Addressing the elephant in the room.

A theory of how things went down and correct me if I am wrong.
The housing corporation X initially rented apartments to artists that owned a BTW number and worked as free lancers. Then X broaden its offer to art students and students in general. 
All of them signed a contract that 'committed' them to 'giving something back to the neighborhood'. 
Twenty-five euros from their monthly rent goes for that purpose and an organization Y, commissioned by the housing corporation X, became in charge of distributing that money. Y initiated projects in the area and invited resident artist to realize them. 
The process became quite complex and artists entered a weird circle of expectations and olbigations that were unable to de-myth and creatively respond. 
Collective meetings become a drag and individual creativity got lost within a need for a strong collective. 
Y failed to embrace this distress and independent artistic practices failed to attract audience and participants from the area.
The money seem to be 'locked' somewhere and artist's motivation seems to have followed a similar path.
And don't get me wrong. I don't think it's about the money. As I mentioned above is mostly about rising to pre-fixed expectations that drown artistic inspiration and reduce actions to purely esthetic inputs.

Almost a week ago I invited art students to the apartment to get a view of the situation and think together what could re-activate their 'doing'. 
We all agreed that a new form of collective doing has to be applied in order to attract interest from other Kanaleneiland residents and function as a leisure activity, open to performative elements. 
We therefore initiated NIGHT WALKERS. A group that invites resident of the area to walk Kanaleneiland at night as a mean of getting together, explore the urban landscape and the subconscious relations between the participants and the land they walk on. 
It is an open form of operation that we think could  evolve into something more and it's definitely a medium for me to obtain knowledge of the area while working towards an intervention.


New residents at Kanaleneiland are somehow invisible or better said difficult to approach.
Then again it might be the language barrier ( I don't speak Dutch) or my lack of having the balls to just randomly talk to people on the street. I am sure some of them feel the same.
Sure they go out, bike around, have driving lessons, walk to the bus stop, shop at the Albert Heijn, take their garbage out at night, visit their studios, move in and move out.
But what happens during the night when everyone is behind closed doors? The urban landscape embeds all those elements that indicate occupation or abandonment, activity or total secrecy.

NIGHT WALKERS have formed a discussion group on facebook. It is an open invitation for anyone to give their input on that initiative.
Visit here to join and post your thoughts and suggestions.


When your country collapses, you turn fifty and have no money, what do you do?
You go away, head for a country where you can still live decently and find a way to be accepted there.

I have no more than my voice and my memories, I will sing the traditional songs of my country and I hope that in this way someone will fall in love with me and decides to marry me.

In this project the artists group OTIA TVTA reflects on the present conditions of periphery, economical disruption and social despair, migration, social integration and maintenance of cultural identity.

OTIA TVTA will be performing Ultra Trajectum at:
Friday: Resto van Harte | Bernadottelaan 23 | 6-9 pm
Saturday: locatie:KANALENEILAND | Auriollaan 98 | 4-7 pm


Juvenile Surveillance

Kids behind the projection screen temporary installed at the porch.

I seem to be the new 'THING' in town these days.
Every time I enter the apartment I find myself confronted with a series of questions posed from the kids in Auriollan.

Hey meneer!
Are you people?
What is je naam?
Are you an Englishman?
Waar woon je?
Are you leaving?

Yesterday one of them offered to carry my suitcase inside the main entrance. Well... he didn't actually offer...he just grabbed it, but i guess it's all a matter of perspective.
I asked him 'oh! you wanna carry my suitcase inside? super bedank man!'
He shook his head and walked with it to the main hall.

Most of the streets in Kanaleneiland are equipped with surveillance cameras and surveillance kids.

I could debate for hours about the 'effectiveness' of street cameras.
To my opinion is one of those 'problems posing as solutions'.
Not that I am all about solutions.
Not at all as a matter of fact!
But I consider observing and talking with neighborhood kids to be a far more vibrant source of acquiring information.
Let's be honest here.
I am not seeking for A fact but multiple versions of A fact.
I am interested in what I would call 'products of subjective surveillance'.
I just need to work on what to do with them afterwards.
How's that for an artist statement!
Is this clear enough? I certainly doubt it!

-Hey meneer!
-It's Nikos.
-Are you people?


Tasca Project

In the last two years I have devoted myself to the processes of aesthetic reformulation that concern the phenomenon of disappearance and comprehension of the humane aspiration towards vanishing. My desire to invert such aspiration (towards new, yet unimaginable directions) has designated the core of my recent artistic activity.

Below follows a poem made for a collaborative work between me and a Tasca* waiter for a poem book.

