Be(com)ing Dutch, curated by Annie Fletcher and Charles Esche.
The starting point of Avant-garde Citizens is a series of video portraits/testimonies of unregistered people living in the Netherlands who have all been denied asylum once or twice. They also share the experience of having been detained in criminal prisons and/or in one or more of the detention and deportation centres in the country for a period of up to a year and sometimes longer.
The first video portraits are all set in the Dutch landscape, apart from one, where the person was ill and wished to be filmed at home. The camera was fixed, the videos shot in one take. From their displaced, deterritorialized and clandestine situations, Sam, Gennadij, Leyla and Mpia recount their stories in distinct personal ways. They talk about their backgrounds and motivations; why they left their countries; about their journeys to the Netherlands, their views on the country, Europe and their uncertain futures.
The number of videos has grown to include people who are involved with the issue in other ways, such as the activist Janneke. People from outside the Netherlands are also included: two refugees from Sudan living without papers in Cairo, and Patric, a young Cameroonian living in Douala, who tells of his two failed attempts to enter Europe by crossing Africa and the Sahara. In his testimony he maps these new clandestine routes, their particular economies and dangers.
The title Avant-garde Citizens was inspired by the essay ‘We Refugees’, written by Hannah Arendt in 1943. We would like to thank Inge Zwaal, Sam, Mpia and everyone involved for their collaboration on the project.