Cityscapeeast is a project about (in)visible borders in urban city landscapes.
A project of Buro jan-ZE

What do we have?
A Mobile Dam square: a direct print of the Dam square in Amsterdam on cotton.
A installation "afvallandschap" (waste landscape) of take-aways ( garbage) on the Dam before and after the wedding ceremony of the Crown Prince Willem Alexander.
A scale model of the urban factor of the "Indische buurt" in Amsterdam.

To make a connection in time and space we want to make:
A print of ground zero on cotton,
An installation of soil samples around ground zero,
A diagram of the urban factor around ground zero Manhattan.

Buro jan-ZE, anetworkofchangingformandcomposition, which concerns itself with the question "how long is a thought", initiates projects and routes. It wants to make processes, thoughts, activities and spaces more public. Buro jan-ZE tries to create a movement rather than a solid place. Through its reflectivity it creates a transformation in already existing (semi) public spaces. The catalogues and books of Buro jan-ZE want to contribute towards consistence and continuity, offering a structure of continuous information. Projects of Buro jan-ZE are often executed by a team of multidisciplinary professionals, e.g. visual artists, sound artists, architects, writers, radiomakers. They work closely together without loss of their own specific skills and methodology. There is no end and no beginning. Only in between scores. The course is not completely mapped out. What Buro jan-ZE does is provided for by what is happening around us and what everybody finds important in his or her own life on the moment of collaboration.

Buro jan-ZE
Niasstraat 299
1095 SG  Amsterdam

Cityscapeeast, a traject of (in)visible borders in urban citylandscapes. A project of Buro jan-ZE.

Previous history.

In 1999 I travelled to Berlin. I wondered if I was still able to detect where the former wall had been. Being an outsider, it was very difficult for me, to get a clear drawing of the former position of the wall in my head. I spoke with Michael Turnbull (a composer and musician who was born in Bombay, raised in Hong Kong, lived in the East End of London and is now living in Berlin: a real immigrated Eastender) about my notion that the so-called east/west border was travelling eastwards to bite the far west: America, in its tail. Of course I was referring to the political border, no longer existing since the cold war was over. And the expansion of the 'western way of live and economics' due to the ending of that war. In Amsterdam (where I live) and in Berlin ambitious housing project are built in the eastern part of the cities. What is now called "der Mitte" in Berlin was twelve years ago the east. But did this border also vanish in the mind of the people?
Where they're no longer differences in thought, income, politics, religion and so on.

Living in Amsterdam I knew that a specific part of Amsterdam east, called the Indische buurt (Indonesian neighbourhood) was experienced as very far east. Strangely enough in a topographical sense this neighbourhood is not placed in the far east of Amsterdam. After interviewing a hundred persons at random in the street, I found out that they all considered by going to this neighbourhood a border was crossed. Many borders were mentioned: a waterline, a big street (traffic line), income (low income of the inhabitants), IQ of the inhabitants, religion (most inhabitants are Moslem), small scale industry (shops owned by people from Turkey, Marocco and Surinam), the houses
(peoples considered it as small, noisy and in a bad state), the amount of dish antennas attached to the houses, "border area" for the new lower working classes which were recruited from abroad, violence. Most of the interviewed persons considered it a dangerous place (88) and the were reluctant to pay it a visit.
I defined it as a "multimind" place, where cheep houses were available and small-scale industry was vivid. A residence for artists without artgaleries and hardly any bookshop.
With Michael I discussed the history of North European cities.
Due to the Industrial Revolution the cities in the North of Europe expanded their industries (harbour) toward the east. Why? Because the wind blows almost always from the west. So the smell of the factories and shipyards would give less annoyance for the city. The labourers to work in the factories and the shipyards were placed in cheap houses built near the new industries. Working class areas were migrating eastwards and with them the "new" labourers attracted by the work. In the beginning of the former century these were farmers from the countryside, but after some time people from other countries were recruited to work in the industries. The Indische buurt is the latest built working class neighbourhood of the beginning of the former century. It was in the east of Amsterdam and difficult to reach. One had to cross a bridge and a railroad and it was built on the former garbage belt of Amsterdam. So in the mind of the people it was outer space. The houses were built after 1901, after a law (woningwet) was installed to make sure those houses were built conform some basic rules. Of course Amsterdam built on after that time, but those new areas were no longer part of the same plan. Because it was the last neighbourhood to be built in this style and because of the new law, the houses were in fact much better and more modern than houses in similar neighbourhoods of Amsterdam (still existing). To give an example, the houses had balconies and were built around public lawns. Due to theft the houses were built on too few pile foundations. So the houses disappeared slowly in the ground. Therefore the area is largely rebuilt in the seventies and eighties. Strangely enough in the mind of the people the houses in this neighbourhood in the east of Amsterdam are considered of lower quality than in similar neighbourhoods.

