Events — 1 Jun 2018

From the moment Europe became entangled in the migration crisis in 2015, refugees have been a central subject in European debate. But they are mostly talked about – in terms of numbers, figures, quota, costs. And in the rare cases when refugees are allowed to discuss rather than be discussed, they are seen as ‘token refugees’ above anything else. What if we radically reversed this? What can we learn from newcomers in Europe? Not just about them, but also about ourselves, our identities and our cultures?
Museum entrance fee
Mornings: several locations in the museum (private/not open for public); Afternoons: Audi Gallery 0.1 (open for public)
1 Jun 2018, 7 pm until 11 pm
Main language
Dutch and English

A Month at the Museum

Under the moniker Give us the Museum, author Arnon Grunberg and a group of artists and designers who have recently moved to the Netherlands will come to live at the Stedelijk Museum for the duration of the month of May. In the mornings they will act in several capacities, ranging from gallery guards to art restorers and covering anything from the marketing department to temporary directorship. In the afternoons they will work on their own projects at the museum. In addition, debates, performances and other interventions will take place while they are working in the galleries. Visitors will have the opportunity to engage in conversation with the artists, and vice versa. Grunberg will publish daily about the project in the Dutch national newspaper NRC.

The title of this project arose from several conversations between Grunberg and the newcomers. When he asked about the meaning of a museum to artists who had just arrived in Amsterdam, the answer was clear: Give us the museum and we will show you.

On the evening of Friday, June 1st, the project will be rounded off with a presentation of the works produced, as well as several debates and performances. Apart from addressing the questions whose – and for whom – the museum is, this event will be about what European culture is, and how much shared identity is needed in order to coexist more or less peacefully. Does Europe need clearly demarcated borders, and how important are they? Where exactly is Europe located?

Forum on European culture

The closing manifestation of Give us the Museum on Friday night, 1 June is part of the second edition of the Forum on European Culture (an initiative by De Balie & DutchCulture). Now that Europe is under more pressure than ever, leading artists and thinkers from all across the world gather in Amsterdam in order to examine European culture and identity and to collectively think about a shared European future. The Forum will take place from 31 May to 3 June 2018 at several locations in Amsterdam.

Makers Unite

Makers Unite is a start-up that facilitates encounters between Amsterdam locals and newcomers such as refugees, migrants and asylum seekers. Together they design and make sustainable products with a story. This co-making allows people to share their stories and engage in conversations and new contacts. Makers Unite guides participants into a next phase by connecting them to its network of partners in training programs, universities and businesses, helping them take the next steps towards work or education.

Significance to The Stedelijk

Since 2017, the Stedelijk Museum organizes a series of collection presentations and research projects clustered around the theme of migration. The Give us the Museum project takes place during the final month of the I Am a Native Foreigner exhibition, which features a variety of works that have ties to migration (including works by Miguel-Ángel Cárdenas, Ulises Carrión, Ad van Denderen, Nola Hatterman, Bertien van Manen, Otobong Nkanga en Wendelien van Oldenborgh). (Sep 22, 2017 - 2 June  2, 2018).  In addition, this project takes place at a turbulent period for the museum while it seeks to define its own relevance and significance to the community as a public-private institution. Accessibility and inclusivity for the broadest possible audience are crucial values in this.

Arnon Grunberg on Give us the Museum

"Give us the museum is a research project, improvisation, performance and dialogue. Is the museum a temple for the secular elite, or may that sacred place be politely desecrated by making of it a doctor’s office, hotel lobby, schoolyard, refugee center or fun fair?

Can you migrate to a museum? Can you live there? How does one go about dealing with the other migrants / artists there? Is the difference between the visitor and the artist comparable to that between patient and psychiatrist, whereby we emphatically note that the psychiatrist is also in urgent need of the patient? What does intimacy mean in a more-or-less public space? Is life more than just the raw material from which art is extruded? Is art the continuation of morality by esthetic means? Where does one’s own work end, and the visitor begin? Is the artist’s or writer’s model by definition only something used to make something else? Or is the model seen? Are allusions to current affairs merely more-or-less paltry attempts at relevance?

