I was fortunate to had to wait for two days for a plane from Eindhoven (Holland) to Tuzla (B&H) on my way back from Creative expression to promote Human Rights workshop in Verviers, Belgium. I used this time, to go and check out Amsterdam. Another lucky aspect of it is that I could stay at my friend’s apartment, pianist and piano teacher Mirta Mehmedić, in Nieuwmarkt, the epicenter of Amsterdam. And as the song goes ˝Three´s my lucky number and fortune comes in threes…” she had Museumkaart, a yearly ticket for all the museums, that will come handy later in the story.
Amsterdam, the City of Deranged Cyclists
Now, everyone would assume that the first thing I did is to get stoned in a coffee shop. And the reason I am writing this is to tell you not to get stoned as soon as you get in Amsterdam. Coffee shops are everywhere, and you will smell them in every neighbourhood. The best thing to do is to plan a visit to museums in Amsterdam during the day and in the evening get stoned and check out the prostitutes in De Wallen (red-light district). But beware of the cyclists in Amsterdam, they hate your guts! There is a good chance that you will get hit or yelled at by cyclists in Amsterdam, and the reason why is because you are stoned tourist blocking the way while thinking about anal sex and checking out hookers later on. Or even worse, 70-year-old American bumping into another 70- year- old American bumping into another 70- year-old American bumping into another… and blocking the way and your speed of movement is like watching bullet time in the Matrix. It is much easier to drive through you. I personally chose to walk through the city so I could sense its flow but I ended up developing a reasonable fear of cyclists. And I am not exaggerating, you will now and then hear this bad attitude tourists, Eminem clones, saying “let’s get stoned and fuck in the ass”. Now you know why people of Amsterdam hate your guts.
The reason why I came to Amsterdam is to check out certain paintings in Van Gogh Museum. I needed to confirm visually the theory that I have about Van Gogh and Modern to Contemporary painting. My friend told me to get there earlier because of queuing and definitely to check out The Stedelijk, a museum for modern and contemporary art, and design. She also told me to take her Museumkaart and to try to get in all three museums with that, but she also warned me that people at Van Gogh Museum have been asholes since lately. I wanted to buy ticket online, but she said that it was pointless, for I would have to stand in que anyway. I got up early in the morning, around 8, had my coffee and then took a stroll from Nieuwmarkt to Museumplein. I really liked Amsterdam to the point when I started to love it more than Berlin, and that point is Museumplein. Museumplein is this huge park surrounded by the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk Museum, and the concert hall Concertgebouw. You can see it was made for the people to chill out. Beats Museum Island in Berlin with its real humane, let´s go there with the kids, feeling.
Van Gogh Museum
Van Gogh Museum is a machine to take your money. And I recommend visiting it first thing in the morning. Queuing line is shorter, and even if you have bought your ticket online, you will have to que. I was in line for about 15 minutes. I tried to get in with my friend’s Museumkaart but they politely told me to fuck off and pay a ticket. So I did, got in, ran to the first floor and I saw early paintings of orchards in Arles and than reproductions/ reinterpretations of Hiroshige and Eisen. And it is obvious, he really lost his mind when he met ukiyo-e, like all the other artists of that period and became something else. And no longer a painter in Western tradition, rather a reborn painter in Japanese tradition.
Now, don’t bother to bring camera to Van Gogh Museum, you will not be able to take photo of any Van Gogh’s work or have a selfie in front of your favorite piece. You can download hi-res photos of Van Gogh’s painting from VGMuseum website, but there will be no you in it. You can take photos of guest artists works in Museum but that is not what really interest you in VGMuseum. But I did took notice of Odilon Redon’s paintings in VGMuseum, and then later in Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk and I have to say that I am now really interested in his work as painter.
Great bonus to my visit of VGMuseum is Exhibition (Edvard) Munch : Van Gogh, where you can see comparison of both masters works. And at some points they look amazingly similar as if the one person was in question. As the morning was ending so was the crowd getting bigger. Around noon it was already unenjoyable so I left museum to have a brunch.
Again, I am warning you, shops at VGMuseum are selling Van Goghish stuff really pricey, even books that you can get cheaper on Amazon. I mean really over priced stuff, like Miffy´s Van Gogh plush dolls for ridiculous price. Come on guys, it is not bloody Hello Kitty and it is domestic product, so whatafuck?