During the Digital Revolution these "smelly" areas are facelifted. In London warehouses in the Docklands have been rebuilt into expensive private houses, the shipyards on the islands of the Indische Buurt are rebuilt into one of the most famous new architectural areas of Holland. Strangely enough inhabitants of that part of the neighbourhood consider themselves to be living in the centre of Amsterdam. There exists a border called "het Lozingskanaal" (canal of discharge) that divides the Indische buurt in north and south. North being rich, south being poor.
Since east and west never meet in Amsterdam (the centre is built in circles) I calculated the topographical centre of the built-up area of Amsterdam in 1999 with the help of the Head of Mapping of the University Library of Amsterdam. (I draw a rectangle from the outmost borders of building areas in Amsterdam and divided them) I did the same thing from maps drawn in 1914. I mapped the migration of the topographical centre. The topographical centre-point travelled towards the south and was and is still located east of the DAM square.

Most of the interviewed people however (80) say that for them the centre of Amsterdam is the DAM square with the palace of the royal family on it.
I even heard several times a story that there is a stone on the square pointing out the original centre of Amsterdam.

An idea developed in my head that every thought is built upon other thoughts and that they are standing on top of each other shoulders. Like little sugar cubes they built an unpredictable sculpture. Through our perception they form patterns. A wall, a tower, a castle, a paradise? One thought will finally be on top and glitter for a moment in time and space. Which thought is predicted by probability analyses and intervals, but cityscapeeast tries to visualise the sculpture of thoughts that is already existing in the minds. May be that influences the behaviour pattern of thoughts. Especially using the concept that feelings and thoughts are one.

The start of the project was an exhibition during the celebration of hundred years of existence of the Indische Buurt in Amsterdam. It was called: HoeveroostligtdeIndischeBuurt? (How far east is the Indonesian Neighbourhood placed) and concentrated on velocity of rotation and circulation. We got an empty wooden house from the municipal service just on the North-West edge of their drawn border of the neighbourhood. (May 2000)

The works
I will discuss some of the contributions because the catalogue of this exhibition is in Dutch.
The Amsterdam Municipal Archives have bought the catalogue.

Urban factor

With the architect, Helena Koning I discussed my strange rural notion I had visiting Berlin. Because of the heights of the buildings and the broad roads in between I did not had the feeling being in a big European city. She is an expert in angles and explained to me that at a certain moment working class houses in Amsterdam had to be built with a certain angular aspect to the sky. So the houses would catch enough light.
That's why, she said, you might experience a citylandscape as the buildings are high and the streets are narrow. Then you look up to the sky at a certain angle. The buildings direct your vision of the sky.
For the exhibition she developed a tool to express and visualise an urban notion. She invented an urban factor that is a fraction between the height of the buildings and the widths of public space. She measured the heights of all the buildings and the widths of the streets in the neighbourhood. She calculated that for a 1:1000 scale and made a diagram from the public space. What you see in the scale-model is the space in between the buildings. Were blocks are there is space, where there is space are buildings. She captured so to speak the space in between the buildings. The result was a three dimensional diagram. The difference between the public space left in the beginning of the century and that of the seventies and eighties were made visible and with that the rotation of built-up space during a century.

The action artist Netty Gelijsteen marked the border on the pavement of the area with a pattern retreated from textures in curtains hanging before the windows of the houses and from the street pattern on the map. The Arab culture uses specific patterns. Strangely enough they looked like the street patterns. Stamps were made by girls from the project 'golden scissors,' which is a project for female children form Arab background to get education. The mark was painted in gold, and so the area was surrounded by a golden circle, referring to the festivities and to the yellow marks were in the former Jewish areas bread was sold on Sundays. It had also a reference to mysticism. Which is also a vivid image in the mind of inhabitants of Amsterdam. The east represents wisdom, miracles, strange goods and new knowledge.