I hope that on June 1, 2018 I will come out of the museum the way one comes out of a war, a revolution, a book. Reborn, a man new and improved, perhaps irreparably so. In the face of high expectations, disappointment may very well lie in wait. But isn’t art the means par excellence for dealing with any disappointments that may come along?"

— Arnon Grunberg, March 2018

Participating Artists

Betul Ellialtioglu | Turkey | 1980

Lives in Amsterdam
Since her arrival in the Netherlands Betul has worked to empower migrant communities through art and culture. She was born in Istanbul where she was trained and worked as an Architect. Over the years she has incorporated photography and graphic design to express herself and engage with the themes of migration, human development, and participation.
A year after she moved to Amsterdam in 2012, she organized an exhibition, exploring the complexities of the Gezi protests that were waging at the time. In 2016, commemorating 60 years of Turkish migration to the Netherlands, Betul curated the photo exhibition Limbo, on forced migration, where photojournalist Emin Ozmen is following the trails of Syrians on their way through Europe.

‘Master,’ I began, ‘those that I see
moving toward us do not look like people –
whatever they may be, I cannot make them out.’
And he answered: ‘The grave nature
of their torment contorts their bodies to a crouch,
so that at first my eyes were undecided.

O vainglorious Christians, miserable wretches!
Sick in the visions engendered in your minds,
you put your trust in backward steps.
Do you not see that we are born as worms,
though able to transform into angelic butterflies
that unimpeded soar to justice?
What makes your mind rear up so high?
You are, as it were, defective creatures,
like the unformed worm, shaped from the mud.

Dante Alighieri, the Divine Comedy: Purgatorio, Canto X (Translation: R. and J. Hollander)

Carl Asali | Syria | 1996

Lives in Amsterdam
Started as a photographer, then tried to combine it with his huge passion for music, his photos slowly started moving, they looked alive, and he felt more alive. Now as an amateur video maker, Asali is intrigued and inspired by good music.
Carl’s vision for the video “gambling” is to give another point of view about migration, “relying on the fact that the more you let go and move on, the more satisfied you are. It is risky, but it is beautiful.”

In the video you see a creature accepting the challenge, and moving from what he believes its his natural habitat, to another environment. In order to achieve success, he must hustle, and move on. But he is adventurous, he likes it. But with time things start to become clearer, that the challenge was most likely seen from a very tight dark angle. breaking stereotypes, and showing another side of the story.

Christin Mussa | Syria | 1991

Lives in Amsterdam
Christine moved to the Netherlands in 2000. In the process of creating, she is guided by inner dialogues in which existence forms a leading subject that includes various themes. Those are made tangible by materials that are taken out of their usual function and are being placed in a different context. Christin uses materials such as latex, wood, plaster and plastic, as a way of communication with the audience. She entrusts her constructions in a fragile and rough state to the viewer and carries out the content of her work without making compelling statements.

Untitled 7 (I think, therefore I am)
For the project ‘Give us the Museum’ Christin allows herself to be guided by the famous quote: ‘’I think, therefore I am’’. By doing so, she wants to get rid of stereotypes frequently attributed to migrants and attempts to present her true self which is shaped by both the Assyrian and Dutch culture.

Hussein Fakih | Lebanon | 1985

Lives in Zaandam
Hussein lived in Beirut and worked as a Graphic Designer and recently moved to the Netherlands. As a musician, he appreciates improvisation and indeterminacy aspects in music. In the past years, he has been experimenting with noise, glitch sounds and manipulated audio generated from whatever is available around, music instruments, computers, second-hand electronic devices to create an interactive and expressive music setup.

