Yours in Solidarity

2011–13 Installation with videos, subtitled audio, and archive notes

This work shares the story of an anarchist network in the late ’80s and early ’90s through the letter archive of the late Dutch anarchist Karl Max Kreuger that is now kept in the International Institute for Social History in Amsterdam.

When communist regimes started collapsing, Apartheid was coming to an end, and political changes in South America and Central Asia were accelerating, Kreuger corresponded by post with hundreds of like-minded people around the world. Nicoline van Harskamp was one of those letter writers, herself. An initial interest in her own exchange with Kreuger led her to ask for access to the archive. She soon realised that it contained a captivating representation of a particular era and decided to study the entire letter archive, taking notes on the correspondents’ connections, political affiliations, and living conditions. She shared anonymized excerpts with actors who had a similar regional and generational background as the writers. In improvisation sessions, they created fictional characters who described their life stories after their last correspondance with Kreuger. Together with an archive of notes, the subtitled audio recordings of these sessions form the first half of the project.

Subsequently, the newly created characters appeared in a scripted work, representing what might happen if the international correspondents were to meet today. Thus, the Russian Stirnerites and the American Syndicalists of the early ’90s still argue about individualized versus organized anarchism. The Spanish anarchists have lost little of their revolutionary fire. But the World Wide Web and unbridled globalization has altered the activist dynamic. The resulting video installation is named after the much-used anarchist letter sign-off: “Yours in Solidarity.”

Presented at Clark House Initiative in Mumbai, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Hilary Crisp Gallery in London, Manifesta 9 in Genk, Shanghai Biennale 2013, Rotor and Steirischer Herbst in Graz, Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art 2013, Concordia University in Montreal, Survival Kit 5 in Riga, GMK Gallery in Zagreb, Extra City in Antwerp, MUAC in Mexico City, Sydney Biennale 2014, Moscow Biennale 2014, New Art Space in Amsterdam, and D+T Project Gallery in Brussels.

With Paula Juan Lima, Galyna Kyyashko, Niko Potemkinovevasi, Karen Verbrugge, Boris Bakal, Miron Bilski, Juda Goslinga, Christian Dixon, Fabrice Boutique, Neven Aljinovic-Tot, Vitali Zhuk, Eric Godon, Mark Kingsford, Brett Cabot,Grant McDaniel, Dennis Overeem, Filippos Anagnostopoulos, Kristina Dargelyte, Amy Potter, Eric Depreter, Matthias Maat, Ralph de Rijke, Lee Ellickson, Michael Stolt, Hank Botwinik, Michael Frowmowicz, Pall Pallson, Pierre Dherte, Ronald de Bruin, Miguel Osorio, Rogier in ‘t Hout, Matthias Maat, Bill Stevenson, René van Asten, Patrick Brüll, Marike van Weelden, Karolina Joniec, Annette Hildebrand, Janna Fassaert, Mark Bellamy, Ivana Krizmanic, Marica Bujaki, Montse Guiu Puget, Gusta Geleijnse, Marieke Heebrink, Michael Usharev, Catherine Lord, Sally Mometti, Sasa Stojanovic, Rob van de Meeberg, Carlos García Estévez, Luiz Sena , Lara Parmiani, David Boos, Rakesh Parangath, Hemi Yeroham, Blazena Kovalikova, Frens Smit , Jonathon Sawdon, Tzvet Lazar, Ad Knippels, Dimitri Ivanov and Dic van Duin.

Prologue: The International Mail (or Solidariamente Convosco)

2010 Live performances

This one-act play was commissioned for an exhibition commemorating the centenary of the Portuguese Revolution in 1910. It is the first work based on Karl Max Kreuger’s correspondence archive and in that sense a prologue to Yours in Solidarity. Hand-copied quotations from the hundreds of letters written between anarchist groups and individuals were translated into English. Otherwise unaltered, the quotes were used to compile a script for a small gathering of anarchists, all of whom had different political affiliations and temperaments. Chain-smoking and surrounded by magazines, books, and paperwork, the members of the meeting read from the letters their group received from around the world.

Produced by and presented at the Serralves Foundation in Porto.

With David dos Santos, Micaela Cardoso, João Paulo Costa, Maria do Céu Ribeiro and Daniel Pinto.

Reading Anarchism

2013–16 Event series

This event series began as a public program at the first full presentation of Yours in Solidarity, a work that drew on the collection of anarchist writings at Printed copies of all titles archived online were made available in a reading room, where visitors could make their own copies free of charge and take them home. In each of the Reading Anarchism events, prominent makers and thinkers were asked to choose a title, read an excerpt of it to an audience, and host a discussion on it.

Presented at New Art Space Amsterdam and BAK in Utrecht.

Printed copies of the up to 2016 are permanently available at BAK in Utrecht.

