Jonas Staal

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Jonas Staal (born 1981 in Zwolle) is a Dutch visual artist. His work deals with the relationship between art, democracy, and propaganda and has often generated public debate.


New World Summit (2012-..)[edit]

In May 2012 Staal announced in his pamphlet “Art in Defense of Democracy”[1] the establishment of the artistic and political organization New World Summit. This organization aims to provide parliaments for stateless political organizations that are being placed “outside” of democracy,[2] for example by use of so-called international designated lists of terrorist organizations that block their bank accounts and result in an immediate travel ban, relegating them to the “edge” of the political system.[3]

The first edition of the New World Summit, taking place on May 4 and 5, 2012, in the Sophiensaal in Berlin, hosted four political and three juridical representatives of blacklisted organizations, such as the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF), the Kurdish Women Movement, the Basque Independence Movement and the National Liberation Movement of Azawad (MNLA). According to Staal, his organization wants to explore at what level art can operate as an instrument to create an “alternative political space” as politics is unable to act upon the promise of what he calls a “fundamental democracy.”[4] The second edition of the New World Summit took place on December 29, 2012, in de Waag in Leiden, the Netherlands, and focused on Professor Jose Maria Sison, the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), both of which are internationally blacklisted.[5] Sison, who lives in exile in the Netherlands, debated several politicians, lawyers, public prosecutors and judges on his case. The 3rd New World Summit was announced to take place early 2013 in Kochi, India, in the context of the 1st Kochi-Muziris Biennale. For this occasion, an open air parliament was built in front of a former British colonial complex, but by order of the State Intelligence, flags in the parliament were painted over and three members of the summit were accused of material support to blacklisted organizations.[6][7] The fourth New World Summit took place from September 19–21, 2014 in the Royal Flemish Theater in Brussels, bringing together twenty representatives of what the organization describes as "stateless states," such as representatives of organizations in Kurdistan, Somaliland, West Papua and Azawad.[8] The New World Summit in this context also speaks of their work as the "art of the stateless state."[9]

In October 2015 Jonas Staal announced in different interviews that the fifth summit would take place in Rojava, a region declared autonomous by Kurdish revolutionaries in the northern part of Syria in 2011, and would include a celebration of the start of construction of a new public parliament developed together with the Democratic Self-Administration of Rojava.[10][11] The New World Summit in Rojava took place on October 16-17 2015 in the city of Derîk, Cezîre canton, and included speakers from the Democratic Self-Administration of Rojava as well as an international delegation, amongst which representatives from Catalonia, Scotland and the Amazigh community.[12] At the end of the two-day summit, the participants gathered at the building site of the new public parliament, where Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cezîre Canton Amina Osse and Staal announced the construction as a symbol of the Rojava revolution and of the friendship with other stateless peoples from all over the world.[13][14] According to articles by journalists traveling with the international delegation to the summit in Rojava, a second part of the New World Summit in the autonomous region is to take place in the finished parliament, early 2016.[15][16]

Together with BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, in 2013 the New World Academy was founded, which invites stateless political groups to develop collaborative projects with artists and students.[17] In 2014, BAK also hosted the first New World Embassy of Azawad, a temporal embassy for the unacknowledged state of Azawad, developed by Staal and writer and National Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) representative Moussa Ag Assarid.[18][19]

Art, Property of Politics I-IV (2010-2012)[edit]

