Paul Feyerabend. He turned into books like Against Method (1975) in Science In A Free Society (1978) against the philosophy of science of Karl Popper, who had proposed a universal scientific method. According to Feyerabend, such a form of fundamentalism would be disastrous for advances in science - Galileo, Einstein and other physical geniuses were just so successful because they left the beaten track, ignored laws, and stubbornly clung to personal beliefs. Moreover, scientists often use data that does not come from scientific disciplines. He also regards such a rigid view as socially dangerous as it would restrict free and creative thinking. He argues for a pluralistic approach and proposes a separation between state and science. Science must be a method of research, not an ideology. But that eliminates any distinction between science, pseudoscience, mythology and even magic. That is correct, says Feyerabend, who gave every person the right to believe what he wants based on his own judgments. Let's "realize that there is simply no single theory of the physical world. Theories sometimes work in defined domains, often underpinned by unfounded claims, and we are constantly confronted with phenomena that do not fit within a framework accepted by science. " Charles Fort had not claimed otherwise. Critics called the professor at Berkeley University "the worst enemy of science."
In his autobiography Killing Time (1995) Feyerabend recalled that he designed a 'Dada epistemology'. He refers to satirists as Johann Nestroy and Karl Kraus as sources of inspiration, who had elevated the deconstructing of commercials, news items and scientific articles to art. Because such texts admit authority, but their formal style often hides nonsense and inhumane motifs. Science is a collage, not a system, says Feyerabend. 'In formulating my ideas I tried to avoid jargon and to use the language of popular culture and pulp. Because Dadaism had revealed an eerie affinity in the written language of advertisers, scientists, philosophers, politicians, and theologians.
Experimental interventions in the city also offer ample room to re-interpret, value and translate damned, lost or ignored knowledge into another epistemology. Because could such an organized collage of facts not have any influence on urban restructuring processes? Yes, say two Rotterdam artists who had committed themselves for a long time to the fate of Nieuw Crooswijk. Jeanne van Heeswijk started a program in 2004 that led to a publication: De Dwaallicht from Crooswijk. Manifesto of a working-class area (2007). Paul Cox designed one Monument for Pierre Bayle (2011). Both approaches are characterized by a long-term commitment to the restructuring process, by a strong interest in forgotten or hidden knowledge (their monuments have a narrative character), and by the desire to exert influence on the agenda of a district in transformation. Finally, both projects transcend the neighborhood. Van Heeswijk is a master in the re-ordering of her projects and findings, to subsequently represent the results worldwide in a museum context. For example, an installation presented at the Taipei Biennial may contain elements from The Dauallicht. For his monument, Cox sought connection with the Faculty of Philosophy at Erasmus University Rotterdam, which subsequently familiarized the international community of scholars with the initiative.
There were also differences between the two projects. Van Heeswijk emphasized social, economic, historical and cultural aspects of restructuring. She portrayed an arsenal of forgotten cultural practices, achievements and traits of character of Crooswijk and argued for a re-descent of those 'false lights' in the new, restructured neighborhood. With this strategy, however, she came into conflict with the advertised reality of developers and corporations, who envisioned 'a stately home between Hillegersberg and Kralingen'. The monument to Pierre Bayle also used a forgotten historical story. The famous seventeenth-century philosopher of the Enlightenment lived in Rotterdam and his grave remains are at the general cemetery in Crooswijk. The sage did not play any role in the identity of the 'old' Crooswijk. But a new neighborhood, Cox thought, urgently needs a new identity. There was no question of a conflict with clients. On the contrary. They initiated a private foundation and made a substantial financial and organizational contribution to the realization of the monument.
Jeanne van Heeswijk - who himself lived in Crooswijk at the time - noted during neighborhood meetings that the community was not a fundamental opponent of neighborhood renewal, but opposed the image that was attributed to the area. 'The neighborhood was portrayed as a pool of metropolitan problems, with overdue maintenance and poor housing. What particularly struck them was the image of poverty, coupled with the suggestion of social and ethnic intolerance. As an artist, Van Heeswijk decided to focus on the soul of the neighborhood, "a soul plagued by unrest." The Dauallicht became a series of smaller and larger events, in which the current situation was connected with concrete life stories of residents, with historical facts and fictional characters. She organized boxing competitions, concerts in shops and community centers, a musical, started a neighborhood cafe, organized city walks at the cemeteries and published a periodic neighborhood newspaper. She meticulously portrayed city stories as 'false lights' - like a living anthology, in which a part of the collective memory of the neighborhood was recorded. Her motive was to give direction to the social restructuring of Crooswijk. 'The tone was playful and light-hearted, to transcend a direct confrontation between residents and developers. The project actually served no purpose, but it did generate movement. "
Van Heeswijk generated movement, but also designed a new cultural infrastructure. She proved successful in this, because her events were well attended. But action committees, the Socialist Party (SP) and street columnist Croosje ('the anonymous sister of Loesje') used the presentations to protest against the large-scale demolition plans in Nieuw Crooswijk. With this the artist created - intentionally or unintentionally? - also a new platform for social protest in the 21th century. And that again caused irritation with the developers and financiers involved. "The tone of Het Dwaallicht was not well understood by all the authorities involved," Gepke Bouma wrote What Work Where. Art & area development in Rotterdam (2010). "Some parties understood the implicit criticism and bleaching not amused by the irony or the cheerfulness that regularly occurs'. The Urban Planning and Housing Department even threatened to stop its financial contribution to the program. Van Heeswijk dreamed of a follow-up program, something like that Crooswijk. The Musical, a representation that would travel through the country, fueled by the conviction that a spirit or soul of a place can never be driven away by demolition and new construction. However, support for that company could no longer be found. In 2012, the judge stated the "Demolition?" Drunk! " partly in the same: the number of homes to be demolished in Nieuw Crooswijk must be substantially reduced.