Inside the curtains | together with Sally Samaan
In this work, Sally and Hussein are trying to simulate mixed feelings and complex emotions while evoking notions of home, memories, detachment and time. “Inside the curtains” is a representation of one’s immediate detachment from the surrounding, lost in faded memories, nostalgic recollections, hopes, dreams, and confusion. Through this succession of tense and paradoxical sensations, they find themselves trying to analyze this moment and shape it into familiar patterns to hold onto, before surrendering to it, contemplating and synchronizing. They chose to collaborate in this project and experiment with different materials and art forms to produce an installation art that aims to illustrate “the perception of the world in a moment of contemplation”.

Manar Al Sammour | Syria | 1995

Lives in Amsterdam
ArchAngel is a musical project found by (Manar Al Sammour, Amsterdam based) and (Fares Al Sammour, Beirut based) since 2014. Both come from a classical music background but also benefit from their experience in audio engineering and sound design. They aim to transform deep thoughts and feelings into chilled yet groovy sounds.

Manar’s performance at the Stedelijk is a live music set inspired by his personal immigration and experience.

Marwa Mezher | Syria | 1993

Lives in Amsterdam
Marwa studied Interior Design in the Damascus University. Currently she is studying a pre-master on interior architecture at HKU. She had two interior design internships in the Netherlands and a three month workshop at the Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam. The art style she uses usually is expressionism and realistic portraits.

Marwa is known as a very optimistic and active person. She likes to look at the glass as half full. In this work she wants to express her emotions to make a work influenced by the obstacles that she went through during her journey towards stability in a new country. You will see her depression, frustration, but in the end there is always a glimmer of “hope”

Mazen Al Ashkar | Syria | 1989

Lives in Amsterdam
Al Ashkar has a thorough belief that Art, -as a mean of expression, being developed since the dawn of humanity, and other than the visual/intellectual excitement it might carry- should raise a question, influence change, and widen our perception towards better state of existence, better value system, and a more aware human being. He states that "it is a necessity to re-value our surroundings and essentials elements, in order to fulfill our existential authenticity and accept the full weight of our freedom in light of the absurd". Having graduated from Damascus University, the Faculty of Fine Arts in 2012, Mazen started his further exploration, seeking various approaches and mediums from painting to photography, digital and video art, and experimenting with the contemporary conceptual methods.

Common Legacy
With scenes of purity and stillness, the elements gather quietly to emphasize the genuine value of what they are about, what they hold within, and what they can be. It is an invitation to breathe and rethink.
Here, water from Syria and the Netherlands is the container of our existence, legacy, and memory.
Inspired by a research of the Nobelist Luc Montagnier "DNA teleportation" based on Jacques Benveniste's research "Water Memory".

Moutaz Al Howari | Palestine - Syria | 1990

Lives in Netherlands
Moutaz arrived to the Netherlands in December 2017, after graduating from the Higher Institute of Theatrical Arts in Damascus in 2016, in his own words: "I arrived in a place full of chances and choices that require both, theoretical and practical knowledge. I am still searching for the suitable context, where I can experiment and reflect my knowledge.”

Al Howari is looking forward to continuing his research that includes workshops, experimental and interactive performances. For this project, he will be present at the Museum with a blank paper and will build his performance based on what he perceives from people and events through during the month of May.

Nagham A Assaf | Syria | 1988

Lives in Amsterdam
Her works come in a variety of mediums, including drawing, painting, mixed media, and printmaking, embracing several areas of contemporary art practices. The way the human presence interacts with the space around it in her works reflects how she saw it, being isolated, oppressed and put under different kinds of pressure by the social judgment system. Nagham holds a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Damascus, the city where she was raised and lived until 2018.

Forces that pressure our geo position, as well as our understanding of land and stability, the need to feel rooted in a place. Do we choose to move? Did the square keep holding it's meanings of stability and prosperity? Is it any more a foundation stone of a civilization? And for us who are standing on this square? How will that re-shape us? In this work, the artist is questioning all that, and inviting the audience to experience a bit of a dark sense of playfulness.

Nasam Aboud | Syria | 1991

Lives in Amsterdam
During the war, she traveled between Syria and Lebanon in search of a window to express and practice her art. Now she lives in Amsterdam and tries to establish (Hybrid Warsheh) lab with two friends. In her words: “Art generally does not claim the truth or its formulation, and not to what extent it may be compatible with it. The truth has to acquire us gradually, in this conceptualistic artwork, I attempt to make human dimensions manifest, an attempt to create new morals and new ladders, and it is also a window to throw people toward other people.”