In 2010 Staal realized the exhibitions Art, Property of Politics[20] and Art, Property of Politics II: Freethinkers’ Space,[21] in 2011 Art, Property of Politics III: Closed Architecture [22] and in 2012 Art, Property of Politics IV: Freethinkers' Space in which he researched the role of contemporary art in the political process. The first part took place in exhibition space TENT. in Rotterdam, during the municipal elections of 2010,[23] in which he showed the artworks of all parties involved in the elections.[24] The second part took place in the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, the Netherlands and existed of artworks that were selected by the liberal People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie, VVD) and the far-right Party for Freedom (Partij voor de Vrijheid, PVV) in their so-called ‘Freethinkers’ Space’: and exhibition space that the parties opened in Dutch parliament for artists that had dealt with religious (Islamic) censorship.[25][26] The third part opened in Extra City in Antwerp,[27] and continued in the form of a theater piece in Frascati in Amsterdam.[28] Central in the project is a thesis entitled Closed Architecture (2004)[29] written by the far-right MP Fleur Agema, number two on the list of the Dutch Freedom Party (Partij voor de Vrijheid, PVV). The thesis comprises a sketch for a new prison model, which Agema has developed during her master's degree in Interior Design. In the project Staal expanded Agema’s sketches into a fully developed model.[30] Moreover, it investigates the extent to which her earlier architectural work is the blueprint from which she now exerts an influence on current government policies, and hence the organization of our present society.[31][32] The fourth part took place in the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven and in art space De Appel in Amsterdam as a result of an open call made by Rogier Verkroost, politician for the social-liberal Democrats 66 party, and GreenLeft politician Jesse Klaver to immediately re-open the Freethinkers’ Space[33][34] that had been closed in 2011 by the liberal VVD and extreme-right PVV.[35] The creation of these new Freethinker’s spaces was supported by Staal and the museum.[36] Verkroost’s and Klaver’s Freethinkers‘ Spaces opened in September 2012,[37][38] followed in Amsterdam by a Freethinkers’ Space curated by Carolien Gehrels, alderman for arts and culture for the Labour Party in Amsterdam.[39]

The Geert Wilders Works (2005-2008)[edit]

From 2005 until 2008 Staal was prosecuted by the Public Prosecutors' Office for threatening Party for Freedom politician Geert Wilders.[40] This was the result of a project that Staal realized anonymously in April that year entitled The Geert Wilders Works,[41] which consisted of twenty-one so-called ‘memorial works’ comprising a photo collage and framed portrait by Wilders, white roses, tealight candles and a cuddly bear in the public space of Rotterdam and The Hague. Even though police spokesmen stated not to know whether the installations were meant as a threat or sign of public support, Wilders decided to report the events to the police as being a personal life threat.[42] Once Staal announced the work to be his and voluntarily reported himself to the police in Rotterdam, he was arrested and prosecuted for threatening a politician with death. Staal considered the trials to be part of his work and had invitations designed and printed to announce the court case as a ‘public debate’ in which key figures in the trial were presented as actors in a play entitled The Geert Wilders Works – A Trial I-II. The trials took place in 2007 in the Cantonal Court in Rotterdam and in 2008 in the Court of Justice in The Hague. Staal wrote his plea as a manifesto, which was published in the cultural section of the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad.[43]

Other projects[edit]

Staal often works in multidisciplinary projects, together with, among others, writer Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei.[44] In collaboration with him and theater group Wunderbaum,[45] he realized the project The Plays of Cho Seung-Hui: Richard McBeef,[46] a performance of the script with the same title writer by the American-Korean high school shooter Cho Seung-Hui.[47]

With visual artist Hans van Houwelingen and the Amsterdam Labour Party (PvdA) elderman of art and culture Carolien Gehrels he realized the project Allegories of Good and Bad Government in artspace W139 in Amsterdam.[48] The project consisted of a four-day debate from May 1-4 between eight politicians and artists.[49][50] In 2014 the collaboration continued in the project Beyond Allegories consisting of a nine-hour debate on May 9 in the municipal parliament of Amsterdam, during which artists and politicians debated collaboratively developed proposals on the "role of art in political governance, mobilization and action."[51][52][53]

From January 9-11 the artist worked together with dramaturg Florian Malzacher and curator Joanna Warsza to organize the first "Artist Organizations International" in Hebbel am Ufer theater in Berlin, announced as an assembly of “over twenty organizations, founded by artists, confronting the current crises in politics, economy, education, immigration, and ecology.”[54][55] Malzacher explained that the participating organizations were “all part of the current shift from artists working in the form of temporary projects to building long-term organizational structures”, followed by Staal saying that “Different than the singular commodified artwork, the artist organization potentially proposes a restructuring of social relations as such.”[56] The conference was reported to be conflictuous on several occasions, both towards the organizers, and amongst participating artist organizations.[57][58][59]


