Amsterdam Debates New Methodologies of the European Nomadic Biennial – Manifesta

Last Tuesday, dozens gathered at Pakhuis de Zwijger in Amsterdam for the book launch of “Manifesta 12 Palermo Atlas,” where attendees debated new methodologies for the Nomadic Biennial. Manifesta is the European Nomadic Biennial, held in a different host city every two years. This year, the 12th edition was held at Palermo, in southern Italy. Originally a Dutch initiative, this event attracts visitors from all over the world.


On Tuesday, over one hundred people participate at Manifesta 12 Palermo Atlas event at Pakhuis de Zwijger, Amsterdam. Manifesta is the European nomadic biennial, which is held in a different host city every two years, in 2018 being hosted by Palermo, Italy. Valeria Mongelli/ Staff

The debate

Zef Hemel, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at University of Amsterdam, moderated the event. Hemel introduced the Palermo Atlas, an urbanistic research commissioned by Manifesta to the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA). The result is an interdisciplinary investigation of the city, covering architecture, archaeology, anthropology, archival research, personal history and media. Research for the atlas was conducted before defining Manifesta’s creative program, and intended to ensure that Manifesta achieves a real long-term impact for Palermo citizens. “The atlas is a scan of contemporary Palermo and defines mediation between Palermo and the rest of the world,” explained architect and Manifesta’s creative mediator Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, who led the study. The long-term goal of this experiment is to leave a tangible legacy to cities that host major international art events – Manifesta is the 4th most influential biennial in the world. From that perspective, Palermo was a laboratory. “We chose Palermo as a blueprint for the global, an incubator of different world conditions,” said Hedwig Fijen, founding director of Manifesta. “In Palermo, Manifesta investigates the international conflicts and transformations of our times.”

Dutch art plays a special role in this edition of the biennial, highlighted Fijen. For the first time in its history, Manifesta included a specific Dutch component, the Dutch trail, supported by the Dutch Embassy in Rome and the center for international cultural cooperation DutchCulture. Dutch artists, thinkers, designers, architects, galleries, institutions and universities are taking part in a series of programs parallel to the biennial. One of these artworks is The Soul of Salt by Patricia Kaersenhout, literally a mountain of salt standing out in one of the beautiful rooms of Palazzo Forcella De Seta. It celebrates a slave legend from the Caribbean tradition, according to which enslaved people refrained from eating salt because they thought they would become lighter and could fly back to Africa. According to Manifesta’s website, “the Dutch trail encourages to discover the creative energy flowing from the Netherlands into Palermo, engaging with Europe and the world at large in a symbiotic coexistence.”

Global mobility, in terms of both creativity and human flows, was also the focus of the speech of Leoluca Orlando, mayor of Palermo, who closed the debate. In the past months, Orlando heavily criticized the closing-borders policy held by Italian, right wing Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who closed Italian ports to boats saving migrants in the Mediterranean. “The future of humanity is mobility,” said Orlando. “We say thanks to migrants, because they guarantee human connections. In Palermo, migrants are not 100, 1.000 or 10.000. Migrants are all inhabitants of Palermo.”

Palermo: From mafia battlefield to outpost of cultural investors

The 71-year-old Mayor Orlando has maintained his mayorship of Palermo for 18 (not consecutive) years. The city’s recent history, occasionally described as a path of resurrection from mafia battlefield to cultural capital, is inevitably linked to his name. “There is no city in the world that in the last 40 years saw such a cultural change as Palermo,” said Orlando. “I thank the mafia. Because they killed too much, and obliged us to change our minds.” One of the deepest points of this murderous escalation (and of the whole history of the Italian republic) was July 19, 1992, when a car bomb killed Paolo Borsellino, one of the magistrates investigating the godfathers of Sicilian mafia. “Palermo is flourishing as a cultural city on the basis of its past as a city of mafia. It is a city that experienced mafia’s fundamentalism, and therefore now promotes hospitality.” What does Manifesta leave to Palermo citizens? “The pride of being a mosaic of different cultures, the historical and artistic dignity of contamination.” And, on a more concrete note, “the attention of foreigner investors.”