Participants included  Lise Autogena, Maria Barnas, Frans Bromet, Geert Lovink, Elena Loizidou, Jonas Staal, Yoonis Osman Nuur, Kees Hin, Mariko Peters, Melanie Bonajo, Katja Sokolova, Richard John Jones, Jay Jordan, Kathrin Böhm, Jan Ritsema, Ahmet Ogüt, Nienke Terpsma, Bea de Visser and Mihnea Mircan.

To Live Outside the Law You Must Be Honest

2007 Video installation

Christiania is an area of Copenhagen that was declared a free town by its residents in 1971. Despite ever-increasing outside pressure, it still maintains its system of consensus democracy and communal home ownership. Informed by interviews with Christiania’s residents, this work describes experiences of self-governing and self-policing, obtained over more than half a century.

The video is one of three scripted works, performed by the same actor in different roles. The other two are set in London and based on interviews with self-pronounced libertarians and with libertarian communists. In each video, questions about freedom and radical democracy are addresssed, but very different conclusions are drawn.

Co-produced by the Christiania Researcher in Residence Program.

Presented at Insa Art Space in Seoul, Casco Art Institute in Utrecht, Taipei Biennial 2008, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Nikolaj CCA in Copenhagen, Arsenal Art in Poznań, 24th Youth Salon in Zagreb, and California Museum of Photography in Riverside.

With Ian Burns.

Yours in Solidarity – first opening of the archive of Karl Kreuger
Yours in Solidarity – video excerpt

Yours in Solidarity

REINALDO  Thank you everybody. This meeting is now open.

The room is packed and noisy. Everyone ignores Reinaldo.

VITALI  Clearly this meeting already was open, my friend.

REINALDO  Can we have a central discussion please?

MAARIT  And who is going to hold the hammer? You?
 Or our comrade from…

ALEJANDRA  Argentina.

PAT  Heir, heir!

ALEJANDRA  Comrades! We anarchists find ourselves once again at a turning point. For the second time in history, we are the only real existing revolutionary current.

VITALI  What was the first time, comrade?

ALEJANDRA  We have, over decennia, planted our seeds of thought all over the world. In Argentina, in America, in Russia, in Europe…

ARON  In West Africa!

ALEJANDRA  And right now, something vital has developed in the fertile human soil. Yes, political superstition is still holding sway over the hearts and minds of the masses, but the true lovers of liberty want nothing more to do with it. They no longer want to take the blows of the system and go cry in the safety of their own homes. They say: we will claim all together what we want and we will claim it in the street!

From several parts of the room, people are cheering her on.

And when we turn on our televisions, our internet, we can see it all over the world: people fighting against the estado. Everywhere. Something is changing in the air, and by nature, it belongs to anarchism.

FILIP  Excuse me, but do you mean that when something changes in the air, that that fact belongs to anarchism? Or would you sat that the thing that is now in the air belongs to anarchism?

ALEJANDRA  I would say that the thing that is now in the air belongs to anarchism.

Filip wants to start a discussion but Reinaldo speaks over both Filip and Alejandra.

REINALDO  May I invite the representatives of the unions of Buenos Aires, Lagos and Kazan to join our first panel discussion?

MAARIT  Just stop it, comrade. We’re really not going to do this your way.

Greg, sharing a reading table with Vitali, has been trying for a while to ignore Vitali’s provocations but is gradually losing his patience.

VITALI  Syndicalists are anachronistic old men.

GREG  If you say so.

VITALI  They are more likely to be folk singers than factory workers.

GREG  And this is coming from a… what? A fifty-something, anti-political dandy?

VITALI  I am an anti-political dandy and proud of it. Because most people on this planet are anti-political. They know that life is not worth living if we can’t have any fun.

He points at Ronaldo, who is organizing papers at the far end of the room.

Except, perhaps, our Spanish comrade over there. But if the happiness of the individual is not the measure of a good society, what is? Nietzsche was right, you now? Man is the animal that laughs.

Filip joins them at the table. More people start to listen in on the conversation.

GREG  I believe in happiness. And I also believe in anarchism. Anarchism that has control, that is responsible, that is getting the work done. Because that’s what this world is: the working people. Working people make this world work.

VITALI The workers don’t want to organize themselves. It would just make for more work.

FILIP  I think we have to ask ourselves: what does the term ‘worker’ still means these days?

GREG  A precarious worker!

FILIP  How many of you here are self-employed?

A few people raise their hands.

That’s what I mean.

He points at Greg.

Your union states on the website that to become a member you cannot be self-employed. Because self-employed people qualify as employers…

Laughter from Maarit, Vitali, Pat and Willem.

… and are therefore oppressing themselves. Yeah. I’m sorry, it’s not funny, actually.  There is no justification to condemn the self-employed for suffering from some sort of auto-oppression.

More laughter. Ronaldo joins the others.

GREG  Don’t confuse self-employment with self-organization.

FILIP  Now I admit that this picture is too rosy because it’s not red enough…

GREG  We are actually adapting our constitution to accommodate those that are commonly called ‘precarious workers’. We have also just started a campaign with employees of the Star Bucks Corporation. And with the New York union of bicycle couriers.