The Boozer
The silence that arose in the street
Was only interrupted by the uninterrupted noise of the opening and closing
Of that artless gate corroded by time and borne by three large hinges
Its own sound emanated on that bridge
When a coarse face
Entered the boozer
Struck by a ray of light
And transpierced by an inane roof tile
Honing the red in his face
Whilst rehearsing vocal accord
Without any success among his peers.
Interspersing with Bacchus’ juice
Assailing the precious liquid
In a gruff stroke
Like a galloping horse
In the impulse of an abstract moment.
The ephemeris bohemian
Alights the glass of such medicine
And so continues the quarrel of 
chanted defiance’s
Between pacifists and villains
Late into the night
Emersed rounds of booze
The oneness would not dissuade the dusk
And confused minds
Little drawn to the exit
That approached difficultly
At last that glass remained
Half full or half empty?
The eternal question

Jorge Cotovio, 2009
*Cheap Portuguese café’s being closed down due to European laws for hygiene and standardization.
Mobile Tasca in Kanaleneiland
Tasca in process...

Closed Down
Standardization laws


Toda a forma expressa
Será um apetrecho
De simulação de risco?
Ah! Tão profundo e consenso
Se pensa em contradições
Assimétricas mal conjugadas
Correndo num ricochete de duvidas
Exorbitando um risco de fé ou ateu
Desacreditando a solução
mantida numa suspensão
de adrenalina desnivelada.
Risco ergue um simulacro
Infringindo a gravidade
Tão imprópria e crua
Da atitude que a põe em risco.

Jorge Cotovio, 2010

La Donna è Mobile...

Mobile Tasca, work in progress

Povo adormecido 

Povo adormecido, meu país vencido,
antigo, envelhecido,
vou-me a chorar
levo na almada a esperança
a vontade de voltar 
para dançar alegre 
nas campas de quem te perde

Huilend verlaat ik

In slaap gevallen volk
mijn overwonnen land
huilend verlaat ik je



 Memorabilia from the metal roof of the porch.
I've collected everything thrown on the rooftop of the porch and tracked down their origin.
Fragments of a ceramic pot Doris brought at the porch during her Sneak Week.
Pieces of shuttered glass from the broken windows at the ground floor.
Wooden part from the Expodium table initially placed on the porch.
Cement stones from the playground in front of the apartment.
Branch from one of the trees at the entrance.
A river stone probably from the canal in Rooseveltlaan.
 Slice of wood used to make the floor on the porch.


Part 1, first days : on nostalgia, decay and the absence of reason

 parked cargo trailer for removal of what is left behind from emigrants leaving the area, Kanaleneiland 2011

joão evangelista for expodium 2011 - an art residency in a gentrified neighborhood made in 5 parts

Part 1

6, 8, 9, 15, 16

first days
on nostalgia, decay and the absence of reason

This piece of writing sets itself to be a rhizomatic sketch book through the notes taken through out the period of September, October and November 2011, spent on various visits, stays and post-reflections on the location of Kanalenejland, through a residency at the art space of Expodium, Utrecht, NL. As a journal is meant to be read as a travel log, from day one to day... from part to part.

The first time I 'encountered' Kanaleneiland was on Wikipedia, and this is what 'they' said:

Kanaleneiland is a district within the Southwest section of the Dutch city of Utrecht. It was created in the massive expansion of the city in the 1960s. Today it is listed as one of 40 "problem neighborhoods" that require extra attention by the Dutch Ministry of Housing.[1]
Kanaleneiland's residents have low levels of employment, health, and education.[2] Approximately 76% of the population are not ethnically Dutch, most of them of being of Turkish and Moroccan origin, young, and distrustful of the ethnically Dutch police. Crime and racism are endemic.[3] This unique political climate is one that shaped the views of one of its ex-residents, national politician Geert Wilders.[4]

Having grown up in the suburbs of Lisbon, roaming through the location of Kanaleneiland brings some memories.
'We' were both the southwest section of a major city that housed all that was supposed to exist beyond (and clearly off) the center.

The area seems neglected, the buildings having not been taken care of.

Everyday that passes, one can see a moving van, a container being filled up with housing leftovers, and what is named of 'foreign emigrants', leaving.

Everyday that passes, one can see some 'local young students' taking up an empty space, and rebuilding it, putting new curtains, opening shop.

There are some mural paintings, and some side buildings painted in rainbow multicolors, which i discover later, was made, cheerfully by Phillips workers, on their weekend off work.

It all feels a bit like 'adding insult to injury', coming from some post-colonial white guilt feeling (I can quickly recognize these syndromes, due to my imperial heritage as a Portuguese ex-citizen). And I, feel nothing but welcome here.