  • 2015: New World Academy Reader #5: Stateless Democracy, ed., in collaboration with Dilar Dirik and Renée In der Maur / BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, ISBN 978-90-77288-22-1
  • 2014: New World Academy Reader #4: The Art of Creating a State, ed., in collaboration with Moussa Ag Assarid / BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, ISBN 978-90-77288-21-4
  • 2014: Nosso Lar, Brasília: Spiritism - Modernism - Architecture, Capacete, Rio de Janeiro, and Jap Sam Books, Heijingen, ISBN 978-94-90322-45-8
  • 2013: New World Academy Reader #3: Leaderless Politics, ed., in collaboration with Dirk Poot / BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, ISBN 978-90-77288-20-7
  • 2013: New World Academy Reader #2: Collective Struggle of Refugees, ed., in collaboration with We Are Here / BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, ISBN 978-90-77288-19-1
  • 2013: New World Academy Reader #1: Towards a Peoples Culture, ed., in collaboration with Jose Maria Sison / BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, ISBN 978-90-77288-18-4
  • 2011: Art, Property of Politics III: Closed Architecture, Onomatopee, Eindhoven, ISBN 978-90-78454-75-5
  • 2010: Power?... To Which People?!, Jap Sam Books, Heijningen, ISBN 978-94-90322-02-1
  • 2009: Post-propaganda, The Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture, Amsterdam, ISBN 978-90-76936-22-2
  • 2009: Activism Doubt, with Harmen de Hoop, Onomatopee, Eindhoven, ISBN 978-90-78454-36-6
  • 2009: Follow Us Or Die. Works from the high school shooters selected by Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei and Jonas Staal, Atropos Press, New York/Dresden, ISBN 0-9819462-5-9

