Leftist Street Signs in Amsterdam
A city which offers freedoms and opportunities for people to make choices and to live their own reality is one that belongs to everyone. Unfortunately, the space and experience of our cities is usually dominated by the desires of planners, bureaucrats and elites. They are now less spaces for un-choreographed human experience. And in this day and age, as cities develop and follow new trajectories, it is important for people to engage with other cities and with one another about their urban realities.
Street signs can be a thoughtful intervention and a means to offer alternative paths; but sometimes the best way to really understand a city is to lose oneself in it. Following the first series of street signs in Moscow and St. Petersburg, we created a second series in Amsterdam for the Welcome Back, Putin! festival of activist art. And also to celebrate the launch of the English version of Partizaning.
It is difficult to comment on a city as someone foreign to it. The best we could do was to raise questions among urban residents. Our signs were based on research and were installed based on the experience of being in the city. The signs physically situated questions about the right to the city and of the changes being experienced in Amsterdam. Part of the installation process included getting lost in the present experience of the city, while raising questions about its future.
Amsterdam has always been considered a liberal, multicultural and inclusive city. But it is undergoing fundamental changes that challenge this experience not only for those living in it but visitors as well. Our aim was to highlight developments through these street signs and to raise questions among residents about the city's future trajectory.
We created a map with custom icons to involve the public, even after the signs were removed, and show the site-specificity of each sign's location.
This Place Will Never Flood, Right?
This sign was installed near a beautiful park in the middle of the city. It raises concerns about flooding and how that would negatively affect the beautiful natural environment. The sign also builds political support for the Polder Model—the internationally acclaimed consensus policy in economics on which Dutch tolerance and socialism is based. It is a comment towards promoting cooperation among countries as well as citizens—tolerance, multiculturalism etc.—and to rethink our values in order to avert global crises like climate change.
This is a Multicultural Place, Right?
This sign was installed near the ferry stop, which connects to the Noord district in the northern part of Amsterdam. It is an area where artists, students and immigrants from different parts of the world live, and is known as a vibrant and diverse part of the city.
This is a Place for Free Political Expression, Right?
This sign was put up in front of the Debalie Center, which hosted 'Welcome Back, Putin!' – a festival showcasing work by Russia's leading contemporary art activists – from Feb 29 to March 4th.
This Place is Already Occupied, Right?
This sign was put up near one of the last squatter locations in Amsterdam's city center. Earlier this year, a law against squatting was approved by local authorities.
This is a Place to Freely Express Oneself, Right?
This sign was installed on a street that is well-known for its gay culture, and the site of several popular gay clubs. The sign reflects desires and expectations of the the city as one that is tolerant and promotes freedom of expression. But with the elections of a conservative, right wing government, could drastically change.
This is a Place of Greater Tolerance, Right?
This sign was installed at the entrance of SMART Project Space—an international artists platform and key cultural institution for the city. The installation coincided with an exhibit on the role art to heighten political consciousness. It responds to 'East Side Story' by Igor Grubic—a striking and depressing video installation based on footage of violence that occurred in Belgrade (2001) and Zagreb (2002) during gay pride parades. In both cities, demonstrators faced verbal and physical abuse by neo-Nazis and passers-by.
This is Not a Military Base, it is an Artist's Haven, Right?
This sign is a response to the Netherland's budget cuts for art funding and its plans to militarize by buying airplanes. It was installed on the first day of a week long conference/festival WE ARE THE TIME: Art Lives in the Age of Global Transition at Gerrit Rietveld Academie. The festival was kicked off by World Question Centre-Redux. In 1969 artist James Lee Byars compiled a list of questions based on conversations with 100 artists, scientists, philosophers, prominent thinkers and practitioners. World Question Center became a critical document for his time; the artist believed that perfect thought takes the form of a question and that answers and explanations were not the way forward. The World Question Center Redux merged the artworks' past, with questions from the present for the future.
Cycles Don't Run on Oil, Pravda?
This sign was installed at Voldenpark, arrived upon through a dérive dice game. Dérives are situationist methods of wandering a city to encourage the 'practice of urban drifting'.
Hier is Tolerantie, Toch?
This sign was installed in front of the former Het Parool publishing house and the new Mediamatic location where a restaurant, night club and art space Trouw is now located. Het Parool, which means 'The Password' is an Amsterdam-based daily newspaper which was founded as a resistance paper during World War II.
This is a Place for Legal Marijuana Use, Right?
This sign was installed near a coffee shop in front of the American Book Store. It comments on recent laws being passed in Amsterdam to prevent tourists from smoking marijuana in the city.