If in the suburbs of Lisbon, one had to grow through a Portugal post-colonial present, dealing with generations of African kids that were born in Portugal, but were not taken by society, in the suburbs of Utrecht one can find 'le eau de colonial' present of the Netherlands, in the relation between the local arab-dutch (did I write dutch?) working class, nation and real estate, or just A large amount of guest workers from the 50's and 60's, from Morocco to Turkey, that came to rebuild a Netherlands post-Second World War landscape. And all this is very new to me. Same color as in Portugal, very different forms of tackling the 'issue'.

With any economical crisis, the class of emigrant workers, that 'second hand' citizen that was once welcome (since they would do willingly the jobs that national residents wouldn't, and do them for 2 thirds of the usual pay), this class that travelled for the exceed of work, is now the first one to face unemployment.

In that 80's suburbian reality, many white (the returnees from African colonies) and black (the african refugees) portuguese, acted out aggressively, out of a simple social phenomena, that they didn't have a past , nor they didn't have a future to belong to (the working class rarely has the cash to bank a family trip back 'home' to revive its roots and Europe has always been keen on asserting where does one belong, and where one does not belong too - even beyond 1st, 2nd or 3rd generation, oneself is still seen as a foreigner among those who are originally for the specific location).

Usually they grow out of it, and find a place in society, after some good years of struggling, in which a small minority gets in jail, junked, or dead. At least that is what happened in Lisbon, back in the early 90's. The war was over, or so it seemed. My father fought the colonial war in the late 60's in West Africa, during the last years of the fascism regime in Portugal circa '71, and many times told me how easy the new generations had it. I always wanted to tell him that the war didnt end, that it followed him, that it crept into the suburbs of Lisbon, an invisibly growing tension, but I never dared.

The question ends in territory and ownership. How has to leave, who can come. What belongs to whom, and why.

The urban dynamics present in this location remind me a conversation with KT, back in Detroit, when she was describing a talk with her mum 'so i told her, your son is fighting the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, a state war, and your daughter is fighting a war down here in Detroit... an urban war.'

→ check territory, suburbs

the island is a U.S. territory area, area of land, region, enclave; country, state, land, colony,dominion, protectorate, fief, dependency, possession, jurisdiction, holding; section, turf.
mountainous territory terrain, land, ground, countryside.
linguistic puzzles are Stina's territory domain, area of concern/interest/knowledge, province,department, field, preserve, bailiwick, sphere, arena, realm, world.

suburbia |səˈbərbēə|
the suburbs or their inhabitants viewed collectively.

suburb |ˈsəbərb|
an outlying district of a city, esp. a residential one.
ORIGIN Middle English : from Old French suburbe or Latin suburbium, from sub- ‘near to’ + urbs, urb- ‘city.’

 ... , their inhabitants viewed collectively. One cannot see this location as a collective. Every small faction stands separated, compartimentalized, with the exception of the local community dinner, Resto van Hart, where people sit under one roof for a dinner meal, though still at separate tables.

The most immediate visible groups are the young children from the emigrant working classes, and the young dutch art students and practitioners. What about the other groups? The ones less visible? Is it possible to relate deeper? In one month? In 20 days?

While walking around, I face the constant view of old Mercedes-Benz, which gives a certain feeling of nostalgia. One of the first artists Expodium had here, made an interesting blog post about the mapping of the vintage Mercedes.

The repetition of the object, in various models and colors, while one travels across the location, creates as if a visual mantra that evokes a nostalgia.

→ check nostalgia, ritual, object

nostalgia |näˈstaljə; nə-|
a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations : I was overcome with acute nostalgia for my days in college.
• the evocation of these feelings or tendencies, esp. in commercialized form : an evening of TV nostalgia.
nostalgist |-jist| noun
ORIGIN late 18th cent. (in the sense [acute homesickness] ): modern Latin (translating German Heimweh ‘homesickness’ ), from Greek nostos ‘return home’ + algos ‘pain.’

→ for further research: from nostalgia as term to emigrant's nostalgia, dream, home, power (de 'pou vouir', from french - to can , to be able to)

→ random associations: real estate → territory → war for → sepultura → nail bomb → cocktail molotov → jack daniels bottle → good bourbon → states → detroit → diesel

'all must go/alles moet weg'  still from camera footage of shopping mall, Kanaleneiland 2011


Night alone at Auriollaan

No SNEAK WEEK for me.
I am here with Joao Evangelista to work on our Translation Station #4.
We have been working for more than a year on translating our experiences from Detroit and now we are here occupying the apartment at Kanaleneiland  to reflect on the transitional state of the area and bring in front strategies and encoded ideas we have obtained from our visit to the US of A.
Our practice is set to conclude in a performance/intervention in mid October.

