Collectives that initiate art

More than ever, Amsterdam artists are coming together to form collectives, which means that the solo artist seems to be disappearing. This is a trend that has been visible for some time.

It is to the credit of the jury for the annual Amsterdam Art Prize 2022 of the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts (AFK) that they emphatically focus on collectives both in the nominations and in the final selection of the winners. It can be a group of visual artists, radio makers, people who want to inspire others through art, artists who enter the neighborhood, in short an unprecedented and above all new versatility. Councilor Touria Meliani (GroenLinks, Art) announced the three art prizes on Monday 10 October to an almost full Rabozaal of the ITA, or the former Stadsschouwburg on Leid-seplein.

Color on the cheeks in Amsterdam

Fashion designer and visual artist Bodil Ouédraogo received the Stimulation Award. The collective of Echobox Radio, an online radio station that managed to attract around 150 radio producers and countless listeners during the corona era, became the winner of the Work of the Year. Finally, Rainbow Soulclub was the winner of the award for proven quality. Three times an amount of 35,000 euros is attached to the prize, plus a sculpture by Tim Breukers with the title Skyline remix. All co-nominees will also receive a photo and 3,500 euros.

In his celebratory speech, the councilor spoke of artists who “give color to Amsterdam’s cheeks” and that the city needs artists to “offer comfort and perspective on something new in these times of a very uncertain future”. Meliani also emphasized that art “is a basic need for every Amsterdammer”.

These collectives know how to ‘connect neighborhood and world’, as Laurien Saraber, director of AFK, puts it in her speech. “It is the foundation of our creative city.” According to her, “all creators understand the art of bringing people together” and they bring “joy with a sharp edge”.

The entries were made by Amsterdammers themselves, more than five hundred this year

The entries for the Amsterdam awards are made by the inhabitants of the city itself, this year more than five hundred. All categories are represented, from documentary to dance, from music to performance – although the number of contributions from the world of dance and theater was small this year due to corona.

The jury, chaired by the poet and composer Micha Hamel, puts its finger on the pulse of artistic Amsterdam. In glowing terms, Hamel said: “We see collectives that challenge each other. . . . Artists seek direct conversation with others. With their audience, with residents, the city or with colleagues to search together for new connections and forms.” The jury also sees that the artists are committed to a ‘liveable city’, where the social and the artistic form one whole. It is also the first time that the artists work in several disciplines; the jury calls that slashgeneration that clearly makes its voice heard. A slash artist is therefore simultaneously “creator/curator/performer/collaborator”.

Echobox Radio and especially Rainbow Soulclub testify to this ‘growing commitment’. In 2005, the artist duo Saskia Janssen and George Korsmit contacted Regenboog Groep, a foundation that takes care of hard drug addicts and the homeless. For 17 years, the ‘customers’, as it is officially called, have joined the artists at the Blaka Watra walk-in house at Droogbak to paint, draw and cook. In this way, Soulclub breaks the boundaries of the artistic to the social domain.

Rainbow Soul Club won in the Proven Quality category.
Photo Rainbow Soulclub

The prize for Documented Quality is not established through nominations, but is a completely independent choice by the jury itself. This collective works in the heart of Amsterdam, in the ‘heart of misery’, as one of the homeless very aptly put it in an introductory film. He said, “It’s a long way to get here.” Then he made a headline on stage.

The connection with society applies to Echobox Radio, which was created in the summer of 2021, when night culture died out due to corona. The group of radio producers decided to offer an online platform for both beginners and advanced radio producers. They call it “radical openness”: anyone can sign up. According to the jury, a local initiative with a ‘cosmopolitan appearance’.

Online radio station Echo Box Radiowinner in the Work of the Year category.
Photo Nikola Lamborov / Echobox Radio

Fashion as an art form

Bodil Ouédraogo creates other connections, the one between fashion and art, between her roots in West Africa (Burkina Faso) and modern Amsterdam. She calls all this The art of dressing up.

Also read: Dressing up shows respect for others

Her work has been shown in both the Stedelijk Museum and Amsterdam Fashion Week. “I treat fashion as an art form,” she says shortly after the award ceremony. “It’s about how people wear clothes and what they express with it, how they present themselves to the world. When I look at the street scene in Amsterdam, it is significant and rich.”

In her installations, she projects video images onto dancers enveloped in grand boubou, a loose-fitting garment for men and women. Ouedraogo: “You can’t stand still in this, you have to move in it. These clothes define the identity of the person who wears them and also the pride of wearing them.”

In her work and way of seeing, Ouedraogo tries to discover aspects that for her are “linked to ‘Black culture’.”

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