Speech by Dutch visual artist Jonas Staal during DiEM25’s official launch in the Netherlands on February 26, 2017.
Thank you for letting me share a few words with you tonight on art and DiEM25.
It has been a great pleasure to have worked this past period with DiEM25 organizers and representatives, Yanis Varoufakis, Lorenzo Marsili, Srećko Horvat, as well as Menno Grootveld from DiEM25 in the Netherlands.
Particularly I would like to thank artist Danae Stratou for putting art at the heart of this movement, as well as curator iLiana Fokianaki of State of Concept in Athens who made this dialogue with DiEM25 possible.
I speak also on behalf of my colleagues, architect Paul Kuipers, designer Remco van Bladel, my team members Younes Bouadi, Renée In der Maur, Evelien Scheltinga, as well as contemporary art center BAK, basis voor actuele kunst that joined the effort with its research on art’s role within this movement. All together we have created the design for this assembly.
The stars you see surrounding us, are the stars of the European Union, changing color. No longer do they stand in a circle: In this time of crisis they are changing constellation, seeking new relations and alliances with one another, just as we try to create new alliances through this assembly today.
The red wedges of the DiEM25 symbol, designed by composer Brian Eno, are surrounding these stars, reconstructing them, challenging them, changing their form and shape. These stars for us stand for a new union to come, a new union in the making. A new union that we discuss here today based on DiEM25’s European New Deal.
As an artist, I find it crucial to be present in this event. The current crises of the EU are often presented to us as political, economic, humanitarian and ecological crises – and they are. But I would like to add that they are also crises of our collective imagination.
The past years, we keep hearing there are only two options: to be “in,” or to be “out” of the European Union: the “out” camp has been claimed by ultranationalists and fascists, that which DiEM25 calls the “Nationalist International”; while the “in” camp has been claimed by the Eurocratic financial elite, that which DiEM25 terms the “Austerity Union”. The “in” and “out” camps seem to be opposing forces, but as Yanis Varoufakis has argued, they only strengthen one another and deepen our current crises.
Faced with these crises, it is crucial to reclaim our political imagination; our lives are about more than simply being “in” or “out”, than being “us” or “them”: we need a third option. Not just the union as it is, but a union as it could be, a union as it should be, a union as we desire it to be.
This for me is DiEM25. Not a dichotomy of “in” or “out”, but a collective investment in the imagination of a new union that will be. A union based on fundamental democratization, a union as a social project, a union based on transnational solidarity. DiEM25 refers to this as the “Progressive International” or the “Progressive Transnational.”
We are nearing the Dutch election on March 15. It might be the first election in the history of this country in which an ultranationalist party, the so-called Freedom Party (PVV), could become the largest party based on a platform of extreme nationalism and structural racism.
Are we going to be the generation that will allow this? Will we be the ones that allow the mantra “never again” to become yet again…?
Let’s not treat tonight as just another debate amongst many, because now must be our moment. Now must be the moment where we say collectively: not on our watch.
This is the time where we have to mobilize and campaign and vote so progressive Dutch parties will have key roles in forming our next government.
And this is the time in which we must look further than our national elections as well, for they alone cannot solve the global crisis we are part of. We can do that by becoming members of DiEM25, by mobilizing and campaigning for DiEM25, to make a new transdemocratic union a reality.
Not just a union. Our union.
Jonas Staal is artist and founder of the artistic and political organization New World Summit and the New Unions campaign, through which he collaborates with DiEM25 on the role of art in political assembly
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