Project 1975

The book Project 1975: The Postcolonial Unconscious in Contemporary Art documents Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam's two-year research and exhibition project, the title of which references the year in which Surinam gained its independence from Holland. The Dutch cultural and intellectual scene has been marked by a curious dearth of critical engagement with the country's colonial past, and colonial unconscious. Project 1975 was an impressive attempt to remedy this at least to some extent, with a number of group shows, lectures, and a series of commissioned essays in the SMBA newsletter. I don't quite understand why some of the latter have not been reprised here, or some of the design decisions, but it is still a worthwhile documentation of Project 1975 - including a series of interviews, an essay on "Mapping Empire" by Ashley Dawson, and my own "Piet Zwart & Zwarte Piet."

The text revolves around two historical cases: Piet Zwart's original photomontage for the cover of Anton de Kom's anticolonial manifesto Wij slaven van Suriname (1934), which ended up not being used, and Petra Bauer and Annette Krauss's recent project about the tenacious phenomenon of Zwarte Piet or Black Pete, which landed the artists and the Van Abbemuseum in hot water for daring to attack "Dutch culture" and "Dutch identity." And yes, being able to use this punning title was pure gravy.

Images: the final cover design of Wij slaven van Suriname (1934) and Links Richten no. 9 (1933).