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.

Paris Scratch


A review of bart plantenga’s latest book

I felt it would be disingenuous of me to review this objectively because as I was reading Paris Scratch by bart plantenga, it was personal. I read it on European metros while going through my own artistic crises; I perused it while curled up listening to the Pogues on Xmas in Amsterdam remembering my Paris; I gleefully dog-eared passages, which are arranged as snapshots of plantenga’s life in the city of light, so that I could read them to people whom I recognized in those pages. It was the same type of diary I kept while I explored that same city as a down and out flaneuse. Even though bart plantenga is Dutch, his style/syntax/eye feels American bred because in a sense it was. His parents immigrated to the USA from the Netherlands in 1960 after surviving nazi work camps and the Dutch Famine of 1944. bart was 6 and his subsequent upbringing and literary influences are typical of those expats who cross the Atlantic in search of inspiration among Paris’ cafés, winding streets, and elegant architecture.

.bartp   bart plantenga, L’Enfant terrible

The myth of the hard-drinking, sexually free, renaissance man who gives the middle finger to society and takes off for Europe with a few dollars in his pocket has been going strong since Hemingway and his Lost Generation. They published novels about being drunk, in love, and above all, free after the end of WWI. Later, Henry Miller would wander around with the Hungarian photographer, Brassai screwing prostitutes and trying to scrape up enough for a hot and a cot. The theme is the same: suffering is worth it because at least they can WRITE. This feeling oozes off the page in plantenga’s book as he explores themes of lust and dejection with a rock and roll eye and a cowboy mouth. Any expat artist can recognize his/herself in the shadow of the Sacre Coeur guzzling wine while expounding on Baudelaire and Situationism. Anyone else can live vicariously through plantenga’s recounts of those adventures. In 100 years, it hasn’t changed: the romantic vision of the Writer in Paris.

plantenga looks at Paris through a photographic lens and is just as unapologetic. Whether it is the views from the window of his apartment, while sitting at a café, or riding his bike in the rain, he records the tableaux as he sees them with no judgment. Some poems show a melancholy fragility like when he describes accidently leaving his journal behind in a bar and returning to find some British tourists reading it aloud and laughing. He expertly juxtaposes scenes of watching a transvestite adjusting their secret package in a moment when they feel they are unobserved to a child being chided by his maman as he hides from her. He describes the innocence and underbelly of society bittersweetly like he is at that moment remembering something lost.

In Paris Scratch, the young man among the whores, booze, and anti-establishment avant-garde sowing his oats and trying to shed the constraints of traditional society could feel forced or trite by a more sentimental author. However, these scenes are displayed with humor and an innate understanding of the absurdity that he is witnessing. The certain impishness with which plantenga approaches the trysts he writes about makes one imagine, much like one does with Miller, that these encounters were met with indulgent smiles from these women who knew they were fodder for the author’s physical and literary needs. But this may tie into my own interpretations as good poetry should resonate somewhere deep inside yourself. Those times when a poet captures a moment, an instant in time that you too experienced in a different or maybe parallel time. A part of the collective conscious perhaps, the conscious of people who will never see enough and always live to tell the tale.

Paris Scratch & its companion, NY Sin Phoney in Face Flat Minor are available from Sensitive Skin.

Photo: self-portrait in photo booth, Paris

bart plantenga is the eclectic author of 2 internationally acclaimed books on yodeling: Yodel In HiFi: From Kitsch Folk to Contemporary ElectronicaYodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo: The Secret History of Yodeling Around the World, produced the Rough Guide to Yodel CD compilation & the YODEL IN HIFI Top 50+ Youtube channel. He also writes fiction: BEER MYSTIC, Spermatagonia: The Isle of Man & Wiggling Wishbone (Autonomedia). He’s currently working on the Amsterdam-Brooklyn novel Radio Activity Kills with his daughter.

He has been a DJ since 1986, producing Wreck This Mess in NY (WFMU), Paris (Radio Libertaire), Amsterdam (100 & Patapoe) & currently online. In 2014, he won the David Tudor Memorial4’33” Competition. He writes, bikes, produces his radio show, & lives in Amsterdam with partner Nina & daughter Paloma Jet.