PAT  I agree that the old-fashioned class struggle anarchism is obsolete. It is a closed system. A closed language. It is no longer relevant.

GREG  What’s the last time you saw our website?

PAT  That said! Let’s not pretend that the anarchist movement is today made up of happy self-employed individuals.

GREG  Absolutely not.

PAT  Sure, if you know how to live on little and you know how to be self-sufficient, you can’t be bought. But at the same time, it is exactly that pure, unbridled self-sufficiency that is the core of capitalism. It is wanted. I mean, I am so self-sufficient that I’m sure certain companies are dying to hire me.

Vitali laughs out loud.

But do not confuse this with freedom! When we talk about capitalism, we talk abut living in the wild.

Reinaldo nods, and turns to Vitaly.

REINALDO  Comrade, tell us what precisely would be your proposition? Politically?

VITALI  Oh, why should I propose anything? Other than that we need to become wild, free-spirited individuals in order to undermine any talk of systems in the first place.

GREG  I am hearing post-leftism.

ALEJANDRA  Individualismo.

VITALI  Call me whatever you like. An illegalist, post-situationist, a neo-primitivist, a liberal…

GREG   A post-modern nihilist.

VITALI  A cultural terrorist! Go on. I don’t mind

FILIP  You should meet Fitz Flora. Living legend. Where is he, by the way?

MAARIT  In the kitchen. Grazing.

VITALI  Fitz. Good man. Stirnerist Fritz.

JAVIER  I prefer the anarchism without attributes.

VITALI  You see, there is such a liberating power in all forms of art, self-expression, avant- garde.

GREG  The historical misunderstanding of anarchism.

Script excerpt from Yours in Solidarity

Yours in Solidarity working sessions – video excerpt
Yours in Solidarity – video excerpt

To Live Outside the Law You Must be Honest

What we have been living with for the last 35 years is the Manifesto. And that was written in 1971 in the month of November.

“The manifesto of Christiania is to build a community in which each individual is free and held responsible for the community. This society is meant to be economically self-supporting and the joint efforts must constantly aim at avoiding psychological as well as physical pollution.”

In the beginning, our common meeting could be about: “What name shall we give to this street?” Or: “Do we want to be a car-free city?” I mean, no big deal, but a nice subject to be together about and easy to find a common solution. Or: “How can we stop the buying and selling of stolen goods?” You know how we did that? We decided to take all the stolen goods and we just gave them away for free.

We don’t have democracy, at least not in the traditional sense. We don’t vote, we talk. We have to reach a decision through dialogue. Whenever there’s a common meeting called, then posters go all around, to tell us about the meeting about this and this subject. And then somebody or some group gets onto the stage and says: “We called this meeting because of this and this subject.” It can be about violence, it can be about junk, it can be about something that we want to do to the government. And then there’s developed a list so then everybody gets a chance to speak. And other people write it down, and they make a conclusion: “Well, the majority of this meeting seems to want this and this and this.” And then other people say: “No, no, no, we don’t want that.” And they start to argue and talk and talk and talk. Now there is one strong rule that only one person can talk at the time. But a lot of people don’t have the patience to wait, to audience, to sit there and go through all that listening. And they know what they want to say, and they just say it. And they produce a lot of noise. Talking noise. The good talkers, they have good conditions in Christiania. Because if everyone is agreeing in one direction then you have to be very strong in your beliefs to continue to say: “No, that’s wrong, I don’t want that.” And also, it’s often the victims that have to react on something first. And you have to be very brave to call in a meeting and decide what to call it and who will do the talking, and to speak to the perpetrator, yourself.

In a society where there’s no basic rules of ownership, you need to be able to relate to other people. There are many different groups out here and many things bind different people together. It comes down to work and to behavior. It also comes down to your relationship to drugs, whether you’re smoking hash or drinking beers. Or even talking to a certain group with one certain dialect. You know,  even one single violent man is also able to be a group.

We do not need the police force here. We’ve had the chance to prove that because from ’93 to ’95 the police didn’t come to Christiania. They considered it too dangerous. We often solve problems by simply turning up in large numbers. I mean, within a quarter of an hour we can mobilise over 200 people. And it’s not often people who live here who make trouble, it’s normally people from the outside. And you can sense it all around you when you can hear people yelling or you can see them running.  That’s a thing you don’t do in Christiania: you don’t run. If you see people running, then you know something is happening.

When you have done some bad things in Christiania, people go with you to a common meeting with a trial character. Four, five hundred people are in front of you and you have to explain to these people why you have done this, this and that. And then the others have to decide what to do. You know, whether you should be thrown out or what kind of punishment to do to you. Perhaps you can do some good. Perhaps you can do some work. Like chopping the firewood for the bath house. Or helping to paint old people’s houses.

Text fragment based on conversations with residents of Christiania in Copenhagen