The threat of gentrification

Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, 38 years old co-curator of Manifesta’s 12th edition, worked in the Dutch headquarters of OMA for 13 years and recently moved back to Italy. He was the head of the team (including over 100 people) conducting the research that led to Palermo Atlas. Manifesta, and biennials in general, aim at permanently transforming the cities that host them, leaving a tangible legacy to their citizens. When carrying out this kind of operations, where does the risk of gentrification start? “We are aware that Manifesta happens in a city that is changing,” said Pestellini Laparelli. “We tried to operate in different areas of the city, even in the outskirts, without altering the nature of each neighborhood. In the most problematic areas, we worked with the inhabitants, trying not to impose things from above. We occupied beautiful and abandoned places in the historical center, showing that it is possible to intervene and change an urban context without transforming whole historical areas in shopping malls.” What is the tangible legacy that Manifesta leaves to Palermo citizens? “Manifesta created a network of people, from university professors to migrants, who worked together on the same project. First, we leave Palermitans this network. We also tried to change the typical biennial audience, bringing Manifesta to a public that is usually not exposed to this kind of events. From that perspective, we hope to leave them an artistic awareness. We leave small urban interventions, both in the city center and in peripheral areas. The atlas is also a tangible legacy, an alternative guide to Palermo of nowadays.”

The 12th edition of the Manifesta exhibition is planned to be continued until Nov. 4, 2018. The next edition is expected to be held in Marseille, France, in 2020.


From left: Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, 38 years old, architect and Manifesta’s creative mediator, debates with Zef Hemel, 61, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Amsterdam and moderator of the event. “Manifesta created a network of people, from university professors to migrants, who worked together on the same project,” Laparelli suggests. Valeria Mongelli/ Staff

Metro Reporter, Fall 2018


7th Amsterdam City Swim Cancelled Due to Insufficient Water Quality

Every year, the Amsterdam City Swim brings thousands of people to the capital city. It surely is a strange sight –one day a year, the city’s rather placid canals are invaded by swimmers from all over the country and turned into a two-kilometer race route. Leading along some of the city’s most beautiful canals, the whole event is set up as a fundraiser to collect donations for the ALS foundation.

This year’s Amsterdam City Swim cancelled due to contaminated water

This year, however, the City Swim had to be cancelled due to concerns regarding the water quality. Last Saturday one day before the event, the organization announced that this year’s race wouldn’t be able to take place. According to the board of the Amsterdam City Swim, the sudden change of weather conditions had caused a critical level of contamination of the canal water. Due to the combination of extreme drought and the large amounts of rain that Amsterdam had seen this past week, the sewers of the city overflowed and large amounts of contaminated water ended up in the canals. The level of e-coli bacteria exceeded the water regulations by far, posing too high of a risk to the health of the participants for the event to take place as planned.

A general look on the water quality of Amsterdam’s canals

With exception of the yearly city swim, swimming in the canals is not permitted and highly discouraged as health risks upon exposure to the water cannot be ruled out. Despite ongoing struggles, the water quality has improved significantly in the past decade – largely due to the connection of over 3000 houseboats to the sewage system. In 2007, in fact, a majority of the city’s houseboats were not connected to the canalization system, so that all waste would be disposed of directly into the canals’ water. Since then, Waternet, the city’s water authority, has been closely monitoring the water quality. Their goal is to, someday in the future, make the canal water clean enough for people to swim in.

“The City Swim is cancelled, but the fight for ALS continues!” – Amsterdam City Swim

Despite the sudden cancellation of the event, the board of the Amsterdam City Swim swiftly came up with an alternative solution: instead of swimming the predetermined route, they took the race to land and announced that this years city swim would be a city walk. Though many participants were disappointed, having had travelled from all corners of the Netherlands, the event still turned out as a success. All together, the participants and sponsors reached a sum of almost 1.5 million euros, which was handed over to the ALS foundation at the closing event at the Keizersgracht.

