Years of breakneck-speed gentrification has left De Pijp, once one Amsterdam’s most multicultural and socially mixed neighbourhoods, looking very different. Boutique hotels, concept stores, and speciality coffee roasters have spread like a rash, but the new art gallery that has popped up on the Govert Flinckstraat isn’t just another venture catering to the neighbourhood’s increasingly well-off residents, it’s the work of four young locals who’ve lived in the neighbourhood all their lives. The gorilla gallery is displaying works by artists Noah Latif Lamp, Jasper Korpes, Sem Julian and Ciro Duclos, who -together with their Copenhagen-based collaborator Santino Santillana Gamarra- make up the creative collective Indebt. “Mostly it’s fucking frozen yoghurt and juice bars here”, says Noah, but after spotting a small ad for a short term rental and winning the landlord’s support, the four artists managed to open up shop in their neighborhood, in and amongst some of the most expensive rents in the city.
The Indebt collective came together organically. “We’ve got the same interests, we were always in the same bars and coffee shops and hanging round each other all the time, so we just decided to start doing shit” says Sem. And displaying their individual works and creative collaborations in the gallery has already got them a lot of attention in a short period of time. One piece in particular, an iphone 1 set in resin, titled 0642764284 (a collaboration between Ciro and Noah), has reached about 200,000 people online and has drawn flesh and blood visitors to the gallery from overseas. The public can ring up and leave voicemails, or send text messages, and they’ve been doing so non-stop. Crucial to the idea is that no one can ever hear the voicemails, but text messages show up onscreen and range from deeply personal secrets to random nonsense, typical “internet shit” basically. Like most of the work Indebt produce, the iphone is a reflection on, or reaction to, the times these artists are living in. All aged 23 or 24, their childhoods were smart phone and internet free – they experienced the internet explosion as teenagers. “We experienced the switch and that’s why we’re reflecting on it so much, because if you grow up now you don’t know any different”, says Jasper. Their artwork is a lot about what’s going on around them: smartphone infatuation, the disconnection that comes with everyone being so connected, love for brands, and the major nostalgia that seems to afflict their generation. But it’s not necessarily a negative critique, they’re just reacting to the world around them.
In the gallery there’s been an 18k gold MDMA-filled ring, large-scale welded installations, art made from jello candy and carpets made with glow-sticks, straight-up portraits and some photography. Last week, as part of his long-term project titled Branding, Noah seared his own name onto his stomach with the kind of branding iron used on cows, or historically on slaves. He did it in front of a packed-out crowd, with everyone reaching up to record it on their iphones. The project is multi-layered, it’s about branding as in Apple or Nike, but also about self-branding and mental enslavement, and with the branding iron designed in the style of the Dutch East Indian Company it carries heavy historical significance too. They don’t feel they’re following in the footsteps of other Dutch creatives, like Parra, who emerged out of skateboarding or graffiti culture. “What we do, it’s not in that urban vibe, it’s straight up contemporary art. It’s fine art.”
Part of their motivation for opening a gallery was the Netherlands’ uber-conservative art scene. “In Holland, you have all these big art galleries”, says Ciro, “everybody looks up to them, to be a big artist you have to have a residency in one, and we just wanted to show that we could also have a spot like this, where you wouldn’t expect it”. All four agree that that the Dutch don’t know how to appreciate their home-grown artists until they’ve gone abroad and got an international seal of approval. “Look at Karel Apple and the Cobra movement, when they were doing their shit in the fifties, no one was buying it, first they had to go to America or Paris and break there and then they came back and then they were celebrated – it’s fucking hypocritical”. But the guys that make up Indebt don’t agree on everything. With Ciro and Noah studying Fine Art, and Jasper and Sem studying advertising they’ve got different plans for what their individual future’s holds. What is certain is that soon they will decamp their collective exhibition to Copenhagen. Their spot on the Govert Flinkstraat spot might be there another two months or another two weeks, no one knows – so go and check it out.
written by Zoé Neilson.