I could have turned back when the check-in assistant told me that I had missed the flight to Amsterdam by a full 24 hours instead of looking at her like a dog trying to figure out where the ball had gone when it hadn’t even been thrown. I could have saved my money instead of buying another ticket for a plane which was leaving in 10 minutes but I didn’t. Instead I decided that as I had come all this way then I just had to go on with the rest of the journey. So I spent all my spare cash on the price of an over inflated boarding card, essentially leaving myself financially bereft in a foreign land before I’d even arrived and to be honest, I am glad that I did because what I saw when I landed there was magical & wondrous and in an poetic sort of way, priceless…
I arrived in Amsterdam feeling like a war child shipped out during the blitz and all that was really missing to complete this stereotype was the name tag and brown leather suitcase. But my orphan predicament was short lived as unquestionably and almost expectantly Willem Verburg and Denise Jansen, the two artists who make up Pipsqueak Was Here! invited me to stay at their studio in Nieuw & Meer, here I was settled into their community and made to feel welcome by everybody that I came across.
Nieuw & Meer came into existence after ConradStraat 11 a renowned squat and cultural epicenter was stormed by police in July 1985. Hundreds of artists, inventors and artisans were evicted that night and of those hundreds twenty-five took up residence at a disused military ammunition’s factory which was discreetly camouflaged in the woods on the outskirts of Amsterdam. They made this concrete jungle their new home, a home which over time they methodically and admirably turned into a community, a community which became a society of its own, a world within a world.
Walking around the buildings it is hard not to wander off into some post war fantasy especially when surrounded by implements, machinery or some old deserted car from the time that was before, it is hard to not lose track of time when faced with children’s climbing frames & swings peeling with paint, orange with and rust reminiscent of an abandoned time or place.
But within this quiet and time-stood-stillness there is so much life, whole families live here, play here, grow here and standing testament to this are 15 foot high photographs of the children of the community spanning 25 years. Thomas Lenden and Else Van Der Burgt have chronicled and celebrated the lives of the children of Nieuw & Meer and immortalized them forever on every corner and niche of their community.
Although Nieuw & Meer is only 25 years old (this year) it is full of culture, rich with history and well established in its own right. The factory’s were transformed from hanger style buildings into hundreds of studios housings everything from artists residencies, computer programmers, interior designers and engineers, with in-house educational facility’s with studio rental.
Gypsy’s live in the back field of Nieuw & Meer, hidden in the bracken away from concrete and gates, the fringes of the Nieuw & Meer self-made society, even in alternative society’s there are outsiders.
In the evening on the gypsy camp they appropriately gather around fires playing Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli…
On the outskirts of this little community evidence of Pipsqueak Was Here! is everywhere, their distinctive work marks the surrounding territory like a sign of ownership and reclamation of the land.
Nobody really likes goodbyes, so until we meet again Nieuw & Meer… x
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25 Jul This entry was published on July 25, 2013 at 15:35. It’s filed under Art, News, Photography, Street Art, Uncategorized and tagged Amsterdam, Conradstraat 11, Django Reinhardt, East/Central, Else van der Burgt, Gypsy, Myriam JC Preston, Nieuw & Meer, Pipsqueak Was Here!, squat, Stephane Grappelli, Thomas Lenden.