Falling into Nothingness
The concept | Falling into Nothingness | is about those moments in a person’s life when the world you know is falling to pieces, when the usual rules no longer apply, when everything familiar to you crumbles. Here we ask: how does it feel? How will you deal with it? How will you give it a shape? A succession of avant-garde movements, analyzing in self-consciously expanding the boundaries of the diaspora. Furthermore attempting to find an identity for this migrant in the museum. 

Noor Issa | Syria | 1994

Lives in Haarlem
Noor was born in Damascus, Syria in 1994. Started to study at the Faculty of Fine Arts, the Damascus University, but had to flee Syria because of the conflict. She lived in Istanbul for almost 2 years, painting and volunteering as an art teacher for kids. She came to the Netherlands in the end of 2014, where she started her orientation year at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam and she will continue her studies in art.
Noor Issa experiments different approaches to art expressing her ideas and feelings. Participated in exhibitions in the Netherlands and abroad, “the Known and the Unknown (solo exhibition)”, “Borders and Boundaries” and “Where are you from”. Her work is inspired by personal experiences she has lived and still living today.

Take A Piece of Me
An interactive performance aims to encourage people on making simple moves to break the walls of primary judgements based on first importation. Will you stand and watch or will you come closer, take a piece of me and discover the real me?

Odai Al Krede | Syria | 1992

Lives in Amsterdam
“Photography is my passion and the dreamy side of me.”
Odai has begun to work with landscapes influenced by his ups and downs, and the condition around him to start focusing on capturing the moment and the emotions behind it. He uses photography as a mean to document the world around him. His goal is to use the camera as way to discover an unexpected world, new relationships, new chances and most importantly new stories.

Odai’s choice of subjects come from his interest in ideas about emotional connections, capturing moments and views, focusing on details, trying to document some decisions and obstacles, and make emotional stories behind the photos. Odai will be documenting the daily work for the artist's in this project.

Oussama Diab | Syria | 1977

Lives in Amsterdam
Palestinian artist Oussama Diab applies a conceptual approach to painting by exploiting the stylistic variants of the medium as emotive prompts in order to explore how form can articulate the urgency of sociopolitical issues. In an age where digital media have taken a dominant role in filtering our everyday experiences and the construction of imagery has become integral to the negotiation of modern life, Diab addresses the contradictions and obstacles of political conflict, globalisation, and exile through playful symbolism, references to popular culture, iconic imagery, and narrative structures. With each new series, he adopts a different painting style, reflecting the impermanent nature of art as it becomes increasingly conceptual and further dematerialised.

In his words: “Inspired by a memory I have abandoned for a thought of migration, that was an obligation more than a choice, drew new features for me, turned me into a more anxious being in this new world, it’s not a choice anymore, my memories are stronger now, and my heart is still there. Today more than ever I’ve become unknown to myself. Faces I’ve left behind appear to me every day before I sleep. Here, my memory is getting stronger remembering all the details of these faces.”

Raafat Ballan | Syria | 1990

Lives in Utrecht
Ballans paintings are semi-figurative expressions, realistic enough to recognize, but strange enough to feel the distance. You can see something complicated, layered, mixed, someone not easy to understand. Something perhaps human - not male or female, ugly or beautiful. Ballan uses faces as a way to forge a direct connection with the viewer, though a face hides as much as it shows. Ballan presents the huge and complex hidden reality and emotions which are behind the faces in the subjects he is portraying.

Art is available for all
To express emotions, different than with words, is highly important according to Ballan, especially for people who experienced war or any kind of conflict. That’s why he is giving art workshops. “Art and making art, should be available for everyone and be used as a tool to process emotions”. At the same time Ballan emphasizes on playfulness and enjoyment during the workshops and let people feel at ease. “I try to use art to help people connect with themselves and others”.