Amsterdam celebrates love and diversity: LGBTQ+ Pride 2018


Metro Reporter, Fall 2018

Speakers Talk Life After University And Recruitment At Spaces Herengracht

Last Thursday, entrepreneurs, recruiters and talents looking for a job provided tools for better recruitment, stronger interconnectivity and talent development at Spaces Herengracht. Amsterdam Talks Tech hosted its “Workforce Edition.”  Four speakers were invited: Laurent Scholten, Thomas Moes, Dr. Marcia Goddard and Jorg Ruis.


Dozens attend Amsterdam Talks Tech on Thursday, June 14th at Spaces Herengracht. Valeria Mongelli / Staff writer

Keeping your employees happy

Remy Gieling, editor-in-chief of Sprout, presented the event. Sprout is a startup that informs entrepreneurs on the latest business developments through articles, magazines, newsletters and various events. Comfortably, the speakers were sitting on a sofa on stage, which contributed to creating an informal atmosphere. Gieling started the talk by asking the audience to think of their first job. Short interviews between speakers and  attendees revealed past experiences gone wrong at supermarket cashiers, cinema ticket offices and online underwear sales. “How did your work experience improved since then?” Gieling asked. “As a manager, how can you improve your employees’ work conditions?” Speakers Laurent Scholten, founder of Wonderland, a start-up that optimises job search and recruitment, and Thomas Moes, co-founder of Homerun, a recruitment software that aims to simplify the connection between entrepreneurs and potential employees, were called to answer. According to them, satisfied employees translate into a healthy business. “It’s important to make people happier through work,” confirmed Moes. The speakers agreed that nowadays society spends more time with  their colleagues than with their friends or family, which is why it is important to choose who you are working with. Uber and are among the clients of Wonderland, Scholten’s start-up that looks for the best candidates based on demographics, interests and online behavior. The platform can also be used as a tool for job seekers to find the job that fits them best.



Goddard’s teamwork philosophy

The second round of speakers hosted Jorg Rues, founder of Culture Builders, and Dr. Marcia Goddard, a 33-year-old neuroscientist now working at YoungCapital. Goddard used to be an assistant professor in Leiden, before she realized that academia did not bring her happiness anymore. The woman later got hired at Young Capital despite what she describes as her atypical profile. “We have no idea of what to do with you,” they told her. “But they gave me a chance,” Goddard remembers. She developed a new system for evaluating social assessment in an enterprise. A growth mindset, according to her, is the result of  teamwork, willingness to take risks, intrinsic motivation, and empathy. This recipe is is tested by socio-psychological experiments to quantify those behaviors within YoungCapital’s employees. As an example of this process, the prisoner’s dilemma was used to assess employees’ teamwork, and the Cambridge gambling task for individuals’ will to take risks. Like Goddards, Jorg Rues believes that taking risks is the key to a successful enterprise. “The best example is Pixar,” he explains. “Take the cartoon Wall-E. It’s a movie about robots, where no one speaks for the first 35 minutes. In a pitch, that would sound like a very bad idea. But they took the risk, they did it, and it was a success.”


From left: Jorg Ruis and Dr. Marcia Goddard speak at Amsterdam Talks Tech on June 14. Valeria Mongelli / Staff

When advising people who are looking for their first job, Dr. Goddard claimed: “Don’t limit yourself. Explore, take risks, and if you are not happy, look for something else.” Often, universities do not always provide sufficient help to prepare students for the job market.  “There is a huge gap between what students are taught and what they actually have to do when they start working unless you end up working in academia,” she said. “The whole university system needs to change. University should be more aware of what’s going on in the world, and care less about the academic bubble.”

Spaces: Towards a new concept of work

Besides organizing talks and events for both entrepreneurs and the general public, Spaces also offers co-working spaces for innovative enterprises. 37-year-old Lindsay Pronk, Head of Content, has been working at Spaces for many years. Maxime Tielman, 25, from Rotterdam, has started working for Spaces in March as Event Manager. The company aims to connect working people with each other. “Working alone in your office may not be a very motivating experience, whereas a space where you feel inspired by other workers can facilitate your own success,” said Pronk. “All Spaces buildings have an open area in the center, where people can meet each other and have a coffee.”