These representations were also reflected by the artist M. Pollen, who advertised and placed a prescription in the local and national newspaper how to built little boats from rice, butter and pepper and ask the visitors to bring their own home- made boat. This project referred to the spices and rice brought to the harbour of the Indische Buurt against the blowing of the wind by the ships from Oost Indische Compagnie. Goods destined for the rich merchants in Amsterdam. Now those goods are a common street image of the neighbourhood. M. Pollen wanted to pay honour to the names of the streets in the Indische Buurt, which are named after the Indonesian archipelago. The boats, mainly made by children, were placed upon a board, sponsored by a construction work company building the new houses north of the area. The boats were baptised with champagne and placed in the dumping canal next to the exhibition space. Because of the direction of the wind the board surfed eastwards. Birds and rats picked up the rice to spread it to different directions. Her fraction of rotation of usage's: (rice x grease) x (birds and rats) x (direction of the wind)/ import speed of rice in hundred years.

One of my contributions consisted of a model of an excavation of a futuristic urban area with buildings, a park, a harbour and recreation places. The model was made from garbage (take-aways) found in the streets, shops or exhibition spaces in Amsterdam east.
The town to be was drawn on a big drawing/ painting. Numbers marked on patterns of the streets coincided with numbers placed in the model. So the public could see were the thrown-aways were found. The association with garbage belts and referring to the fact that the garbage of nowadays is building material in future, is obvious. The town was only a fragment of the drawing. The drawing was an artistic translation of the concept of the exhibition. I also made a recycle crèche.
I will not describe other works (like the radio program of Martijn de Natris that was broadcast), because it has no direct relevance to the development of the project.

We continued to focus on patterns. The next exhibition was called "City Patterns" and took place at the service desk of the municipal service (this is a public space) of Amsterdam Zeeburg (the city counsel of the Indische Buurt).
The drawing with the patterns was seen, as well as an imprint of the stamps and the replica with the developed urban factor. Michael Turnbull made a cappella poems of sound patterns heard on certain spots where the Berlin Wall had been. During the time of exhibition we give lectures for the general public.

How has the project been developing?
Netty Gelijsteen, Helena Koning and Irene Janze continued to focus more and more on patterns in citylandscapes. We linked the perception of those landscapes more and more with historical events and connections. Netty Gelijsteen continued her work by making direct painting imprints of pavements in several neighbourhoods in Amsterdam to find out of there existed a line in patterns in space and time. It led to exhibitions and the improvement of methodology but not to anything else where the project Cityscapeeast was concerned.
The architect Helena Koning developed the idea of comparing citylandscapes in the west and the east. She had Manhattan, Berlin and Tokyo in mind.

Mobile DAM

Than Netty developed the idea of making an direct print of the Dam square on cotton, so she was in the possession of a MOBILE DAM (square). On the Dam important state ceremonies take place. During ceremonies the public is (partly) banned from the DAM.
As I said the Dam is considered to be the centre of Amsterdam and the centre of Holland. So she would have a mobile centre of Holland available for public events. She choose to make the imprint just before the marriage of the Crown Prince (Prince Willem of Orange) of the Netherlands would take place on 02022002. For this occasion the whole Dam square got new stones. The dam was cleaned and the patterns of the stones would make a fresh and clear print. The Mobile Dam could be used at the alternative festivities during the wedding day, accessible to everyone and the first exhibition of the Mobile DAM was a fact.

The drying of the cotton took place on the 'Connection Dam' in Amsterdam.


I mapped the garbage on the Dam before and after the ceremony. I made an outcrop map and described the garbage. Samples were taken and numbered. The evening before the wedding ceremony the Dam was vacuum cleaned. After the ceremony I took a ride with the cleaners and collected samples of the thrown-aways. There was a division in landscape and colour. The private part of the Dam, only accessible for the invited wedding guests contained islands of yellow and golden papers. The public part was a wave shaped landscape of orange and redwhiteandblue flags and papers, orange beer mats, orange Indonesian kebab skewers, plastic orange crowns, plastic orange balls, orange chairs, newspapers, plastic bags, piled up towards the fence. When the fence between the public and the private space was taken down the wind blew all the garbage to the palace. It covered the red carpet. The entrances of the palace were closed to prevent the occupation of the palace by dirt.
I will make a drawing / installation of the garbage landscape to show the garbage view of the wedding.

The wedding was not just an occasion. It was a connection in time and space that raised many questions.