Night view from the living-room

Third night at the Auriollaan and I am trying to grasp the vibe of the neighborhood.I stayed up till 03.00 observing the street from the living room window and registering sounds from outside and the apartments surrounding mine.
Someone is messing up with the porch Expodium has built at the ground floor. I am hoping to pick up some a weird activity down there and catch the buddy on action.
No luck there.
During the last week wooden planks have been scrapped from the porch. I am trying to get my head around it. As Doris mentioned on a previous post 'From 2007-2009 the municipality issued a ban on gathering in Kanaleneiland-Noord to overcome problems with the youth of the neighborhood'. The porch is set to function as a roof for various activities not necessarily initiated by Expodium residents. 
To demolish it would imply complementing adopted strategies by the housing corporations which I totally disapprove. 
It's getting late and I am imagining possibilities of making the porch more attractive/accessible and 'pass' its maintenance partly in the hands of the community.

Soccer porch

I am working in my head a plan about turning the porch into a temporary mini soccer field, or even building a shooting board for the youth to aim instead of smashing the windows. 

Shooting target board

I guess I am balancing in the borderline between legal and illegal, success and total failure. 
I guess that's OK as long as my mind keeps spinning. 
After all it's just daydreaming in the middle of the night.


gentrification and the artist

Around 65% of the residents of Kanaleneiland has an immigrant background, mostly from Turkey and Morocco. In the last ten years the neighborhood got a very bad imago through youth nuisance, dirty streets and crime. To overcome these problems the neighborhood is subject to a grand renewal process. The main targets are to strengthen the social cohesion, to offer more perspective to underprivileged families, balanced demographics and differentiated housing.
See for more information the report of KEI.

Most of the people living in Kanaleneiland-Noord have to move out of their houses. Until the neighborhood is going to be demolished, local artists are offered housing and work spaces by an organisation called eiland 8. This is an initiative of the two main housing corporations and the property manager. The idea is to offer artists and cultural workers (or promising, creative entrepreneurs) cheap spaces in exchange for nice, social projects which can improve the atmosphere and the cohesion in the neighborhood.

artistic impression of eiland 8

The result is that the neighborhood is flooded with young, white artists (like myself) - who are involved in a myriad creative projects to cheer up the neighborhood. The research department of the political party Groen Links did a very interesting investigation in the effects of social projects in Kanaleneiland. It is called 'banen of barbecues' (jobs or barbecues) and the conclusion of this rapport is that there are already many grass root, social initiatives in the neighborhood and that new projects don't add much value to this. What is really needed is more jobs - a better economic situation would make a difference.

artists placing colourful tiles made by children in Kanaleneiland-Noord

The artist I spoke to felt ambivalent about their situation - they were happy to have an affordable space, but at the same time they felt uncomfortable with the cheery, superficial character of the art works in the neighborhood. But at the same time I felt they didn't really want to engage with the neighborhood and the original residents - it is just a temporary location of which many will follow.

This is the snake pit in the middle of which I would have to develop my research - a very difficult, but at least daring condition.

working space in one of the gardens

after the planners - LOVE STEEK RAMBAAN

Sometimes I can't believe how far the planning of the Dutch cities goes! I heard there is a street prostitution area on the Europalaan. I decided to take a look at the spot and encountered the following sign...

(end of prostitution zone - loop)

Or the dog toilet:

But fortunately there are also playful acts of resistance:

Vintage Mercedes

The broad lanes and roads of Kanaleneiland are designed for cars. The idea in the sixties was that it would be very convenient to make the neighborhood easy accessible, so that the residents could move quickly to other parts of the city and the highway. There was even a plan for a heli platform - the private transport of the future.
This focus on cars makes the neighborhood not very pedestrian friendly. Nowadays there are a lot of speed bumps and other measures to prevent the traffic from speeding. But the car remains an important object, and especially the Mercedes - a car that offers pride and status to its owner. Many of these Mercedeses are vintage, very old models, but well kept. The age of these cars offers many advantages - they are affordable, easy to repair and you have to pay less taxes. These cars can be used to bring a whole family to Morocco or Turkey.

Bureau Venhuizen organized a city safari in these cars to show outsiders the qualities of Kanaleneiland.

fig trees and nostalgia dishes

There is a lot of city gardening going on in Kanaleneiland. There are not only hip, educational/social projects, but also a lot of the original immigrant neighbours are growing vegetables and fruits in their gardens. On my trip is saw a large amount of fig trees, often combined with satellite dishes - a constellation produced by nostalgia?

fig tree

more fig trees

beans in the front garden

The post war neighborhoods that where built in the fifties often have huge communal gardens in between the apartment block, but in the early sixties - when Kanaleneiland was built - most of the gardens where already made private. Except from the vegetable patches a lot of these gardens are very wild. Apparently most of the neighbours didn't feel like cultivating - or tiling - their gardens.