Saéd Fanari | Syria | 1970

Lives in Amsterdam
Concept designer, artist, painter and photographer, who moved from Aleppo to Amsterdam, willing to transfer the feeling of optimism, through his canvas’ bright colours and fresh form. Having studied (artistic design) Fanari has worked for twenty-five years as a creator/concept designer, which created a solid base and a tangible impact on his artworks and paintings later on.
Started with Impressionism, moved then to abstract art, passing Rayonism and Futurism styles, influenced by art masters such as “Theo van Doesburg” and “Piet Mondrian”, in a constant searching for his visual/artistic own identity. Powerful colours, iconic depth, inherent balance and harmony, are the components that reveal Fanari’s visual sense, and the subjects of his paintings lay in three areas:

Nostalgia, Identity, Diversity
Having had a dual wings: fragrant/authentic Orient and modern/productive West, gave him a real impactful inspiration, which has been combined with his life’s coloured occasions, which inhabited his heart, both the painful and bright of them, reflected in his work’s interactive moods and tones, melts in an interesting and composite outcome in the viewer eyes.

Sally Samaan | Syria | 1988

Lives in Zaandam
Sally’s artwork takes a humane point of view, with a focus on sense and sentiment which is expressed in her work simply with a point, a line and a shape. Inspired by microorganisms, she tries to mutate and transform those shapes in order to create new structures. She always enjoyed decomposing such forms, it gives her sense of the truth of being when arranging them into new conceptually layered pieces. While she uses a variety of materials and processes in each project. She doesn’t believe the medium is a problem, but rather the concept. Although there may not always be similarities between the materials used in different projects - they are linked by recurring concerns and the subject matter. The concept of each body of work determines the materials and the forms of work.

Inside the curtains | together with Hussein Fakih
In this work, Sally and Hussein are trying to simulate mixed feelings and complex emotions while evoking notions of home, memories, detachment and time. “Inside the curtains” is a representation of one’s immediate detachment from the surrounding, lost in faded memories, nostalgic recollections, hopes, dreams, and confusion. Through this succession of tense and paradoxical sensations, they find themselves trying to analyze this moment and shape it into familiar patterns to hold onto, before surrendering to it, contemplating and synchronizing. They chose to collaborate in this project and experiment with different materials and art forms to produce an installation art that aims to illustrate “the perception of the world in a moment of contemplation”.

Yazan Maksoud | Syria | 1988

Lives in Amsterdam
Yazan’s art practice is mostly towards sculpture and design, he believes that art can deliver effective social messages and create change, therefore he always tries to translate these messages beginning from his visual approach towards mass and form, to experimenting into adding a multisensory-based connection to it. Intrigued by the issue of patriarchy, itś effects on our societies, therefore he works towards changing stereotypes where women are seen through, hoping for a more rhythmic society.

They are still there
The light was seeping through. We knew something better was there for us in the future, but not yet, for now, we had to wait. These black boxes perfectly capture our situation there. We were physically safe, we were alive, and yet we couldn’t live. We were in a liminal state, suspended on a threshold for a period of time.
The Installation is an attempt to create an intimate state through which you can touch this period and all the worries that the refugees have to live. The paintings are made of materials we used to consume on a daily basis (tea, coffee, etc.,) during that liminal period.


Give Us the Museum is organized together with Nagham A Assaf, Nasam Abboud, Mazen Al Ashkar, Moutaz Alhowari, Odai Al Krede, Manar Al Sammour, Carl Asali, Raafat Ballan, Oussama Diab, Betul Ellialtioglu, Hussein Fakih, Saèd Fanari, Arnon Grunberg, Noor Issa, Yazan Maksoud, Marwa Mezher, Christin Mussa and Sally Samaan, invited by the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, in collaboration with Makers Unite and Forum on European Culture. Curation: Betul Ellialtioglu, Mazen Al Ashkar and Yazan Maksoud. Installation design in collaboration with Marieke Schoonderbeek and Eva Pel from Buro Lanzarote.