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Podium Explore

Bagijnestraat 59, 8911 DN Leeuwarden

vr, 28 jun. 2024 - 19.00 / vr, 26 jul. 2024


With Gemeentegoed, art initiative VHDG presents five unique art projects that took place in Friesland starting January 2022. Five artists and duos have spent the past eighteen months creating spaces for art, experimentation, shared interests, and vulnerabilities with the residents of Friesland, in places where equality, solidarity, and mutual trust are under pressure. Now, at Podium Explore, we present an exhibition and public program about the public environment – the ‘goods’ that belong to every resident, in both urban and rural areas. How do the residents of Friesland live together, and how do they share the space to live, both now and in the future?

25 years of Arts Initiative VHDG

In this exhibition, we take you back to the starting point of our art initiative. Twenty-five years ago, VHDG (formerly known as Voorheen de Gemeente) began from a former church with art projects in the streets of Leeuwarden. With a mission to bring art to the public, the founders at that time realized unique projects outside the confines of exhibition spaces. It started with a large black ball by artist Yvonne Dröge Wendel, rolling through the streets of Leeuwarden. The artist duo Gerlach and Koop printed historical photos from the Leeuwarden archive on receipts from local businesses, allowing residents to unexpectedly build their own art collections through their purchases. Madeleine Hatz collaborated with detainees to create artwork in the courtyard of the City Hall, and Harmen de Hoop encouraged civil servants to consume alcohol in public spaces after work to explore their stance on authority. Can a civil servant exhibit behavior after hours that conflicts with the norms represented by the government?

Since its inception, VHDG has engaged with the public order. Not as a municipal service, but as something that precedes or transcends public administration. Now, once again, we return to where it all began, but with a new approach. We revisit the public space: streets, squares, and the spaces between buildings, the ground beneath us, and the sky above us – what we consider our common property: something that belongs equally to all residents of Leeuwarden and Friesland. Artists Contemporary Glory, Eva Koopmans & Yuna Linde, Lu Lin, Roman Tkachenko, and SMET have traversed the city and province over the past year and a half, searching for this common property and how we organize around it, independent of both government and market influences. It’s the social interactions and relationships in places that are not dictated by rules and money. Known in Friesland as ‘mienskip’, and beyond as ‘meente’ or the commons.

Ownership & Democracy

If the ‘mienskip’ pertains to the Frisians, then Gemeentegoed is what the Frisians create and sustain together. In the mienskip, we develop and maintain what does not belong to the market and is not governed by the state. Since 2018, the year Leeuwarden was the European Capital of Culture, ‘mienskip’ has become an inherent concept in Friesland. We take pride in how the rules for how we should live are not imposed from above, but have emerged from the self-organized cohesion and dynamics in our villages and neighborhoods. Although the mienskip is widely celebrated, it is not a given. The artists of Gemeentegoed found in Frisian self-governance the strength and vitality of a new kind of democracy, but they also discovered its dangers. Frisians organize around shared assets: a neighborhood, a natural area, our language, our interactions – but they also face many moments when those assets slip from their grasp: a neighborhood where developers reorganize the living environment. An agricultural area where biodiversity is vanishing, or where the control over one’s own farm is pressured by regulations, protocols, and the profit motives of large entrepreneurs. These are examples of friction over shared goods, between the inhabitants of Friesland, politics, and the market. There are also instances when the mienskip turns against itself: when it becomes inward-looking and the original norms and values are overturned.

Yet, in times of polarization and hardening within society, the promise of the mienskip is significant: how do we organize this place of solidarity and care for each other? And how do we prevent the opposite? The artworks of Gemeentegoed have emerged in places where creativity and solidarity thrive, where government and market support and facilitate self-governance – or conversely, in a context of social coarsening due to regulatory pressure and the dominance of money and profit goals.

The Exhibition

In Gemeentegoed, artworks are brought together from artists with a broad understanding of art. On one hand, they embed themselves in broader culture, outside the museum or art space, where people take ownership of their living environment, shared culture, and values through exchange and collaboration. The culture in which the art originated serves as the foundation for new social fabrics. On the other hand, art practice is employed as a creative force to renew local democracy and social dynamics through art, activism, play, and cultural exchange.

The artworks are not merely the creations of individuals but are made by many different hands. They showcase a convergence of local initiatives, communities, and organizations, all co-authors of Gemeentegoed. In Podium Explore, local initiatives and projects come together to form a diverse and dynamic whole. It presents a plurality of images and sounds from places where vulnerabilities are shared, and care and solidarity are reorganized.

