– Summer 2008

How to Become Dutch

Dieter Lesage

In a review of the second Johannesburg Biennial in 1997, curated by Okwui Enwezor (later artistic director of Documenta11), Armin Medosch reported Catherine David (artistic director of documenta X that same year) as saying in a private conversation: 'I am tired of this grocery-shop idea of identity. It is a very Anglo-Saxon notion: be what you want but stay where you are. I am coming from a very republican regime. I prefer the idea of citizenship to isolated communities.'1 Eight years later, in 2005, Roger M. Buergel and Ruth Noack used the quotation 'Be what you want but stay where you are' as the title for a show they curated at the Witte de With in Rotterdam. Thus, knowingly or unknowingly - who knows? - one Documenta director's comment on the curatorial work of another former Documenta director became the title for an exhibition curated by someone who would be the next Documenta artistic director.2 The title of the Rotterdam exhibition, therefore, could be read as a group portrait of a kind: De regenten van de Heilige Documenta.3

However, as the text that presented the exhibition made clear, the title 'Be what you want but stay where you are' was intended to refer to a certain concept of 'tolerance', more or less perceived as the specific Dutch modality of governmentality with respect to the other ('be what you want'), and, at the same time, to mechanisms of exclusion that go with that supposedly typical Dutch tolerance ('stay where you are', or 'don't come bother us'). 'Be what you want but stay where you are', if

  1. Armin Medosch, 'Digital Diaspora at the Cape of Good Hope', 29 October 1997, available at http://www.heise.de/tp/r4/artikel/3/3125/1.html (last accessed on 10 March 2008).

  2. 2 The exhibition was part of the series 'Die Regierung', which was hosted between 2004 and 2005 by Miami Art Central; MACBA, Barcelona; Secession, Vienna and Witte de With. In the discussion that followed the first presentation of this text at the workshop 'Die Regierung' on 13 January 2006 at the Universität Lüneburg, Ruth Noack and Roger Buergel confirmed that the title was indeed a quote from a conversation they had had with Catherine David, who was the director of the Witte de With at the time they were invited to curate the show.

  3. Or The Regents of the Holy Documenta.

  4. On 15 April 2003 van der Graaf was condemned to eighteen years in prison after a trial in which he admitted to committing the murder. On 26 July 2005 Bouyeri was condemned to a life sentence.

  5. Michel Foucault, 'La "gouvernementalité"', Dits et Écrits 1954-1988. III, 1976-1979, Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1994, p.655. Editor's translation.

  6. 'Wet van 9 april 1998, houdende regels met betrekking tot de inburgering van nieuwkomers in de Nederlandse samenleving (Wet inburgering nieuwkomers)' ('Law of 9 April 1998, stipulating rules concerning the citizenification of newcomers into Dutch society [Citizenification of Newcomers Law]').

  7. 7 Maria van der Vegt and Firie Suijker, Eindtermen Maatschappijoriëntatie voor het inburgingsprogramma, 's Hertogenbosch: CINOP, 2001.

  8. See http://www.bundestag.de/bau_kunst/kunst/kuenstler/haacke/derbevoelkerung/index.html (last accessed on 10 March 2008).

  9. 9 See http://www.bundestag.de/bau_kunst/kunst/kuenstler/haacke/derbevoelkerung/projekt/ bdebat01.htm (last accessed on 19 March 2008)

  10. See Pierre-André Taguieff, L'Illusion populiste. De l'archaïque au médiatique, Paris: Berg International, 2002, pp.22-36.

  11. I developed this argument in 'Populism and Democracy', in Lars Bang Larsen, Cristina Ricupero and Nicolaus Schafhausen (ed.), The Populism Reader, New York and Berlin: Lukas & Sternberg, 2005, pp.11-16.

  12. See http://www.nicis.nl/kenniscentrum/binaries/kiem/bulk/publicatie/2003/12/170313.pdf (last accessed on 19 March 2008).

  13. According to the World Factbook 2005, the GDP/PPP (Gross Domestic Product/Purchasing Power Parity) was $3500 in Indonesia, $4,200 in Morocco, $4,300 in Surinam and $7,400 in Turkey. See http://www.umsl.edu/services/govdocs/wof ct2005 (last accessed on 19 March 2008).

  14. The Dutch text of the action programme, as well as an English summary, can be found on the official website of the city of Rotterdam, http://www.rotterdam.nl (last accessed on 11 March 2008).

  15. 'Regels die een geconcentreerde aanpak van grootstedelijke problemen mogelijk maken (Wet bijzondere maatregelen grootstedelijke problematiek)' ('Rules that make possible the concerted solution of metropolitan problems [Law Special Measures Metropolitan Problematic]').

  16. This image keeps haunting me ever since I learnt that the concentration camp Treblinka had its own zoo designed by a Viennese 'expert', as the camp commander proudly told. See Dieter Lesage,'Treblinka Zoo. The Tourist City in the Age of the Global Concentration Camp', in Hildegund Amanshauser, Mare Pedanik and Hinrich Sachs (eds.), Trichtlinnburg III. An Urban Affair. Een affaire met de stad. Ein stŠdtis- ches Abenteuer. Linnajuhtum. Essays and Addenda, Maastricht: Jan Van Eyck Academie, 2005, pp.51-61.

  17. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire, Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 2000, p.201.