THE GRAND
DOMESTIC REVOLUTION

THE GRAND
DOMESTIC REVOLUTION

USER'S MANUAL

USER'S MANUAL

‘The Grand Domestic Revolution—User’s Manual’ (GDR) investigates the domestic space and its (changing) use through a variety of methods and disciplines, traversing the fields of art, design, architecture, urban planning, activism and theory. A number of artists and other practitioners contribute to this endeavour. Residents from 2009-2011 include Sepake Angiama, Paul Elliman, and Doris Denekamp who utilized neighbourhood and online research to create prototypes and interventions around the theme of (Green) Cooperativsm. Wietske Maas and Travis Meinolf experimented with Home Production; while 'interor' infrastuctural interventions for the furniture, library and hallways were created by ifau & Jesko Fezer, Mirjam Thomann and Graziela Kunsch. Current themes and residents from February–October 2011 include Kyohei Sakaguchi and Kateřina Šedá who will each investigate forms of usership in architectures; home and housing rights with Maria Pask and Nazima Kadir; the question of invisible and domestic labour taken up by Werker Magazine; Agency will continue its deliberations on copyright issues of domestic THINGS (gardens and textiles); and keywords in relations to food service work will be workshopped with Xu Tan. Parallel to this, the Read-in activity continues. Initiated by artist Annette Krauss and theatre maker, Read-in is an open reading group inhabiting a different neighbour’s home for every session.

LIBRARY

LIBRARY

The GDR library constitutes the backbone of our ongoing ‘living research’ and thus grows over time. The library offers points of engagement with the project and consists of different research materials such as books, articles, images and DVDs (artist’s video, films) that are available for viewing when visiting the apartment. The first installment was done by the GDR team and was later adapted by Sao Paulo-based artist Graziela Kunsch who suggested that the GDR team create thematic selections.

APARTMENT 18B

APARTMENT 18B

'The Grand Domestic Revolution-User's Manual' is a long-term project developed as Casco’s contribution to 'Utrecht Manifest: Biennial for Social Design'. The project deals with the evolutionary and collaborative process of “living” research in the contemporary domestic and private sphere – particularly in relation to the spatial imagining (or the built environment). It aims at re-articulating while exercising the notions of the social, the public and, eventually, the commons.

TOWN MEETINGS

TOWN MEETINGS

IN AFFINITY

Since August 2010, the GDR team have undertaken research in order to connect with the local neighbourhood on questions relating to peoples’ social conditions and material environments. Questionnaires, interviews, and conversations are the methods used to explore the themes and problems addressed in GDR, such as self-organised governance, co-operative living, and spatial organisation in and from the domestic sphere.

INTERVIEW WITH STIL

(transcription in progress)

STIL office, Laan van Nieuw Guinea 143, Utrecht
With Freek Bergervoet
Conducted by Chris Lee, Maiko Tanaka
(6 September 2010)

Freek at STIL Office


This page requires an introduction.


Chris: How did STIL get started?

Freek: We started in 1995, 1996—I wasn’t there from the beginning—one of the big issues at that moment was the koppelingswets—A reinforcement law that has been applied since 1998, basically it comes down to that people who are without residence papers cannot get any social benefits. It applies to the whole country. We also thought there should be a support group in Utrecht especially for these people who do not have rights at all.

C: And there are other groups, like AAGU...

F: There are several groups but there are not so many who deal with both immigrants and refugees.

C: Do you often cooperate with these other organizations?

F: Yes, there is collaboration, but mostly on a practical level. We refer to other organizations when people come here from other places like Amsterdam, the south of Holland, etc...

M: Is there something about Utrecht that pushed you to be here?

F: There was no such organization in Utrecht, and also because its not too big, but not small—and here, being in the center of the country is good.

M: Since 1998 when koppelingswets came into effect, what kinds of changes in policies were there?

F: It has become worse. Since the end of the 90s—I think already at the end of the 80s—prisons had been built for people who don’t have a residence permit. It started in Schiphol. They are building more and more—between 15 and 20 of these prisons, which they call something else, but actually they are prisons.

M: Detention centres?

F: Yes, or detention boats, or FBL—temporary so-called shelter. [what does FBL stand for?]

C: So they try to take away any kind of reference to prison in the name?

F: Yes, in the name but also the locations: outside of the city center, so that people do not notice much about it. They are outside, in more suburban surroundings.

M: Do you know what the conditions are in these centres?

