Guest curator’s exhibition Brno Biennial 2012 A small and personal archive of the Provotarian movement in Amsterdam (1965-1967), as installed by Experimental Jetset.
"Walls and words, silk-screen posters and
hand-printed ﬂyers, were the true revolutionary media in May 1968.
The streets where speech started and was exchanged: everything that
is an immediate inscription, given and exchanged. Speech and
response, moving in the same time and in the same place, reciprocal
Baudrillard (Utopia Deferred)
Provo was an Amsterdam anarchist movement that existed for just two years (1965-1967), although its existence resonated for years to come, in the Netherlands and abroad. Through conceptual activism and speculative political proposals (the 'white plans'), the Provo movement captured the imagination of a generation, and forever shaped the Dutch political and cultural landscape. Part art movement and part political party, Provo was a loose collective, consisting of individuals with very different ambitions: subversive agendas, artistic motives, utopian ideas, concrete plans. Between 1965 and 1967, these motives and agendas brieﬂy overlapped, and created a unique movement. A movement that liquidated itself in 1967, in a self-declared act of ʻauto-provocationʼ.
In December 2010, Tim Voss, the director of Amsterdam art space W139, approached Marieke Stolk in an attempt to learn more about Provo as her father Rob Stolk was one of its founding members. Marieke Stolk also happens to be one of the three members of Experimental Jetset, an independent graphic design studio from Amsterdam. Plans were being made to present an installation in W139 revolving around the theme of Provo. A small, personal (and ultimately incomplete) archive, displaying graphic documentation related to the Provotarian movement. Through the impromptu installation, Experimental Jetset attempted to interpret (in a subjective way) the history of Provo and its post-Provo incarnations, with a special focus on the role of Rob Stolk herein, while reﬂecting on the notion of the printer as ʻauteurʼ, as well as the notion of the activist as an archivist (and
When asked to curate one of the exhibitions for the 25th International Biennial of Graphic Design Brno, Experimental Jetset gladly accepted, and after some deliberation, decided to reinterpret their original W139 installation - transforming the exhibition to ﬁt within a more international context, adding original material and new texts and translations.
Two Or Three Things I Know About Provo follows the ﬁgure of Rob Stolk (1946-2001), one of the main founders of Provo. Coming from a socialist working class background, Stolk was involved in activism from a very young age. His involvement in Provo forced him to become a printer; since mainstream printing ofﬁces refused to handle the subversive and sometimes illegal Provo material, he had no other option than to print these publications himself. Reﬂecting on this situation, Stolk often quoted American journalist A. J. Liebling: "Freedom of the press is for those who own one."
After the liquidation of Provo, Rob Stolk remained an important ﬁgure in various post-Provo movements, most notably in the early squattersʼ scene and Aktiegroepen Nieuwmarkt (1967-1976). In 1969, he was involved in the occupation of Het Maagdenhuis, operating a printing press from within the occupied building. Throughout the 1970s, he published the historical magazine ʻDe Tand des Tijdsʼ (Ravages of Time). In the 1980s and 1990s, he became one of the most proliﬁc cultural printers in Amsterdam, which he remained until his untimely passing in 2001.
As an addition to the installation, freelance curator Femke Dekker has undertaken a research project on Provo activity in Czechoslovakia in the 1960s. The results of this project will be included in the exhibition.
More information on the first edition of the exhibition, as it took place in Amsterdam, can be found here: