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seminar: On poetics / politics as identity machines in a European context.

the second A.C.T. Democ[k]racy seminar: on Poetry and Freedom

Onomatopee 86.2

Onomatopee Eindhoven presents,
in collaboration with La Criée centre d’art contemporain, Rennes (FR), Altart Foundation, Cluj-Napoca (RO), Kulturni Beograda Center Belgrade (SRB), University of Art and Design in Cluj (RO), European School of Arts Bretagne Rennes (FR) and Fabrica de Pensule Cluj-Napoca (RO),


in the framework of the “A.C.T. Democ[k]racy” project, supported by the European cultural foundation,


A day’s programme on poetry and freedom in a European context, in collaboration with various European partners. The poetry and politics of the language games involved are dealt with by various thinkers, artists and trend watchers.
It will be a lively day in which open discussions, driven by contrasts, will be instrumental to spread out potentialities, in which inspirational films and performances will create novel experiences and in which lectures will provide the necessary premeditated input. In brief: a day challenging the language we use to define our identity.


The seminar:

Poetry and Freedom

On poetics / politics as identity machines in a European context.

Thursday, May 23rd, 10:00 – 18:30

RSVP, the number of seats is limited:

Van Abbemuseum Eindhoven, auditorium: use back entrance (pink bridge)

"France is the state of the French, every French person is a citizen of France and all citizens of France are French." Yet with Israel, the self-proclaimed state of all Jews worldwide, the same statement is impossible: “Israel is the state of all the Jews; all Jewish persons are by definition citizens of Israel; and all citizens of Israel are... Jews. The third part of the proposition is clearly empirically wrong; thus the assertion that Israel is as Jewish as France is French cannot be sustained." 

- Sharif S. Elmusa, “Searching for a solution” in Where now for Palestine?

When national representatives speak up politically and when artists speak up poetically, they speak both through connoted as denoted constructs of highly symbolical value. What actually is being said here, to whom and for what reason?

“My duty is to speak, I do not want to be an accomplice.”
- Emile Zola to Mr. Félix Faure, President of the Republic, in “J’accuse...!”

Politicians’ voices resonate to a ‘to here an no further’, protecting their population, while the artist voices a call to ‘imagine a different world’, challenging populations. Both speak up saying hardly anything specific while voicing and advocating a particular demand in the face of the other. Artists propose the progressive while governing politicians maintain a status quo. One has responsibilities while the other has scenarios. Both play upon sensibilities in truths as we experience them.

“We will have to create an avant-garde…. We could have a Union for the enlarged Europe, and a Federation for the avant-garde.”
- Former EU Commission President Jacques Delors, Libération, June 17, 2000

The people in this project care more about getting together in respectful conflict, possibly without much clarity, than about fighting it out in actual conflict like those who try and blacklist fellow Europeans. Is there a 99% in Europe? This is a prime concern in this project, working its way from bottom upwards. Can we understand each other? Can poetry give voice to 99% of Europeans?

“Too rich to be relevant to the world’s poor, [Europe] attracts immigration but cannot encourage imitation. Too passive regarding international security. Too self-satisfied, it acts as if its central political goal is to become the worlds most comfortable retirement home. Too set in its ways, it fears multicultural diversity”

- Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperative.

How do we cross borders without acquisitions? This seminar deals with the poetic act in European spheres: politics applied with rhetoric care, popular concerns manifesting themselves along with subjectivity and the (in)ability to understand. If the poetic deals with sentiments and (in)abilities to understand, then it may be good to speak through misunderstandings and speculate towards a language we may share. At least we’ll have a drink afterwards: something most people appreciate.



Word of welcome by Freek Lomme, director of Onomatopee and chairman for the day (5 minutes)

Film by Artist Nicoline van Harskamp (NL): Any Other Business - a scripted conference.
Any other Business is a fully scripted conference that was staged for a live audience in an Amsterdam convention centre in 2009 and subsequently appeared as a film work with the same title. In the 6 hour conference, 35 actors performed 10 meetings or scenes, 2 of which are shown in this seminar. Each scene is based on an adapted transcription of an existing public debate or lecture, and presents a situation of public verbal interaction gone wrong.

Lecture: poet /critic / activist Samuel Vriezen: ‘What to do?’
Lenins "What to do?" read along love poetry of the troubadours and Dutch poets, from Herman Gorter to Gertrude Starink.
Vriezen is currently searching for models for love-longing, which would be able to help updating Leninist analyses to the present time, where class differences don’t seem to differ so much anymore. (30 minutes)

Questions from the public (15 minutes)

Art historian and tutor at the Academy of Cluj, Bogdan Iacob (RO) will lecture Artist, freedom, revolution. A Classicaly Rooted Questioning of the Social Relevance of Contemporary Artistic Endeavours.  Dr. Joost de Bloois, lecturer at the University of Amsterdam, department of Literary and Cultural Studies, will respond to this lecture in order to enter further conversation on the subject.



Is Occupy poetic?
Geert van Mil and Doris Denekamp from artists in occupy Amsterdam speaks with Romanian occupier Ana-Maria Murg and curator Istvan Szakats of Altart (RO).

The European Union is in a crisis of legitimacy and governance. In his contribution ’EU Watcher’ Joop Hazenberg looks at one aspect of this crisis: language. Europe’s different languages complicate the dialogue and mutual understanding. This goes far beyond the 22 official languages ​​of the European Union. There is also the technical, bureaucratic language used by the Commission and the European Parliament, which hardly gets through to the ’citizens’. Furthermore there are the languages of European and national politics, which often differ from each other. And finally there’s a revival of local languages. In a world of vanishing borders, people tend to cherish their own region.

Can reality raise the status of the poetical beyond high culture?
Uros Djuric prefers a truth on the street above a written truth. He is takes an autonomous stance towards high culture and prefers a real culture.  Can we integrate a communicative verticality that is radical on an expressive and cultural level and levels up horizontally to the cultural plane? Is this a truth transferable from one to another being, is it able to release a criticality from the bottom upwards? What’s the face of the critical and how does it distribute itself? To what extent does this resonate within a poetical sphere? In a conversation of Uros Djuric with Van Abbemuseum curator and Afterall and Frieze writer Nick Aikens, we hope to find some perspectives.


Film by Artist Nicoline van Harskamp (NL): Any Other Business.

17: 15
Walk to other space

’80 words’, concept and performance by Sarah van Lamsweerde and a Veem Theatre productionn.
A project about language and what happens when there are only 80 words to speak it. Are words still a reliable currency, now that freedom of speech suffers from heavy inflation? Can (self)censorship be a good thing? In this performance, researcher S. guides you through a slideshow. You are introduced to her singular subject, A. Words and gestures are stripped to the bone; your imagination is encouraged to combine phantom phrases with after-images, leaving you no choice but to make highly subjective conclusions.

Epilogue: informal drinks, with an optional BBQ at Onomatopee later on: all you can eat as long as food is available.