F: Normally the access to health care isn’t good, they do not take the health problem very seriously. You hear stories that they only give people paracetamol to diminish pain but do not look at complaints—people are inside very long periods and can only spend one hour a day outside, which is not really outside but only a square, with fences and barbed-wire.

M: Are there concrete, special health services that you provide?

F: We have a medical speaking hour where we make appointments for people if they have to go to a doctor, or hospital or pharmacy—we only make appointments, there are no doctors here. There is also the illegal person’s speaking hour (Thursday in the afternoon), then we look if there are still possibilities to get a permit to stay or how can people survive without a residence permit. We are very limited in shelters, but sometimes people are offering a place to live.

C: So you have a network of safe-houses?

F: Yes, sometimes it expands, sometimes it gets smaller. We have a newsletter for immigrants and refugees to keep them up-to-date, and also for the people who provide subsidies, to know what we are doing. If we have time—we try to participate in actions or demonstrations—but that was more in the early days. Now we are working more on a social/practical level, so that people can be more independent.

C: How do people who arrive and do not know anything, hear about you?

F: Mostly through other people or organizations.

C: Most of the people here, that you deal with, do they come to work and then find themselves criminalized?

F: Most of them come for work, or because they had to flee their country, family reunion, family building... There are many different reasons of why people come here to Holland.

M: What are some other concerns for people who do not have status?

F: Housing problems are very big... Also to get good psychiatric health. Psychiatrists say they cant help homeless due to their unstable situation. In a way it is true, but instability makes it difficult to follow a treatment.

C: I guess it’s hard for them to get a break. People need stability to get help, and they need this help to get stability...

STIL banner


M: About health, do you work with people who help anyone, regardless of status?

F: The doctors have to help, and most of the ones here in Utrecht do. The problem since January 2009 is that dental care for people older than 22 is not paid for anymore. We try to find funding for that. [is it that they have to help for legal reasons, or is it simply because it is part of their code of conduct?]

M: Can this kind of alternative, creative resource sharing practices, like community gardens be seen as possible resources/options for the people you help?

F: It can be useful for people to build a network. Food is not the main problem for these kind of people because there are places where they can get food for free. Housing is more important, to have stable conditions of living in general.

C: If people are able to find work, or able to make money, what is it that they generally end up doing?

F: The main work they can find is domestic work, in private peoples homes; because the control of the illegal work is increasing more and more—so its very difficult to advise people to do “black” jobs in an enterprise or café, which are being inspected by the police more and more. They usually do gardening or cleaning jobs...

C: And get paid in cash...

F: Yes.

M: That’s interesting because we are also looking at how, with the material feminists in the late 19th century, making some of the domestic work for women public—so making housework communal, having child-care in the open—making it visible, also made it more meaningful economically, politically—but in this scenario, the private space is used because it is necessary to not be seen, but at the same time, it has the function of isolating people too—they’re not in public, meeting people—so it’s such a difficult bind...

F: It is for protection, but also isolates people.

C: And the connection with the feminist victories for women’s rights in the West... Within some analyses, it is regarded that the liberation of Western women is connected to the subjugation of migrants.

F: There is one interesting documentary about domestic workers called Chain of migration [chain of love???]. You see the circle of migration: one woman is going abroad because another woman is working and needs childcare, and because this woman goes abroad, she needs someone to take care of her child, etc... It shows status going lower and lower, and the incomes going lower and lower as well.

M: Do you know of other kinds of socializing resources trying to keep the safety of people’s personal identities, but allow them to be social?

F: Especially for people without residence papers, we have one project that runs until October and we are asking people what they would like to do and we try to facilitate that. So for example, there’s one group that is playing guitar... But it should become broader, because now it is the same group—of people who are without residence permits—and it would be good if it was more mixed. [what do people do this for? is it more for recreation? an escape? therapeutic? do they try to do performances? record?]

M: If you were to make a more mixed group, would it be with people who have legal status and are sympathetic with illegal immigrants?

F: We used to have a restaurant, was called ‘Frenzeluis’ but the foreigner police and the labour inspection came over and arrested the people who were working there. There is still a court case over it. In the law it says that even when you do voluntary work, even then it is not allowed for illegal people. If they discover it, the employer has to pay a 1000 euros per person to the labour inspection. That’s a way to demoralize people from doing anything.

C: Have you ever had support from labour unions who try to also see the situation of these people as workers, trying to have solidarity with them... Or are there labour unions also very antagonistic to it?

F: Unfortunately, everything is getting more conservative. In the last years there are organizers who are more progressive, but it is very difficult to get a breakthrough, to change the situation within labour unions. Sometimes they are more willing to get involved, and other times they say “No, we don’t want to...”.

