Photojournalist Sharon Avraham documented the story of ADM community, one of the largest and oldest thriving cultural havens in Europe, known worldwide for its 20 years of activities embodying social and cultural renewal and hospitality. The community, with people of all ages, nationalities, and walks of life, has transformed a disused, derelict shipyard into a thriving living experiment, sharing their space, visions, and creations.
More info: adm.amsterdam.
ADM, like many other historic squat communities, is a fertile germination hub for both the local and international cultural climates. Communities like ADM play a leading role in what is now termed the “Creative Industry”. In a city like Amsterdam, where thinking within existing frameworks, economic interests and clean sidewalks dominate the public domain, the ADM community has been developing an alternative society based on solidarity, self-organization, improvisation, nature and sustainability. But since 2015 ADM is under threat of eviction.
When I visited Amsterdam, I joined the members of ADM in a festival they organized on the banks of the IJ River as part of their cultural resistance. There, I met Eugene, one of ADM’s artists, who shared with me his story. “ADM’s existence is being challenged by the landowners who were previously involved in corruption within Amsterdam. Our community is being used as a buffer between the government and the landowners for capital gains, in the meantime we create space for art, festivals, music, theatre and wild ideas. “I spent the last 20 years squatting at ADM, before that I lived in another squat. I came to ADM and asked to join, they agreed. It was fantastic to see how organized everyone was. “At the beginning there was a dispute with the landowners and they would come with bulldozers every 3 months and flatten everything around. There was nothing here. It was an empty industrial place. “
Peaceful resistance by the IJ river.
Can you tell me what is squatting? “Squatting- it’s quite a heavy thing. It’s taking something from someone else and saying, I can do it better than you. “When you grow up here, society tells you: you need to grow up, make a business, make money. In this place we are trying to look at things differently; we are trying to show society a different way to live. We try to create a cultural space, and maybe the city saw it as something valuable and let us stay. After 20 years we learned a lot, we stimulated a lot of people. But life is dynamic, its changing everyday, and we’ll see what happens. “I feel lucky that I spent the last 20 years of my life here, it’s crazy… who would have imagined I could stay 20 years in once place! I feel very lucky.“
When visiting ADM, I met Maik, one of the squat’s oldest residents and founder of the famous Robodock Festival. “I came here at 1998, we were around 20 artists who squatted the place. In April the mafia came and tried to evict us. They came with heavy machinery and took a piece of the building here. They wanted to scare us away from here. The first months were a bit scary: there were even gun shots sometimes. “I decided to put this place on the political agenda, and retaliated with a cultural attack: in August 1998 I started the first Robodock, a multidisciplinary, contemporary art festival at the huge, rough, industrial warehouse of the former NDSM shipyard. “We invited artists from Europe and North America for a four-day event, to give all kind of performances- fire shows, industrial installations and multimedia performances. Everyone came to Robodock, from Larry Harvey and Marion Goodwill, the founders of Burning Man, and most of the artist who presented there participated here as well. “We built a giant metal art installation, had huge fire shows and theater acts; this was a radical adult playground. For years the festival grew bigger and bigger until we had to have a whole organization around it. “
“I am here for 19 years already. I was here since the beginning. We have all kinds of people here, from young anarchists to families with children. There’s one guy who builds everything out of scraps. He tears down everything he finds and arranges them into piles. Another one makes machines that use special frequencies to repair the energies; it has a radius of over 1000 kilometers. “There’s a new generation here of younger people who came and want to make a change”
When walking around the ADM shipyard compound, I stumbled upon a huge bus filled with kitchen equipment. Next to it was Marijn, who was kind enough to share with me his story: “I came here for the first Robodock, there was no trees, nothing around. I arrived to a party and thought to myself, what the fuck are these people doing here. “I was living in Italy at the time, and made art with some people. From there I moved to Amsterdam and at some point lost my house. The ADM people told me I could sleep there for a few days, and here we are 9 years later. “Here I discovered freedom, the freedom to express yourself in any way you’d like to. This is so precious. Everywhere you look there is a piece of art, it’s a huge playground. It’s never too late to have a happy youth, and here everyone can have a happy youth until the end. “The dials of the clock don’t stick in your ass. When you come inside here, time has a different perception; there is no real time, it doesn’t matter what the time is, you can express yourself whenever its necessary. “Time is something that the rest of society is really fucked up by. And that’s what is so beautiful here, it’s not like that. “Everybody takes on their own role- it’s more organic. There are people who like to take administrative stuff, some like gardening, and some like driving big bulldozers around and move big pieces of metal around.” Tell me about this bus “This bus is the first car that I bought for myself, I wanted something that I could put my stuff in. Thanks to this bus, I drove twice to the Balkans, making an expedition to cook for refugees and people in need. This bus is important to me as a tool. Apart from being my house on the road, it is a huge kitchen that can cook for 15,000 people a day. “I’m doing this because I can. I’m not that proud of Europe these days. I grew up in a free Europe, where everything was fantastic and peaceful, but this is not the reality in the borders today. I feel that my work affects the opinion of people about these unfortunate people who needed to flee from their houses.
Which is not allowed will always be possible. We will not go down with our heads down, we will create.The unfortunate part about the ADM eviction is that it takes time to build up a beautiful thing like this, and to make it work. It’s been 20 years now that we’ve been living here, so we have something going, but no way, no fucking way that if they take this place down our life will change. We will continue to do what we do, again. What is not allowed is always possible! We will not go down with our heads down, we will create.”
One attempt to put ADM on the social agenda these days: inviting the public to experience their unique lifestyle by living with them – for free! As published on their website: “Now, after 20 years, this vibrant and colorful community is facing the possibility of eviction. For the first time, we’re opening our community on Airbnb for people from around the world to get a firsthand glimpse of our alternative lifestyle – in The Papillon.”
“The Papillon (‘Butterfly’ in French) is a beautiful, uniquely modified ship. It was originally sailed by members of the community to the ADM port in 1997. It has since been overturned and transformed into a fire-spitting pirate ship, equipped with propellers. Artistically designed on the inside, you will find objects like a queen-size bed made from old pianos, a dining room with liquid neon lighting and obscure art sculptures. During their stay, guests are invited to create art – supplies and equipment provided. “
To learn more about ADM, its history and culture, and its current situation visit www.adm.amsterdam. If you want to show support, please share this story to make it viral, and help ADM’s campaign.
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