How do you shape the city of today?

door AT5

20 December 2021


In this episode of AT5’s CULT, AT5 talks to the Amsterdam Museum about architecture and gentrification, merging cultures and religion.

Amsterdam is always in flux. The city is growing, people come and go. In the exhibition Refresh Amsterdam, 25 artists reflect on today’s city. The projects are focused on Amsterdam, but also show that the experiences of people from different kinds of backgrounds, networks and traditions often transcend city and national borders. The works complement the often too one-sided view of Amsterdam, represented in the city’s historical heritage.


A contemporary view of the city

According to Margriet Schavemaker, Artistic Director of the Amsterdam Museum, the museum’s  Refresh Amsterdam exhibition takes a contemporary approach to examining the city. ‘We’ve got a fantastic collection of almost 100,000 objects that have been collected in the city for centuries. But these collections often come from the city’s elite. How do you put together a collection that represents the city of today? And how do you give shape to that?’ This is what Refresh Amsterdam is all about.

The writer Abdelkader Benali is a member of the selection committee and he, together with other jury members, offered 25 artists a platform in the Refresh Amsterdam exhibition. ‘It was like a box of chocolates, with so many interesting plans and projects. There were quite a few artists I had never heard of before and a lot of the stories were also new to me.’


A merging of cultures

In CULT, we talk to Antonio Guzman who is one of the artists whose work is shown in Refresh Amsterdam. His installation, titled Sonic Indigo, an Afro futuristic Voyage into Dub, can be admired on three different floors in the museum. ‘Indigo is part of Amsterdam’s wealth. Indigo plus Amsterdam’s DNA has been printed on a piece of fabric 150 metres long.’


Architecture and gentrification

Architecture and gentrification are important themes in Refresh Amsterdam. Various artists such as Bas Kosters and Goeun Bae reveal their vision on these themes in this exhibition. Managing Director of Amsterdam Museum, Judikje Kiers, emphasises that the building and infrastructure of the city form the context for the human city. ‘At the end of the day, it’s all about how the city is used and how the city changes. How people manage to create a home for themselves in the city. This is what this exhibition is all about. Buildings, architecture and people are brought together in Sense of place.’


In CULT, architect Lyongo Juliana talks about the importance of personal encounters in the city. ‘As an architect you have to create spaces where people can meet each other. After all, cities were established precisely so that people could meet each other. It is important that we continue to facilitate this so that everyone who collectively makes up the city of Amsterdam, people from different backgrounds and age groups, has the opportunity to meet. That is important and something we need to keep working on.’

Emre Ekinci (26) grew up at August Allebéplein in Nieuw-West, and this is not his first report on gentrification. He spoke to a lot of people in his neighbourhood about this development. ‘They are sad stories. Young people have to move out of Amsterdam to find affordable accommodation or they have to continue living at home with mum and dad until they’re 40.’



Finally, the theme of religion is addressed. Various artists share their view of religion in this exhibition. Artist Jaasir Linger has built an installation around the Afro-Surinamese Winti religion and modern Winti rituals in Amsterdam.

Afro-theologian Kenneth Vers Babel tells us in CULT that the Winti religion is playing an increasingly important role in Amsterdam. ‘There’s been a general decrease in the amount of people who actively practice a religion but the number of people involved with the Afro-Surinamese Winti religion has been growing. Fortunately, Amsterdam is a city with a long history of freedom of religion. People are looking for places where they can practice the Winti religion together.’ You can see this and more in CULT, this time from the Amsterdam museum. For the next edition, we take a closer look at the Rembrandthuis collection.