Actors, Agents and Attendants: Social Housing – Housing the Social

Amsterdam, NL
Type: Spatial Design

Commissioned by Andrea Phillips & Fulya Erdemci

Curators: Fulya Erdemci, SKOR and Andrea Phillips, Goldsmiths, University of London)

Associate curator and coordinator: Vesna Madzoski, SKOR

Architectural advisor: Markus Miessen, Studio Miessen

Curators Film Programme: Yael Messer and Gilad Reich

Coordinator Art Collaboration: Fleur van Muiswinkel

Research Group: Arno van Roosmalen (director, Stroom Den Haag), Bregtje van der Haak (documentary filmmaker), Chris Keulemans (artistic director, Tolhuistuin Amsterdam), Ernst van den Hemel (philosopher and activist, University of Amsterdam), Huib Haye van der Werf (curator, SKOR), Nils van Beek (curator, SKOR), Partizan Publik (design and action collective, Amsterdam), and Theo Tegelaers (curator, SKOR)

Interns: Laura Pardo and Michelle Franke

Contributors: AIOA (Artists in Occupy Amsterdam), Yazid Anani, Nils van Beek, Casco/Our Autonomous Life?, Amalia Cardenas, Manuel Castells, Chto Delat?, Joana Conill, Teddy Cruz, Adri Duivesteijn, Fulya Erdemci, Zoran Erić, Fallen Fruit, Edesio Fernandes, Jeanne van Heeswijk, Ernst van den Hemel, Jiang Jun, Sabrina Lindemann, Doreen Massey, Don Mitchell, Partizan Publik, Andrea Phillips, Marjetica Potrč, Arnold Reijndorp, Martin Reiter, Miguel Robles-Durán, Martha Rosler, Christoph Schäfer, Neil Smith, Pelin Tan, Floor Tinga, Ultra-red, Roman Vasseur, The Yes Men.

  • Spatial Design by Studio Miessen
  • Project Team: Markus Miessen, Diogo Passarinho
  • Photography courtesy of SKOR | Foundation for Art and Public By: Isabelle Hennings Backer & Job Janssen

A two-day symposium that emphasized the relationship between the waning political and practical imperative of social housing and the broader conceptual or philosophical idea of 'housing the social'.

The second edition of Actors, Agents and Attendants, a series of symposia initiated by SKOR | Foundation for Art and Public Domain.

Given the increasing global conditions of unequal wealth distribution, and the specific urgency brought about by cuts in social and cultural funding in the Netherlands, can forms of cultural production be reclaimed as tools with which to design and defend social space, or are the agents and engineers of such projects merely tools in the further decoration of reduced welfare rights? What do we want cities to accommodate today? What is the legacy of the utopian ideals of the '60s and what alternative plans for living together in cities are being incubated now? How do we deal with the very real problems of social division brought about by poverty, migration, addiction, lack of representation? What roles do artists, designers, architects play in this process?

A house is a place where people and ideas gather and find shelter, a place where sociability is rehearsed and produced. Social housing, housing built on a multiple scale, is the replication of this model in towns and cities on political grounds: a spatial commitment on the part of governments to building on the basis of broad social needs and ideals. Social Housing - Housing the Social brings together contemporary artists, architects and designers working on new ideas and models for urban living with politicians, planners, activists, urban theorists and city development agencies, to investigate and challenge the ways in which housing is imagined, commissioned and implemented. In the context of welfare's erasure and replacement by reduced cost models of volunteerism and self-help, where is the house - the home - of the social now?

Contemporary capitalism in the West has promoted its growth on the ideal of house-ownership (with recent catastrophic financial effects) resulting in the re-conceptualization of public and private space. For this reason, social housing - the provision of homes for those on no or low income - is an idea destabilized through the shrinking of Welfare State models of social provision in Europe and the USA. In the Netherlands, a strong tradition of social housing is changing in light of new forms of privatization and public private partnership; in other global locations housing is a political tool used to both maintain and produce new forms of power, new tools of both revolution and corruption. Populations are destabilized at a transnational scale; forced to move in search of a cheap, safe, affordable and secure ways of living. In this context does housing also emerge as a new division between global frameworks of provision?

The Role of Artists and Architects

Artistic, architectural and curatorial initiatives over the past five decades have variously depicted and intervened into this unevenly developing urban condition with mixed results. Through many models of housing ranging from utopian to pragmatic, we saw that artists' ideas are often connected to their modes of living, from collaborations and collectivities to communes, squats and self-governing 'states.' Here, the relations between housing the social, public and private developments and exemplary forms of artistic capital became confused and potentially contradictory. On the one hand, exemplifying a romanticized ideal of nomadic homelessness and urbane aestheticisation, on the other developing discrete practical interventions in particular communities and situations, artists, architects, planners and curators house spaces for social activity in its widest sense - from city-scale community commissions to temporary shelters for small performances and invisible acts of citizenship. What value is to be placed on these practices? How are they understood by, on the one hand, commissioners, and on the other, users?