Rijksmuseum, Netherlands national museum
Rijksmuseum was not on my to- do list for I am not a great fan of the golden age of Dutch and Flemish painting. The thing is they are having this Asia > Amsterdam Exhibition around town, some kind of retrospective of Asian art in Amsterdam with additional exhibitions. And the huge part of it was in Rijksmuseum, that already has a collection displayed in Asian pavilion, with additional space used in Philips Wing.
I politely asked at entrance if I could enter with someone else’s Museumkaart and they politely told me that I could 🙂 It looked like I saved some money, but the thing is, I actually didn´t. Because I spent it getting souvenirs and in this particular case I got playmobil´s figurines – the Milkmaid, based on Vermeer painting, for my daughter and two dudes from Rembrandt’s the Night Watch for my son. And yes, I saw the Night Watch, alongside a few hundred other visitors at the same time.
Unlike VGMuseum, Rijks has more user friendly approach. You can take photos of almost everything. Get surprised by discovering unusual art works in pathways or see diverse exhibitions from different ages, arts or regions. It would be great mistake NOT to visit Rijks. I am definitely planning to revisit Rijks in time to come.
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
Stedelijk is less visited museum and I think that is because tourists are not really aware of it. It is next to VGMusem, and it looks like this modern bibliotheque surrounded by students at its front. And it´s a real jewel of the Museumplein. It has mind blowing collection of modern and contemporary art, and design. If you are student of arts and architecture, this is the place to be. The programme of this museum is amazing and I had my best time here. It is really user friendly, definitely to come with kids and spend a day in it. While running through the exhibition of Modern artist, I was stopped by the sudden performance of elderly woman, most likely American (Reebok), continuously farting for 5 minutes, I even think that she relieved herself in front of Malevich.
Apart from amazing collection I have to highlight two exhibitions, ZERO: Let us explore the Stars and the Year at the Stedelijk: Tino Sehgal.
ZERO: Let us explore the Stars
ZERO is a group founded by Heinz Mack and Otto Piene, German artists, that exploded into international art group/movement. They did all the crazy stuff that you think Lady Gaga invented. Members of the group were Armando (Herman Dirk van Dodeweerd), Heinz Mack, Henk Peeters, Otto Piene, Jan Schoonhoven, Günther Uecker, Lucio Fontana, Yves Klein, Piero Manzoni, Jean Tinguely and my favorite, Yayoi Kusama. Exhibition recreates all major installations, videos of happenings and performances. You get easily lost in this exhibition of light and shadow. Exhibition features works from Arman, Armando, Bernard Aubertin, Pol Bury, Enrico Castellani, Gianni Colombo, Dadamaino, Lucio Fontana, Hermann Goepfert, Gerhard von Graevenitz, Gotthard Graubner, Hans Haacke, Jan Henderikse, Paul van Hoeydock, Oskar Holweck, Yves Klein, Yayoi Kusama, Walter Leblanc, Adolf Luther, Heinz Mack, Piero Manzoni, Almir Mavignier, Christian Megert, François Morellet, Saboro Murakami, Henk Peeters, Otto Piene, Uli Pohl, George Rickey, Dieter Roth, Hans Salentin, Jan Schoonhoven, Jesús Raphael Soto, Daniel Spoerri, Jean Tinguely, Gunther Uecker, Jef Verheyen, Nanda Vigo en herman de vries.
The Year at the Stedelijk: Tino Sehgal
Tino Sehgal´s staged situation was the best day to finish visits to museums. My head was ringing and my teeth felt numb from all the art I was chewing for the whole day. I was literally unable to look at anything artistical, so I had a pleasant surprise when I entered staged situation by Tino Sehgal. In October the situation was created over a meaning of Progress. I was approached by a little girl, from around the 5th to 7th grade of primary school, and in a really nice and fluent English she asked me “Would you like to be a part of Tino Sehgal´s work?” or something like that 🙂 And I said “Yes!”. She took me to the well- lit room with empty white walls, partitioned in several cubes, and we began conversation on what PROGRESS meant. Than we were approached by a high school girl and than I continued to talk with her, later on she left me with a man in his 30ies, who, while talking with me, led me to an older man, who, while talking with me, escorted me to the exit/entrance of museum. You can easily recognise pattern and you are really aware that it is a staged situation, but it felt very relaxing and fluid. I noticed, that during the day I was all day absorbing, and the thoughts that I had during conversation were my personal reflections on my day in museums. Although it was staged conversation it still felt flexible and natural.