Throughout this month, we invite you to participate in the space and explore the exhibition’s themes through workshops, discussions, dinners, and public programs. For us, this marks not only the end of a year and a half of programming but also the beginning of a new chapter in our journey of art and democracy. Once again, after twenty-five years, we immerse ourselves in the public sphere: amidst the complexity of interests, frictions, care, and commonality. Here’s to the next twenty-five years!

Public Program Gemeentegoed

program subject to change

As an integral part of the exhibition, we are organising an extensive public program, including lectures, workshops, music evenings, actions, tours, and festivities. This program serves both as an extension of the exhibition and as a means of embedding the artworks within the local context. The program is developed in collaboration with the artists of Gemeentegoed and local artists, initiatives, and organisations.

Friday 28 June
Festive opening: Gemeentegoed
19:00 – 23:00. Podium Explore

On Friday, June 28, we invite the public and participants to join us in celebrating the opening of Gemeentegoed. Doors open at 19:00. Welcome speech at 20:00. Artist talks and other presentations from 20:30. Party in the café from 22:00.

Monday 1 July
De Lange Adem Manifestation 
12:00 – 13:00. Nieuwestad, Leeuwarden
On Friday, June 28, we invite the public and participants to join us in celebrating the opening of Gemeentegoed. Doors open at 19:00. Welcome speech at 20:00. Artist talks and other presentations from 20:30. Party in the café from 22:00. 

Friday 5 July
Performance by collective ‘Een Gemeen Schaap’ by Caya Emmelkamp & Hannes Schievink.
20:00 – 22:00
In Aandikken, Caya Emmelkamp and Hannes Schievink guide you in visualizing your own future using coffee grounds. It’s fortune-telling for the impatient, enjoyed over a cup of coffee.
Reading coffee grounds is a nuanced and intricate art, where your destiny might be revealed. But what if you want to determine your own future? And what if you can’t read coffee grounds at all?

Saturday 6 July
Activist Routes, with climate activist Dirk Kuiken.
14:00 – 16:00. Start: Podium Explore.

Gemeentegoed artist Roman Tkachenko invites climate activist Dirk Kuiken. A bike tour visiting places of significance and urgency for local activists in Leeuwarden. Bring your own bike.

Friday 12 July:
Glitch x VHDG. Workshop afternoon, dinner and Queer-party
15:00 – 01:00. Podium Explore

VHDG collaborates with Glitch, a collective with a DIY mentality that organizes club nights for the queer community in Friesland.With Korreltje Zout, we will challenge gender norms and neckties will be given new shapes while we upcycle them during the My Tie Fine workshop. Nikos will take us on a journey through the history of Waacking in the similar named workshop, where we will learn about the dance’s origins in the underground culture of the 1970s, often performed and created by queer people of color. Get ready to dance! 

Saturday 13 July
An afternoon about art & democracy
13:00 – 18:00. Podium Explore

VHDG, in collaboration with artists Louwrien Wijers and Egon Hanfstingl, is organizing a program about the role of art and creativity in a democracy in transition. Join the conversation on empowerment, solidarity, and direct democracy. What do you value, and how can we organize that together? Featuring Emanuele Braga, Lara Khaldi, Jeroen Lutters, and Pink Pony Express. The event will conclude with a communal dinner.

Friday 19 July:
Homesick Restaurant.  Workshop, dinner and film screening
16:30 – 22:00. Podium Explore

Gemeentegoed artist Lu Lin organises a special event on migration to the Netherlands, hospitality, and cultural exchange.

Saturday 20 July:
Activist Routes, with Jaleesa Schiphorst (Leeuwarden Kan Het, NiNsee)
14:00 – 16:00. Start: Podium Explore

Gemeentegoed artist Roman Tkachenko invites Jaleesa Schiphorst (Leeuwarden Kan Het, NiNsee). A walking tour visiting places of significance and urgency for local activists in Leeuwarden.

Saturday 20 July:
Thoughtscapes for Deciding(s) A Critical Empathy Ecology Approach

Book Launch Katie Ceekay
16:00 – 17:00. Podium Explore

Artist Katie Ceekay presents her book on the potential role of empathy in decision-making.

Friday 26 July:
Finissage Gemeentegoed.
16:00 – 18:00. Podium Explore

Festive closing of Gemeentegoed.

Gemeentegoed opens on Friday, June 28, with a festive opening at Podium Explore and can be visited daily from Wednesday to Saturday until Friday, July 26.