The Last Exhibition on View at the End of the World


Rebel’s Desk: It is no coincidence that W. Harms and C. Hassard met in a bomb shelter turned autonomous free space in a park named after a poet in Amsterdam’s magical center.  Dada intervenes like a deity whenever certain phrases are uttered and thus, dada invoked. Harms & Hazard has a certain connotation. But that is another story for a different time. 

This is a story about the last exhibition on view at the end of the world. 

Monday, March 23: 5 days since we accepted lockdown, 5 until the opening of Chantal’s solo exhibition at W show run by stitching Jetee

[sends a photo of blank canvas]

C: What should I paaaaaiiinnnnnt?

W: The laugh into the abyss of an apocalyptic age?

C: My whole former plan seemed so futile.

W: Tell me about it. [W. & C. were cancelling everything thanks to a pandemic.]

C: No one will see my exhibition next week. Days stretch out before us like a giraffe’s tongue.

Piano Man, Atje & Btje, The Destroyer (diptych)

The window exhibition above was to open on March 28 in a small gallery location as a tribute to free autonomous spaces.

Chantal Hassard’s recent film ‘Tear Down Your Own House, Man!‘ would have been screened at the opening:

Several of the paintings from Hassard’s metaseries had been shown on February 28th, at ADM takes over Paradiso which was the last time those of a threatened counter-culture were allowed to dance without restriction to banned beats, faces uncovered. Rough Night Press had been planning a highjack of ‘The Destroyer’ diptych for a show at Vondelbunker on March 29.

ADM x Paradiso

Hassard’s bright, yet almost impressionistic paintings make the viewer step further back from their internal/subjective lens. Breaking down a fourth then a fifth wall, Hassard paints still frames from documentaries about the Amsterdam squatting scene, including her own films, and makes neon wilderness effigies to a scene always on the brink of extinction. She plays with collaboration: staging a moving triptych ‘Exquisite Corpse’, inviting park amblers (who don’t always find the way down the muddy path to the defunct bomb shelter) to add to the Vondelbunker’s history and have a collective art experience during a festival in October. Later as our quarantine freedoms are tested, she and several other Vondelbunker volunteers, co-paint a frame from that moment.

Vondelbunker, 2019

When ADM, the largest cultural free-haven existing in the Netherlands was facing its eviction in December 2018, Dimitrus Dalakoglou, Professor of Social Anthropology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam wrote in Het Parool that “the forced closure of ADM will mean the end of a huge spontaneous community of people who have used the place over all these years and have ADM as their main site of reference for their social, cultural and political activities that are disseminated in the entire city giving it one of its last lifelines”.  ADM fought the eviction through legal avenues resulting in a public statement from the United Nations Human Rights Committee for an Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Right to the Netherlands that recommended a further investigation before eviction, however, Amsterdam authorities dismissed this communication and carried out the eviction. The historic shipbuilding yard was torn down to avoid a re-squat, forcing about a hundred people from the space they had built a community in over 21 years. This municipal violation of the United Nations Human Rights Committee recommendation might have, in a different political climate, been a galvanising force for public debate around the future of free spaces. Instead, the event went relatively unacknowledged in mainstream Dutch and international media.” – C. Hassard

Atje & Btje, closeup

Squatting has been an integral part of Amsterdam’s underground political history since the 1960s and deeply affected the current texture of the city by producing over 120 legalised cultural venues and contributing to the physical preservation of de Pijp as a nineteenth-century neighbourhood. The w_show is part of a neighbourhood that was slated for demolition in the 1960’s as part of American traffic engineer David Jokinen’s plan Geef de Staad en Kens (Give the City a Chance) financed by the automobile industry lobby. Resistance against this redevelopment plan mobilised squatting groups throughout the city which continue to resist the rapid neoliberal gentrification in de Pijp by offering vokus (folk kitchens for a donation), performance venues, artists studios, and living space where critical countercultural ideas are exchanged and brought to life. Today the legacy of these movements is continually present in the area, evidenced by The Molli, a legalised squat bar that has existed since 1979 at Ostadestraat 55.” – C. Hassard

This body of work will appear in an expanded form at the final exhibition the Master of Artistic Research program at the University of Amsterdam in the Nieuw Dakota Gallerie from June 26 to July 5 : Ecotones: Bodies in Tension

Chantal Hassard is a Canadian artist and filmmaker currently writing a master’s thesis at the University of Amsterdam on the production of alternative space by investigating the case of squatting in Amsterdam.  Chantal has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Visual Studies from the University of Toronto and has exhibited work in interactive art events at The Nieuw en Meer and Vondelpark in Amsterdam, Dufferin Grove and Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto and on Governor’s Island in New York City.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s