From the first of November until the 16th of December the artist duo SMET will do artistic research from our Artist in Residence in the Hania. SMET consists of artists Matt Plezier and Setareh Noorani. Two artists from different generations and with diverging backgrounds, but with a strong, shared fascination for local stories, forgotten histories, urban development and community building in a city. First they will primarily explore Leeuwarden and will use personal stories and encounters to dive into the history of the city. In the second half of 2023 SMET will return to Leeuwarden for an intensive period of workshops, activities, art and publications for the local community and everybody who is interested.
Read more about the background and practice of the duo SMET here.
This first part of the residency of SMET is focused on researching through encounters. In Leeuwarden, SMET dives into the local history of the counterculture, that could serve as inspiration for an alternative future for the city. The Hania, an old building squatted the 80’s by artists and now a lively community, provides the perfect starting point. Below you can read the most recent updates of their experiences and finds.
GJIN GOADEN / GJIN HEAREN — NO GODS / NO MASTERS
29 December 2022
Our stay in Leeuwarden is over. Over this last month we dived into the history of Leeuwarden and all its written, spoken and drawn up versions, through archives, personal encounters with inhabitants of Leeuwarden and visiting museums and neighborhood centers in various parts of the city.
Forgotten Histories, Stories & Myths
In our eyes a history is always a collection of stories: there’s not just one perspective, but multiple. What interests us mostly were the the forgotten or unknown stories about the past of Leeuwarden (which extends to whole of Friesland at times). How did the city develop? Who has contributed to this development and in what way? Who is the ‘Leeuwarder’ and who were they together as a community? What vision does the Leeuwarder have on their own history, and above all, which version is the most well-known and which one is almost completely overlooked nowadays? We also have explored fictional histories: fairytales, myths and utopias. Which written fantasies exist about the ancestors and the origin of contemporary Leeuwarden?
The purpose of this research is to find out how Leeuwarden has developed the last couple of decades. A city is formed by the government, the muncipality, property developers, but mostly by the inhabitants of Leeuwarden and so by the various communities. In the Historical Center of Leeuwarden (HCL) we took a look into the archives of writer and poet Sikke Doele, who wrote a lot about the New Left, the Provo and other countercultures. We also discovered much about the AXIES ( later resolved into PAL (Progressive Action Leeuwarden)).These came to the forefront through groups and individuals who independently (or against) the government and municipality tried to influence the city to their advantage. At Tresoar we learned a lot about the written history of Friesland. Our discovery: the Frisian canon seems static, but is – rich in self-created and shared histories – fluid and malleable; like the myths of the Oera Linda, the ‘Januskop’, and the Atlantis. These myths have survived to thids day and are still alive within certain neopagan communities or Atlantis-conspiracy theorists.
Besides this we tried through a lot of strolling to uncover patterns of groups (squatters, anarchists, activists) And places (empty buildings, traces of gentrification, secondhand book stores, cultural centers, and community buildings).
Heechterp-Schieringen and New Noardic Wave
We paid a visit to the neighborhood of Heechterp-Schieringen and visited the community center. There we spoke with Marvin, Pushparani, Iqbal and Samira about the local local function of these community centers and the importance of community work in a neighborhood (in a changing political climate). We asked about the ‘character’ of this neighborhood, the imminent demolition of housing blocks in Heechterp-Schieringen, that’s tied to gentrification process that are practically identically the same as the ones in Rotterdam-Zuid or other big cities. With Marvin we took a look at certain parts of the neighborhood, and heard about the fotography project ‘Welkom in Heechterp’ (Welcome to Heechterp), the recently started photo club and the neighborhood magazine as connecting medium.
We also talked to Anton Felipa of New Noardic Wave. He told us about their activities that give a stage to writers, and this way also put stories from ‘The North’ on the map. Through beautiful, big and small projects, like living room-film –festivals, residencies and talent development projects for students, a legacy is being built. Also inspiring were their multidisciplinary collaborations, locally, nationally and internationally. The appointment after this one brought us to the Hollanderwijk, south of the train station. Here Eddy Sikma, artist and city guide, bid us welcome. He told us about the turbulent 60’s and 70’s, de Frisian language and its dialects, his interest in architecture and city walks and his writing for various neighborhood magazines, about urban renewals in Leeuwarden, both in the past and now.
Amaryllis and Historical Center Leeuwarden
The last weekend of our stay we talked with Wout Minnema, a community worker of Amaryllis. Wout told about the various parts of the city, and the known organisations like neighborhood counsils and boards. We also touched upon the importance of cohesion and a sense of community, though means of places, like community centers, and media like neighborhood magazines and collectively organized street parties. Enough items to think about and to use as a starting point for an artistic program next year.
Saturday we were the whole day at the archives of the Histrocal Center Leeuwarden with Jelmer Teunissen, to search through the last boxes of Axies, Sikke Doele and the Structure Planning of the Muncipality of Leeuwarden. It was really interesting to see the plans for city renewal, in different phases and from opposing viewpoints in these archives. A unifying factor was the striving for a new (better?) future, that mostly did not mean a better future for all.
Now we’ve gathered enough material, we made a ‘mental map’ of all these places, persons and stories and looked for connections between all these facets of Leeuwarden. This will provide a pool of data for our research with which we will enter the new year. In November of 2023 we will return to Leeuwarden and share our collected archive of stories, experiences, myths and fairytales with the Leeuwarders and everyone else who is interested. This will be the starting point for art and workshops in a lot of different activities and presentations about new stories and myths – an alternative future for Leeuwarden and its inhabitants.
Matt Plezier & Setareh Noraani (SMET)
Would you like to come into contact with SMET and share your story about Leeuwarden? Please send an email to email@example.com
Photo: Conspiracy board, Shelter in Place / Shelter in Solidarity, Hoorn, 2021