Some of the events, like Amsterdam Talks Tech are not only for the Spaces community itself but also for external attendees. “During our events we want to bring people together, inspire them and maybe even learn them something new,” explains Tielman. “The idea of Talks Tech is to be a platform for entrepreneurs, but also for the general public to discover the latest developments in the tech world.”

Founded in 2006, Spaces now counts five locations in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Den Haag. The first location, alongside Herengracht, opened in 2008.


The audience

Natascha Manuputty, 48 years old, is a Dutch woman with Indonesian origins. In the past, she worked in tourism and leisure management, and she is now looking for the next step in her career. Manuputty attended Amsterdam Talks Tech to look for inspiration. “I am interested in the new trends of the tech world, but also on the human aspect of work,” she explains. “Nowadays, everyone talks about Artificial Intelligence, about how robots can replace all human functions. There isn’t much focus on solving the problems of real people at work. These talks gave an overview of both tech and human perspectives. It was a great lineup.”


Natascha Manuputty, 48, talks with another member of the audience at Amsterdam Talks Tech. Manuputty attended the event to find some inspiration for the next step of her career. Valeria Mongelli / Staff

Metro Reporter, Fall 2018

Above 500 UvA Students Rally Against National Budget Cuts

Over 500 students and staff-members took the streets last Friday during the March for Education. Participants demonstrated against national budget cuts on higher education.


Students hold a banner that reads “March for Education” in Dutch stand in front of De Dokwerker statue at Jonas Daniël Meijerplein, on Friday afternoon. Protesters demonstrated against cutbacks. Raluca Dumitrache/ Staff Photographer

The rally was the result of a union between the Humanities Rally UvA, the New University (NU), the ASVA student union and organisations in Groningen, Utrecht and Nijmegen. Overall, protesters asked for democracy, a fair funding structure, diversity and for the budget cuts not to affect the quality of education.

Protesters marched from Oudemanhuispoort to Roeterseilandcampus, where some set up their tents outside the campus. However, the demonstration was stopped at night, where the police evicted dozens of students. According to witnesses, many student were injured in the process. Protesters asked UvA President of the Executive Board, Geert ten Dam, to provide an explanation to the police intervention.

Rosanne Beentjes, a sociology student at UvA, believes the march aimed to draw attention on the issue and involve more people to the movement. “I hope this will become a broader movement in society,” Beentjes said. Like the 23-year-old student, protesters believe the march would be a way to raise awareness on the issue no only at an university level, but in society as well. “Maybe we can make it broader than only this student movement,” Beentjes explains. “I think there are a lot of capitalist and neoliberal influences in society […] and corporate businesses are really having a big influence of what’s going on in society and this is really an example of this and it what is happening at the university.” Indeed, the march has been covered by important news media such as Vice, De Telegraph, Het Parool and NL Times.

Participants claimed that students from faculties other than the one of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences should be equally concerned about the changes. “I am a humanities student and this kind of policy will gradually take away the funding from the whole [degree] because there’s […] the whole idea about reducing courses and programmes, so that’s going to affect everybody” said Parvez, a 32-year-old literature and cultural analysis student at UvA. “Maybe it’s not gonna affect [me] while I am still a student, but future students will be affected.” Indeed, after the government announced  cutbacks of 183 million on higher education, different sectors of the University of Amsterdam were announced to be directly affected. In an email sent to the student of the Humanities and Social Behavioural Sciences faculty, a decrease in tutorial hours and in amount of lecturers for next year were announced.


A flyer from the March for Education reads “Struggle for quality. Struggle against budget cuts.” The rally started at Oudemanhuispoort and ended at Roeterseilandcampus on Friday evening. Raluca Dumitrache/ Staff Photographer

In 2015, students occupied the Maagdenhuis for over a month to protest similar issues. Doubt persists among people who wonder if the efforts will lead to a change this time. For Parvez, they will only get to make a change if they continue to raise awareness. “My personal experience tells me that no movement can succeed with one or two events,” he explains. “Back there (in my country) we’ll get beat up, with teargas and stuff […]. This (protest) is in that way much better, you can protest, negotiate and be democratic about it.”

Photographer at The Amsterdammer