Jonas staal

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


New World Summit (2012-..)

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 by means of “alternative parliaments” a platform to 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 Sophiensale in Berlin, hosted four political and three juridical representatives of blacklisted organizations. 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” - three more editions have already been announced to take place.[4]

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

In 2010 Staal realized the exhibitions Art, Property of Politics[5] and Art, Property of Politics II: Freethinkers’ Space,[6] in 2011 Art, Property of Politics III: Closed Architecture [7] 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,[8] in which he showed the artworks of all parties involved in the elections.[9] 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.[10][11] The third part opened in Extra City in Antwerp,[12] and continued in the form of a theater piece in Frascati in Amsterdam.[13] Central in the project is a thesis entitled Closed Architecture (2004) [14] 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 Masters degree in Interior Design. In the project Staal expanded Agema’s sketches into a fully developed model.[15] 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.[16][17] 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[18][19] that had been closed in 2011 by the liberal VVD and extreme-right PVV.[20] The creation of these new Freethinker’s spaces was supported by Staal and the museum.[21] Verkroost’s and Klaver’s Freethinkers‘ Spaces opened in September 2012,[22][23] followed in Amsterdam by a Freethinkers’ Space curated by Carolien Gehrels, alderman for arts and culture for the Labour Party in Amsterdam.[24]

The Geert Wilders Works (2005-2008)

From 2005 until 2008 Staal was prosecuted by the Public Prosecutors' Office for threatening Party for Freedom politician Geert Wilders.[25] This was the result of a project that Staal realized anonymously in April that year entitled The Geert Wilders Works,[26] 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.[27] 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.[28] 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.[29]

Other projects

Together with Dutch artists Tinkebell and Daan Samson he is regarded as an exponent of a new category media artists.[30] By taking up distinct positions in the media, social issues are being broached. Staal often works in multidisciplinary projects, together with, among others, writer Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei.[31] In collaboration with him and theater group Wunderbaum,[32] he realized the project The Plays of Cho Seung-Hui: Richard McBeef,[33] a performance of the script with the same title writer by the American-Korean ‘high school shooter’ Cho Seung-Hui. Cho was part of a movement of young people that murdered their classmates, teachers, and finally themselves, and left a series of documents such as manifests and videos providing context to their actions.[34] By having the piece performed as exactly as possible, Staal and Van Gerven Oei intended to broaden the framework in which the meaning of the high school shooters and that of contemporary forms of resistance were discussed. Another collaboration took shape 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.[35] The project consisted of a four day debate, related to an exhibition and lecture series, in which four politicians and four artists lived and worked together during four days and three nights. In this continuous conversation, they collaboratively searched for what could be a shared agenda between both their disciplines, departing from the conviction that art and politics are intrinsically connected through their roles as co-designers of society.[36][37] In 2012 Staal and design collective Metahaven[38] announced to work in collaboration with former Green Party MP Mariko Peters and the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative on a software application entitled 0. [pronounce: Nulpunt, or “Zero Point”], a crossover between Wikileaks and social media.[39] The program has been designed to work as an instrument to mobilize an active civil force for daily government control, for example by implementing existing Freedom of Information Laws as consistently as possible.[40]


  • 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
  • 2009: Activism Doubt, Onomatopee, Eindhoven, ISBN 978-90-78454-36-6
  • 2009: Post-propaganda, The Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture, Amsterdam, ISBN 978-90-76936-22-2
  • 2010: Power?... To Which People?!, Jap Sam Books, Heijningen, ISBN 978-94-90322-02-1
  • 2011: Art, Property of Politics III: Closed Architecture, Onomatopee, Eindhoven, ISBN 978-90-78454-75-5

External links

  • Official website
  • Spaces of Conflict: Tom Vandeputte in conversation with Jonas Staal


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