The Evening/Nite at De Nieuwe Anita,
an cafe bar/underground cinema/concert and dance hall
After the art blast, I was pretty much for nothing else. My brain was too traumatised and I didn’t want to traumatize it even more with medicaments. So Mirta recommended a nice stroll through the city with movie in underground cinema. Sounded perfect and it was. So we went out, walked through the Bloedstraat, a transvestite red lites street, being early in the evening, only one red lite was on, with an Asian looking “Bob with the bitch tits”. The next stop was Red Light Secrets – Museum of Prostitution, and the only thrill it had to offer was for you to be taken photo of in red lites type of window. A perfect way to show your kids in future that, yes, you were and are an idiot. Then we went past by The Oude Church, that had tits as part of pavement. After this mysterious symbol, we bumped into The Condomerie, a condoms shop, where you can buy custom designed condoms. Surprise your partner with Homer Simpson. Than we walked and I saw lots of other cool stuff but my memory went on stand by for some time… I remember some caffe bar under the bridge, but it was not working, some shop with food and drinks from ex-Yugoslavia…
De Nieuwe Anita has this feeling that is best described in sweet voice of Tom Barman´s Hotellounge (Be the Death of Me):
You know this place,
this hotel lounge,
it’s my life,
it’s my choice,
and I’m in love with
Ricky Lee Jones’s voice.
Coz´it´s hard…to keep the dream alive!
The place where I could see myself in. We drank local beer called Mannenliefde (Men´s Love), it has to do something with sailors and love for beer or love for men, anyway it has caramel, citrus, lemongrass and some other mysterious spices, so it’s definitely sideways. We were waiting for the movie to be played in the back of the bar.
There is underground cinema going on in few places in Amsterdam, run by Jeffrey Babcock, who is your regular El Duderino, doing a selection of cult films or really bad bad ones. We were about to watch The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) with Vincent Price, a movie that has this Ed Woodish bizarre setup. If you are looking for misfits who love cinema and are ready to chat with you over beer, look for Jeffrey Babcock´s screenings. I loved how he, befor playing a movie, gave a background to director and story, but also broke the ice by screening one episode of Adam West’s Batman. It was really a pleasure to sit by the bar, drink beer, pop peanuts and watch this bizarre movie. Later on we continued to drink and chat but I couldn’t take anymore of Men´s Love so I switched for Jenever, a Holland gin (but don’t call it that way). I am not a beer lover, I am a man who can only control himself on drinks above 36% ABV. If I go below, I cannot control my drinking. And headache was not in my plan for the morning. So we had really nice, cozy atmosphere at De Nieuwe Anita, and if I wasn’t leaving tomorrow, most likely I would have stayed there till the early morning.
But we said our goodbyes around the midnight and walked back to the apartment. On our way back we passed by the red lites which were shining bright. And it was amazing to see how many flies these lites attract. But what really caught my eye, was this old Japanese couple, in their 70’s, trying to rush through the crowd, with their minimal steps, watching pavement in front of their feets, trying to erase images that surrounded them.
The Morning Coffee with Popara
In the morning I went to my friend’s coffee shop for a cup of coffee. The Greenhouse Effect is coffee shop near Waag Society, offering good quality ganja for reasonable price. Packed with good music, regular customers, it´s really good place to have your morning coffee served. My friend Alen, has been working there for the last 15 years, and we had this Pulp Fiction talk, about how ganja is coming back big time. Although I still believe in healing powers of Morocco´s shit and Bob Marley´s music. Better than any other antidepressive.
And that was it. It was my time to sit on the train (free WiFi) to Eindhoven, and fly back home. Lucky Amsterdam Central is just 15 minutes walk from the Greenhouse Effect.
Here is very nice video of the girls from the red lites in Amsterdam, please, watch ´till the end.