To give an example:

"France on the phone. If I want to write an article showing the importance of networks and the exchange of information. But my mind is on the marriage of our Crown Prince to a woman from Argentina. Not just any woman, but one who sheds tears when an accordion plays a tango of a farewell to an old father. An old father? Yes, but one who held a responsible position during the dictatorial Videla regime. Or were they tears of grief for the poverty of 14 million people and the economic bankruptcy of her country? Somehow I don't think so. The catholic and protestant church officials, the Jewish Registrar - they all speak soothing words about the absence of mum and dad who were not invited to the wedding. A beautiful example of tolerant Holland. The father says he didn't know, and she doesn't seem to have too much eye for her people's situation. But appearances can be deceptive. We see the world according to the way we have been raised and what we have learnt in our peer groups. Me in mine and they in theirs. Will this marriage open new possibilities? The abolition of the royal family, perhaps? Or would that have been possible only of the Crown Prince had set his heart on Fatima Bin Laden? Will this union expand their views and ours or is it merely a consolidation of existing networks and ideas, nestling behind the security of well -guarded fences that separate the public domain from the private one? The answer's in the future. Not in the past. Three years ago four like-minded artists from the Netherlands and Germany consolidated their ideas and started a project: Cityscapeeast. The network Buro jan-ZE has since been expanded and reduced. It caused squabbles, impatience, long discussions, taking hurdles, insecurity, long waits, new unions and the breakdown of old ones, being open to new points of view, getting new energy and adaptation, love and arguments. Would Maxima, the brand-new Princess of the Netherlands, have had the nerve to say no in the townhall watched by the six million Dutch residents who saw the wedding on television? And Prince Willem- Alexander? Against all royal rules and organisation? Or was it too late and was their choice merely a YES? Don't we all have our own "royal families" and rules that decide our "individual" choices? Is our perception not made by our backgrounds and developed reflexes. We can only observe what we know. Don't we all say yes when sometimes we mean no? Carried away in a moment of passion, weakness, unease or indifference? How important do we find being able to talk to and communicate with other people from different backgrounds, yet connected in time and space. To open up our view. To be confused. To find companions, other ideas, enthusiasm, passion and inspiration. To make friends and a co-operation. To exchange information and images in stead of being locked up in our own small worlds of fear and prejudice. And yes, sometimes landscapes change but they will be rebuilt. I don't know where unions and networks lead. But I do know that Nelson Mandela was a guest at the wedding."

Connections in time and space

This brings me to our next goal of the project. We want to show historical connections and events in urban citylandscapes between the east and the west. Our next stop? Manhattan. As an attempt to expand our horizon and knowledge, to explore cultural backgrounds, to start an adventurous trip, to be able to provide artists and public with an optimal lengths of thoughts.
It is for this reason that the network does not restrict itself to an exchange of information on paper alone. The ideas and exchange has to be made visible in a physical way accessible for the public to encounter.
Being a visual artist myself, working together with architects, theatre-makers, sound artist and writers I translate ideas into (visual, sound, architectonic) art presentations, but the network Buro jan-ZE has an open mind for suggestions and contributions.

At what point is the project now?

Our work title is Urban Landscape Patterns.
The project wants to create mobile exhibitions. The idea is to travel from city to city, while collecting material for the next exhibitions. Not just any urban landscape, but those changes are connected in time and space in the east west dialogue. The first urban landscape we would like to connect is Manhattan. (Scheduled in 2002)


Exhibition of:
First: Role of banners of the Mobile DAM around ground zero, referring to the historical connection of the foundation of New York, which was founded in name by people of Amsterdam. The pattern of the stones symbolises building elements to give way to new structures and connections. Does the erosion of the Twin towers lead to an opening in time and space in stead of the consolidation of traditional patterns of thought.
Second: the wastelandscape - drawing and installation of the garbage of the wedding of the Crown Prince.
Third: the scale-model of the urban factor in Amsterdam (on print)

Collecting data:
First: a print of the changed landscape around ground zero.
Second: taking soil samples and mapping the starting materials around and of ground zero. Making a drawing of the base materials.
Third: the calculation of the urban factor of an area around ground zero. Making a three dimensional diagram.

The course after that is not completely mapped out. Who will we meet? Who wants to join the project? What will the comments be? What discussions will take place? How far will our thoughts stretch out? But we are not completely walking in the dark. In our minds now the second stop will be Hiroshima?

Hiroshima exhibition:
of the print of the consequences for the area ground zero (historical connection is obvious) or mobile dam goes to Surinam to rot away on a sugardam.
of the diagrams of Amsterdam and Manhattan
soil sample drawings of Manhattan and Amsterdam

Data collection:
print of a public space in Hiroshima
developing urban factor. Three dimensional diagram
soil sampling and drawing

And than Berlin?
Photoprints of Amsterdam, Manhattan, Hiroshima
Diagrams of the urban factors
Soilsampling drawings and installations.
Music piece by Michael Turnbull about the former wall.

Buro jan-ZE
Niasstraat 299
1095 SG  Amsterdam