Tuesday, 13 August 2013

A Report from the 3rd Futurological Symposium in Ruigoord, Holland

“Black sheeps from all classes united!!!” It is Tuesday morning, July 23rd, and Britta Lillesøe, a lively charismatic woman, well into her 60s, with a colorful draping around her head, is delivering her speech at the 3rd Futurological Symposium on Free Cultural Spaces in the church of Ruigoord, Holland.

She is representing Christiania, the project that she founded and led in Copenhagen, Denmark, for more than 40 years. Today, with more than 1000 members, it is probably the biggest “free town” in the world and now, like then, Britta’s revolutionary power and her firm commitment to creating and nourishing an alternative to mainstream culture is still alive and kicking!

Christiania together with Ruigoord, another free town squatted in the early 70s by a group of artists, intellectuals and free thinkers known as the Amsterdam Balloon Company, form the deep roots of the international counterculture movement that is now flourishing world-wide. Festivals, squatted buildings, occupied spaces, communities, eco villages are gradually weaving a world wide network of projects reclaiming their right to be free… to be different.

The Futurological Symposium organized, among others, by Ruigoord historical member Aja Waalwijk, is born from the intention of strengthening such network.  Among the participants are the Belgian village of Doel; ADM, a community of 100+ people living in a squatted factory building a few km from Ruigoord and host of the legendary ROBODOCK festival; Guslitsa, an artist residency community near Moscow; the Umbrella House a social squat in New York; ThyLejren a community in Jutland, Denmark, which sprouted after a huge festival took place there in the summer of 1970, as a “ripple” of Woodstock, and other smaller projects from Holland.

Boom Festival is the only festival represented (for now), and it has been invited in virtue of a long connection between Boom and Ruigoord dating back to the 80s and 90s. In those years Diogo Ruivo, founder of Boom, met the Amsterdam Balloon Company in Goa and later moved with them to Holland, learning from them the multidimensional aspects of event production. To honour this connection a symbolic “Boom Embassy” was opened during the Symposium, in recognition of the mutual friendship and support between the projects.

While the first day of the Symposium was dedicated to the presentation of the different projects, the second day a more theoretical approach was adopted. The intention behind the Symposium is in fact to co-write a Declaration of the Universal Right to Free Cultural Spaces, to be delivered in the near future to the UN. Among the issues, which were raised were the pros and cons of ownership as a way to avoid squatted places being evicted; the challenges of legalization and institutionalization of counterculture; the burdens of bureaucracy and a new non-dualistic, more tolerant approach towards them, the authorities, the police, the institutions, “normal” society, aimed at integrating “us” with “them”.

Maybe the time has come for the black sheep and the white sheep, to notice that at a closer look many shades of grey can be revealed.