Paul Cox aroused less resistance with his Monument for Pierre Bayle (although some activists now protested against the money that was allocated for a work of art). The call for a monument to the famous philosopher of Enlightenment dates back to the nineties of the last century. Pierre Bayle (1647-1706) had spent most of his life in exile in Rotterdam. Here he taught at the Illustrious School and wrote his famous works, in which tolerance and mutual respect were advocated - also for dissenters, atheists and superstitions. He died of tuberculosis, was buried in the Walloon church, and later the grave remains moved to the general cemetery in Crooswijk. In this forgotten city story, Cox saw a unique opportunity to add a historical dimension to the neighborhood. Moreover, Bayle's concept of tolerance perfectly matched the desire to make New Crooswijk a harmonious multicultural neighborhood. The monument did not become a statue, but a 'text house', a high-quality and traditionally crafted talkhouse, in which citizens are encouraged to exchange ideas with each other. Cox also designed a bronze 'Pierre Bayle bank', which features an image of 'the philosopher of Rotterdam'. In the coming years, a series of bronze sofas will replace the regular street furniture in Nieuw Crooswijk. This not only gives the public space a qualitative boost, but Cox also lets the monument fan out over the neighborhood.
In contrast to The Dauallicht made it Monument for Pierre Bayle no use of dormant neighborhood stories. Cox introduced a new city story that, due to its appeal to history, commanded authority, but was still untainted. His monument is ideally suited for newcomers, who can become acquainted with seventeenth-century cultural history in a special way. He thereby provides authority and identity. Based on that inspiration, the new elementary school in the neighborhood decided to call itself the 'Pierre Bayle School'. The monument spreads through Nieuw Crooswijk like an identity nebula. If the restructuring of Nieuw Crooswijk has taken place around 2020, Cox hopes that the tolerance philosopher will cover all the pores of the neighborhood.
The programs in Nieuw Crooswijk were exemplary of many contemporary interventions in the city. Also in neighborhoods and neighborhoods such as Pendrecht, Hordijkerveld, the Tarwewijk, Charlois and the Afrikaanderwijk, many artists are actively involved in processes of restructuring. Just as reconstruction and urban renewal produced their own artistic expressions, restructuring also gave direction to the professional practice of the artist. However, there was also criticism of these 'cultural therapists'. In Too Active To Act (2010) the architects and philosophers Gideon Boie and Matthias Pauwels (aka BAVO) challenged the new cultural activism in the Netherlands. Artists present themselves as 'experts in the field of the soft, emotional household' of the city. As a 'farewell counselor' for people who live in a demolition environment, they do not resist existing developments, but use their creativity to alleviate the suffering of a community.
It is surprising that Jeanne van Heeswijk in particular has to suffer. Well, in Crooswijk she created with The Dauallicht feelings of pride and self-esteem among unfortunate residents. But in the end, according to BAVO, she only offered 'symbolic compensation to residents for the emotional damage inflicted on them'. With such a strategy, artists would play into the hands of powerful social actors and justify processes of 'folk deportation' in the old city districts. The authors do have some understanding. After all, the contemporary city artist, familiar with the avant-garde tradition, has always felt at home in the context of social change. But now that change has taken on a technocratic form, the artist becomes a "professional transformation counselor." BAVO speaks of a tragic case of 'perspective confusion'.
The critical analysis of BAVO was stimulating and welcome, but hardly does justice to the motives of Jeanne van Heeswijk. As an activity series The Dauallicht had an open structure, allowing local residents, entrepreneurs, culture makers and sportsmen to participate on their own terms and to help shape the programs themselves. Cellist Paul de Jong's appearances in stores were not only good for the customer, but also encouraged entrepreneurs to attract new potential customers to their establishments. The boxing demonstrations were especially good for the boxing schools, which not only showed local champions, but also seized the event to recruit new students. The music theater performance brought together a range of local hip hop artists on stage for the first time. Moreover, the meetings of The Dwaalicht constantly 'hacked' by action groups, which seized the crowds on the street to protest against the intended demolition of nearly two thousand homes in Nieuw Crooswijk. The Dwaalicht did not compensate the emotional damage of the neighborhood residents, but did offer an alternative to the previously destroyed cultural infrastructure in Nieuw Crooswijk. Van Heeswijk designed the public domain. If, as a loss adjuster, she had merely focused on farewell counseling, she would not have aroused the wrath of her clients.
The city as a collage
Charles Fort and Paul Feyerabend realized that their Dada epistemology would result in a 'anything goes' that would turn system thinkers into frenzy. Also the 'open source' approach of The Dauallicht led to a multitude of facts, initiatives, meetings and actions that were not operationalized by the artist beforehand. Guidelines for the right city were not given. Protest against the demolition plans was not part of her campaign. A conflict with developers and corporations was not sought. Comfort was not offered - Van Heeswijk left that intimacy to the local residents. Yet everything was present in everything - like vibrating wandering lights in a night landscape. The city was a collage, not a system, so learned The Dauallicht.