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Staal, Jonas (12-04-2012) ‘Art in Defence of Democracy’, NRC Handelsblad / Cultural Supplement Archived 2014-12-25 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ 7th Berlin Biennale video archive Interview with Jonas Staal on the New World Summit
  3. ^ Website New World Summit See ‘About'
  4. ^ Former West video archive (29-09-2012) ‘Art, Democratism and Fundamental Democracy’, lecture on the New World Summit
  5. ^ New World Summit video archive (29-12-2012) Keynote speech by Professor Jose Maria Sison at the New World Summit in Leiden
  6. ^ Van de Boogaard, Raymond (03-01-2013) ‘Politie India censureert project Staal’ / NRC Handelsblad
  7. ^ Van de Boogaard, Raymond (11-02-2013) ‘Jonas Staal in India aangeklaagd’ / NRC Handelsblad
  8. ^ Website Royal Flemish Theater (KVS) Full program 4th New World Summit Archived 2016-08-26 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Staal, Jonas (09-2014) ‘To Make a World, Part I: Ultranationalism and the Art of the Stateless State / e-flux journal #57
  10. ^ Domeniek Ruyters interviews Jonas Staal (16-10-2015) ‘Democracy without the State: Jonas Staal builds a parliament in northern-Syria’ / Metropolis M
  11. ^ Cohen, Mischa (16-10-2015) ‘Democratie zonder staat: het kan in Koerdistan’ / Vrij Nederland
  12. ^ Website New World Summit Full Program and speaker biographies New World Summit – Rojava, Part I
  13. ^ New World Summit video archive (11-2015) Video showing the international delegation, two-day summit and celebration of the construction start of the new public parliament in Rojava
  14. ^ Staal, Jonas (01-11-2015) ‘New Lines: A Parliament for the Rojava Revolution’ / Roar Magazine Archived 2015-11-30 at
  15. ^ Kluijver, Robert (December 2015) ‘The Artist Giving Stateless Syrians a Voice / The Art Newspaper
  16. ^ Keulemans, Chris (12-11-2015) ‘Charlie Chaplin is een Koerd’ / Groene Amsterdammer Archived 2015-12-08 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ Website BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht Announcement of the first sessions of the New World Academy
  18. ^ Website BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht Announcement of the inauguration of the New World Embassy of Azawad
  19. ^ BBC Africa (10-09-2014) "Embassy of Azawad in the Netherlands"
  20. ^ Website Jonas Staal Art, Property of Politics publication Archived 2015-04-04 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ Website Jonas Staal Art, Property of Politics II: Freethinkers’ Space publication Archived 2012-09-17 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ Publishing House Onomatopee Art, Property of Politics III: Closed Architecture
  23. ^ Redactie Metropolis M (19-02-2010) 'Kunstenaars onderzoeken politieke propaganda', Metropolis M'
  24. ^ Schröder, Rob; Staal, Jonas Art, Property of Politics documentary
  25. ^ Redactie NRC Handelsblad (31-07-2008) "'Vrijdenkersruimte' VVD en PVV is open"
  26. ^ 4Art, AVRO (2011) Ann Demeester in conversation with Jonas Staal on the Freethinkers' Space
  27. ^ Website Extra City 1:1, Hans van Houwelingen and Jonas Staal, Extra City Kunsthal Antwerpen
  28. ^ Theater Encyclopedia Art, Property of Politics III: Closed Architecture - Society as Prison
  29. ^ Website Freedom Party Curriculum Vitae Fleur Agema
  30. ^ Website Jonas Staal Documentation of the publication, film and maquette 'Art, Property of Politics III: Closed Architecture Archived 2012-01-18 at the Wayback Machine
  31. ^ Wensink, Herien (07-11-2011) “Opsluiten, uitsluiten”, NRC Handelsblad Archived 2015-04-04 at the Wayback Machine
  32. ^ Staal, Jonas (08-12-2011) “De samenleving als gevangenis”, Groene Amsterdammer Archived 2015-04-03 at the Wayback Machine
  33. ^ D66 Eindhoven (30-08-2011) ‘D66 wil Vrijdenkersruimte naar Eindhoven halen’
  34. ^ (12-11-2011) Klaver neemt Vrijdenkersruimte over’
  35. ^ Redactie Volkskrant (26-08-2011) ‘Vrijdenkersruimte VVD en PVV alweer opgeheven’
  36. ^ Staal, Jonas (15-09-2012) ‘Vrijdenkersruimte Vervolgd’,
  37. ^ Verkroost, Rogier (30-10-2012) ‘Zonder vrije rafelrand geen populaire cultuur’, Freethinker's Lecture on website D66 Eindhoven
  38. ^ Klaver, Jesse (17-11-3012) ‘Nederland als Vrijdenkersruimte’, Freethinkers' Lecture on website
  39. ^ Gehrels, Carolien (06-10-2012) ‘De Stad is de Vrijdenkersruimte’, Freethinkers' Lecture on website Jonas Staal Archived 2015-12-08 at the Wayback Machine
  40. ^ Vinckx, Yaël (03-08-2007) "Kunstenaar: Wilders mijn muze", NRC Handelsblad
  41. ^ Website Jonas Staal ‘The Geert Wilders Works 2005-2008’ Archived 2009-05-23 at the Wayback Machine
  42. ^ Redactie Rotterdams Dagblad (21-05-2005), "Foto's Wilders opgehangen in straten op Zuid"
  43. ^ Staal, Jonas (16-05-2010) "Rather a threat, than a marginalized pawn", NRC Handelsblad / Cultural Supplement Archived 2010-04-19 at the Wayback Machine
  44. ^ Website of writer Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei
  45. ^ Website Wunderbaum
  46. ^ Website Jonas Staal The Plays of Cho Seung-Hui: Richard McBeef Archived 2011-07-24 at the Wayback Machine
  47. ^ Van den Boogaard, Raymond (08-01-2010) ‘Script by shooter Seung-Hui performed’, NRC Handelsblad International Archived 2011-07-20 at the Wayback Machine
  48. ^ Website W139 Program Allegories of Good and Bad Government
  49. ^ Van Houwelingen, Hans; Staal. Jonas (21-04-2011) "Macht van ware woorden", Groene Amsterdammer Archived 2015-12-08 at the Wayback Machine
  50. ^ Lütticken, Sven (01-2012) "General Performance", e-flux Journal #31"
  51. ^ Beyond Allegories website Program and video archive of the Beyond Allegories project
  52. ^ Wallinga, Suzanne (18-05-2014) Review Beyond Allegories, Metropolis M
  53. ^ Feiss, E.C. (19-08-2014) 'On Beyond Allegories', Open! Cahier for Art and the Public Domain
  54. ^ Website Hebbel am Ufer Announcement first Artist Organisations International
  55. ^ Website Artist Organizations International Program and video archive of the Artist Organizations International conference
  56. ^ Hunn, Sarrita (12-10-2015) Artist Organisations International: An Interview with Florian Malzacher and Jonas Staal, Temporary Art Review
  57. ^ Gratza, Agnieszka (19-01-2015) 'Drama School', Art Forum
  58. ^ Hunn, Sarrita (16-02-2015) Review Artists Organizations International, Temporary Art Review
  59. ^ Degot, Ekaterina (Autumn/Winter 2015) ‘The Artist as Director: Artist Organisations International and its Contradictions’, Afterall