Wagner de Jong

The Beginning


“Art, unless it leads to right action, is no more than the opium of an intelligentsia.”

W. Somerset Maugham

All the actions about saving the art scene in Holland are more or less done; what we are left with is constant oral masturbation of the same old “the art scene will suffer, the international artist will not come to Holland anymore” and similar. But lets look back on the past few weeks.

The news were crowded with big stories, protest, opinions, concepts, plans for the future and more opinions. Being an artist (simultaneously political and news junky), these weeks were like paradise and I could fulfil all my perverted and social fantasies.

For beginning, the petitions and all the ludicrous actions that followed afterwards.

“No culture, no future!” ”Mars der beschaving!” Populist! Left Hobby! Populistisch! “Don’t go to the Netherlands, cultural meltdown in progress!” Artbomb!  Populist! Populist! Populist!!!

I can’t digest ‘populistisch’ no more; we heard this word so many times that its meaning is forever lost. Instead of ‘ populistisch ‘ we can substitute the word ‘democratic’. Populism is simply giving the people what they want. That’s how the dictionary defines it. Opposition to it is morally indefensible because it amounts to opposition to democracy itself. Yet, it is interesting how this word became the main adjective for insulting.

Another thing that bothers me is the autonomous art in Holland and its sinister connection with public money. After everything I read and heard these days, it was like having art and porn at the same time, with no limits whatsoever, but also no orgasms. Actually, it all seemed like a bad gangbang where the participants seemed lost and clueless if they “give” or “receive”.

Ai Wei Wei is free, (goddamn, from which other misery should the western artist profit and show their interest in saving the world), no more ritual killings because we got the animal cops – they have to do something, the foreigners are still not integrated, so now we should assimilate them, the mental patients should find a way how to deal with themselves and Geert Wilders won the battle for freedom of speech for all of us.

Interesting, because when you think about, Holland is becoming more and more tolerant country, while John Galliano is considered anti-Semite, “Dirty Jewish face, you should be dead”; “Fucking Asian bastard, I will kill you”, we can practice our freedom of speech as freely as we want.

For example, Maxima Verhagen immediately put this into practice, quote from the speech he gave to his co-CDA’ers:

“Hoe zit het eigenlijk met de boodschappen die ik doe: wat kan ik nu wel en wat kan ik nu beter niet eten van die producten uit het buitenland en zit die buitenlandse ziekte nu ook in onze groente of in ons vlees?”

Note from me: yes, you’re right, there is disease and it is called EHEC and comes from Germany, actually from Egypt, actually who knows from where in this world orgy.

But, I started writing about the art actions, and somehow got lost in the real problems. Let’s come back and think again, my dear artists, art students and dearer populists. Look around you. We are living in strange times now. There is an uncanny sense of panic in the air, and above all fear and uncertainty that comes with once-reliable faiths and truths and solid Institutions that are no longer safe to believe in.

So we shall protest! Our voices will be heard! After signing all the petitions, we are finally going out on the streets and we are ready. Some of the tips/instructions we received from the organizers of the march for civilization:

  • NIET te demonstreren in de binnenstad,
  • NIET in groepen op te trekken op andere plaatsen dan het Malieveld,
  • spandoeken en andere uitingen van protest alleen op het Malieveld te tonen,
  • alleen in het Nederland’s of Engels te protesteren,
  • geen muziekinstrumenten of andere lawaaimakers mee te nemen,
  • geen grote stokken (of wapenachtige zaken) mee te dragen (ook niet in spandoeken).
  • geen alcohol te nuttier.
  • en geen afval te laten slingeren.


Nadrukkelijk advies i.v.m de voorspelde hitter:

• name genoeg water mee.

• zorg voor hoofdbedekking.

• bij klatches zoek een schaduwplaats.

And then we had the artbomb, yet again with instructions.

After the “wear safety glasses, use only outdoors” and similar blah blah, comes this: “Call the fire department in your city 10 minutes before you start your intervention and explain that you are organizing an art event with colored smoke that will last a few minutes.”

Should I even comment on this anarchistic move?

Rather not!

In general, my own immediate reaction to all of the above was bewilderment and surprise, I think I almost believed it…

But no, not really. Somehow all these actions seemed vaguely meaningless, like water in wine or weak whiskey.

To conclude, there is hope, Halbe Zijlstra likes Metallica. So do I! And I’m ready to protest, because I just imported “Enter sandman” on all of my devices: MacBookPro, Imax, Ipod, Iphone and Ipad (because I can afford them all). To conclude:

Exit, light
Enter, Night
Take my hand
we’re off to never-never land

The Aftermath

Most of us have our own problems, and some of them are so depressing that the idea of walking from Rotterdam to Den Haag seems almost like a fun thing to do. The sadomasochistic relationship the artists in this country were nourishing with the subsidies, shown itself in the fullest potential.

Yes, this fight for saving the arts is decadent and egoistic masturbation of the artists who lived on the expense of the state. Question: Is this about art or artists?

They are mentioning existential threat of the arts! Like art will disappear in thin air if the Mother Government doesn’t take care of it. What about all the other countries in the world that are not so generous with giving money for art? Don’t they have art scene and artists?! But, enough with comparisons and questions, lets come back to the vaguely morbid experience of protesting.

Something did stink in Malieveld, don’t know if it was my fellow artists, the policemen, the horses or the sense of amateurism in the air.

Whatever it was, now it’s done! The demonstrations are over and it’s time to calculate the collateral damages. 14 people were arrested, boohoo, some got punch in their faces, a bit of blood and the rest are in shock. How can these happen? How can the police attack the peaceful artists? Populists! Goddamn populists!

I have another question: Did you really think that the protest would go without any incidents?

Protest cannot be peaceful by default, otherwise what is the point in protesting? And the reaction of the police was normal. They are trained to react as they did! They don’t think or make any difference between artists, criminals or tram drivers. At least in their eyes we are all equal and a potential threat.

I wonder why they did it. Maybe someone spoke Spanish instead of English and Dutch as we were told in the preparations; or someone didn’t drink enough water on that very hot day, so the police had to show them tough loving for their own good.

Luckily, most of the protesters were busier with documenting the protest than really participating in it, so we have enough video and photo material of all the “art profiteers”, posing while being arrested. I’m already getting erection on the thought of what kind of art pieces we will see as a result of this.

To conclude, this march with its values corresponded only to an ideal world, and the important, and yet another question is what is actually coming to an end – the art world or merely some kind of illusion that we have lost control of?

Yes, Sir! This is the cruelty of the gloomy times we live in. It’s time to look around and see what has become of you and of this country.  Yes, the cultural budget will be cut; we will loose some good production houses and institutions; yes, some people were arrested during the march; and yes, less art schools, but also less public transport, firemen, police, hospitals, immigrants, schools…

This is not the time to be selfish and think only about art, there are bigger things at stake. That is the reason ‘mars der beschaving’ was unsuccessful, it drowned itself in its egoism and yes, I am going to say it – artistic populism.  What hurts the most is not the lack of idealism in the protest, but the lack of honesty.

Wagner de Jong