• side-navigation-widget

AMSTELPARK & VIA APPIA PARK

Growing Resistance
An environmental emergency drill in the Amstelpark, Amsterdam

The Amstelpark was built for the 1972 Floriade gardening exhibition and aimed to promote the horticulture industry. At the time, the Floriade was conceived as a popular attraction but there was also criticism, for example by the action group 'De lastige Amsterdammer' (The Troublesome Amsterdammer), who described the exhibition as "Poen-Groen (Green Money) behind a fence on the edge of a city that is uninhabitable to many". They believed that the subsidy (5 million guilders) could have been used differently, for example by improving the livability of the city center. It was a criticism that reflected the changing spirit of the times. The sixties and seventies were characterized by an increasing awareness for the environment and the problem of pollution, which was fueled by the alarming report of the Club of Rome, 'The Limits to Growth' from 1972. In that same year at the Floriade, little attention was paid to this new environmental awareness. Instead, a more conservative approach was preferred.

Much has changed since the hype of the Floriade, but some of the aspects are still characteristic for the Amstelpark; which closes at night, protected by a fence, to preserve its vulnerable archaic landscape from outside hazards. Cycling is not allowed and the supervision of the park rangers ensure that nobody leaves the beaten path. The management is taken so seriously that artists that want to work in the park are forbidden to attach objects on the ground or on trees. The entire park is protected as if it is a rare object in a museum. The project 'Growing Resistance' temporarily disrupts this false sense of security, by allowing a fictitious threat, in the form of an urban development for which all trees need to be cut. In this apocalyptic scenario, a protest is organized by local residents and other stakeholders. The idea is to make a documentary of what this would look like, based on actions against large-scale deforestation and local tree felling in the Netherlands during the last 50 years.

The reenactments will be performed in collaboration with a local theater group at different locations throughout the park. Prior to the production of the film, an archive will be made of the many protest actions that took place in the Netherlands in recent years. This extensive collection will serve as source material for the staged situations. On the basis of interviews (mostly from regional television stations) the script will be compiled in which the found footage is reconstructed word by word.

'Growing Resistance' is a visual investigation into the aesthetics of protest throughout the years; from small improvised actions of emotional citizens to large and well-orchestrated manifestations of political parties. The felling of trees seem to have become a hot topic in provincial and municipal politics. The threatened tree as a political subject works as a catalyst for the anxiety of the angry citizen in a rapidly changing world, where climate change is often a rather abstract and invisible phenomenon, while a tree offers a tangible link with the (endangered) natural world.
Una Forza del Passato (A Force from the Past)
An archaeological excavation of the Borghetto Latino in the Parco Regionale dell’Appia Antica, Rome


After the war, the city of Rome grew substantially, as one of the driving forces behind the "Italian economic miracle", which led to an unregulated urban growth. In a relative short period, many informal neighborhoods emerged on the outskirts of the city. This also happened within the boundaries of what is today known as the Via Appia Antica park.

Life in the Borghetto Latino was difficult, hundreds of families lived in miserable conditions amongst the many ancient ruins in the park. In 1969 the residents of the Borghetto organized a protest, which formed the beginning of the official expropriation of the area in 1973 and was preceded by an occupation of three buildings in the center of the city. The Borghetto Latino was the first 'shantytown' in Rome that got cleared, whereby its inhabitants were relocated to better housing facilities. In the 1970s, many more informal neighborhoods followed and the living conditions of thousands of people improved significantly. The protest was a key moment in the history of the Italian housing movement and formed a crucial step in the formation of the Via Appia Antica park. 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the political manifestation in the Borghetto Latino. But in contrast to the well-documented ancient history, there is very little that reminds people of the recent past. There is not a single monument or information panel that commemorates the story of the Borghetto or the revolutionary revolt that took place. Nowadays, the Caffarella park is an idyllic landscape with many ancient ruins, as if time has stood still for centuries. The project 'Una Forza del Passato' aims to temporarily disrupt this seemingly peaceful setting by means of a public intervention in the form of an archaeological excavation on the site of the former Borghetto Latino. The remains of the neighborhood, such as the foundations, tile flooring and doorsteps (which are still there) will be mapped as if it were an official archaeological excavation of a Roman temple, including tools, such as: trowels, clippers, brushes, buckets, dustpans, wheelbarrows and a broad range of measuring tools. All the findings will be documented and used for the design of an information plaque that will be installed on site.

The illustration for the 'Una Forza del Passato' project will be constructed merging the different field drawings together in one archaeological illustration that will be exhibited during the exhibitions in Rome and Amsterdam. Finally, the print will be displayed on an information panel in the park, as a (temporary) monument in commemoration of the Borghetto Latino.

The aim of the project is to see to what extent the story of the Borghetto Latino is part of the cultural heritage. What do people remember and what did the demolition do for the development of the Via Appia park? With a special interest in the void between the different fragments, the project aims to create a speculative space, in which the excavated remains function as semantic building blocks for the imagination of an alternative reality. Given the current problems concerning the informal Roma and migrant camps in the city, it does not seem to be an unnecessary luxury to have people reminded of the successes of the housing movement from the last century. Why was the housing movement in the 1970s able to pressure politicians to find structural solutions for the housing problems of the people in the borgate, and why isn't the same thing happening today for the people living in the new shanty towns?

Wouter Osterholt works together with Gert-Jan Burgers (VU-Chair in Mediterranean archaeology and director of CLUE+).
Berlin-based artist Wouter Osterholt (1979, Leiden) got his bachelor degree in Fine Arts at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam in 2001. His work is site and context specific and manifests itself along the faultlines and breaking points of our (political) landscape where social injustice, conflicts or problems come to light. He often uses the method of recontextualization of existing material, such as buildings, monuments, sculptures, rituals or archival material. These appropriations or reconstructions are a way to question and problematize the focus on exclusivity within our capitalist society and to declare them as part of a larger public discussion in which individuals are challenged to express their personal relationship to the political. Osterholt was artist-in-residence at the White House in London (UK), Townhouse Gallery in Cairo (EG), the MAK Center in Los Angeles (US), Capacete in Rio de Janeiro (BR), IASKA in Perth (AU), at PIST in Istanbul (TR), and more. He exhibited works at The Mosaic Rooms (UK), Frisian Museum (NL), the 13th Istanbul Biennial (TR), the Townhouse Gallery (EG), Schunck* in Heerlen (NL), etc.