C: But in their analysis they see refugees and illegal workers as more of a problem than as an ally...

F: Well, I think it’s more complicated... They would like to, but they’re not allowed to... And they don’t want to be too upfront... Something like this. It’s not that they are against them, that they see them as enemies necessarily... But I don’t have much contact with the unions.

C: And they do not necessarily try to contact your kind of organization?

F: No.

M: Back to community building: What kind of things do people want to do or desire, to do together?

F: It’s more practical: cooking, making music, learning Dutch...

C: Do people come and try to find ways to live together and support each other, amongst themselves, or is it very individual?

F: No, we do not see tendencies that people are becoming a collective or doing things more together. It is difficult that people can organize themselves politically, especially because there is not really a perspective for them, on a legal basis [do you mean, they don't know what their rights are?]. And people are so busy with surviving already... We tried in the past, but less and less people came, they do not see a use in these meetings.

M: A similar story we heard yesterday at a meeting at ACU where people were talking about the decline of squatting—not just because it is going to be criminalized—but people were saying that there seems to be loss of thinking that the actual act of squatting is political in itself. That you're exercising some kind of collective autonomy... But the problem is you can't just tell people that that's what squatting is so they should do it. So people need to come to it themselves, but they're busy with their day-to-day lives, and think individually...

F: I was part of the squatting movement some time ago. People tend to see it as a lifestyle, and less and less people think of it as a political way of behaving. And that's everybody's own choice, but because of that it is more difficult to get it organized, and you also see that the squatting movement, in my perspective, is getting more and more individualized.

M: What kind of temporary residence can people find?

F: Very different places. People at home who would like to help people out temporarily or for longer periods... Some squats we still have contact with who are willing to help, in Utrecht.

M: Is there a sanctuary or settlement home in Utrecht? Or a women’s shelter?

F: We have one women’s shelter which started as a STIL initiative but now is more autonomous. Women can go there with children. There are only 5-6 places, in this one house.

M: And so that would be a mix of people who have legal residence or not?

F: People in the procedure [to legalize], or some that get a permit to stay after a period of time and people who are not in the procedure.

M: Is there danger for them of being inspected as well?

F: No, there are arrangements, police and community council. [how was this arranged?]

C: About collaborations and squatters initiatives, is there anything that you think that you're missing right now, a connection you would like to make, or something that would help your work here in general?

F: Yeah, well a lot of things are missing so you always have to improvise...

C: What would be the most important thing for you, or most urgent maybe?

F: There should be a housing project for our clients who have severe psychiatric problems. That is one of the things that worries us the most.

M: So something that could also have arrangements with the police...

F: Some kind of construction like Fanga Musow (the women’s shelter).

C: And how was Fanga Musow initiated?

F: It started from one of the people who is working here.

C: So she just rented a house...

F: She arranged that there would eventually be a house. (see interview with De Verandering)

M: Would there be a tool that you think could help?

F: An open mentality and imagination.

Someone in the room: A gun.

(laughs)

F: Well, as Frank Zappa said, “the mind is like a parachute, it only functions when its open.” I think this is a very nice metaphor for what's going on, because I think in general, thinking is so closed or narrow-minded towards other people, and especially to people who are without a residence permit. This should be more opened.

C: So the minds of the general public, and also the people that come through here you mean?

F: Yeah, in a way too. That there are possibilities. Because if you don't believe that things can change, then why should you do something? It's difficult, but there are always alternatives you can think of... And perhaps they should even be more utopian. Of course we can't forget the practical level, but I'm missing the imagination.


Since August 2010, the GDR team have undertaken research in order to connect with the local neighbourhood on questions relating to peoples’ social conditions and material environments. Questionnaires, interviews and conversations are the methods used to explore the themes and problems addressed in GDR, such as self-organised governance, cooperative living and spatial organisation in and from the domestic sphere.


NOTES

GDR diary 1: Reading as a project


My name is Mafalda Dâmaso and I arrived last Monday at the apartment, in order to do an in-depth research focused on the GDR library. In a first moment, I will attempt to summarize the ways in which each of the library books articulates the topic of social change as a broad framework to the GDR and to other projects that were animated by similar concerns.

Since I arrived, a lot has happened! I appropriating the flat, transforming it into a temporary home-workplace. The plants have been watered, dinner has been cooked for some Utrecht-based friends, and the furniture display has been slightly transformed to adapt to my specific working needs. One of the benches in now next to the window, functioning as a supporting table.


23 May 2010, 23.04 — posted by Mafalda

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