The Archivist Speaks ... [11]

About the early history of V2_.

Over the past few years there is a growing interest in the alternative culture and music of the early 1980s. Examples of this are blogs like Mutant-Sound and No Longer Forgotten Music that have unearthed even the most obscure of the cassette-releases from that period. Recently no less than three books were published in the Netherlands about the the Dutch scene of alternative music, art and culture between roughly 1979 – 1984. The publication of these books coincided with an exhibition about punk at the Centraal Museum Utrecht, God Save the Queen, which featured, amongst many other things, the work of the Amsterdam pirate television station Rabotnik.

The history of V2_ goes back to 1981, when a group of artists squatted a building in Den Bosch and started to use it for exhibitions an concerts. Amongst them were Joke Brouwer and Alex Adriaansens. So it is no surprise that each of these three books cover some of the early history of V2_.

No Future Nu by Leonor Jonker is a history of punk and the post-punk DIY-scene in the Netherlands. As part of that it traces the development of V2_ from artist squat to an institute for ‘unstable media’ of international renown, and shows how the DIY-attitude still informs the activities of V2_.

Marijn Haas wrote a biography of Mike von Bibikov, a strange and hard to classify ads-writer, poet, performance artist, and spokesperson of the fake political party De Reagering (a pun on the Dutch word for government, ‘regering’, regeren means to govern, reageren means to react). Previously Haas had already written biographies of Dr. Rat – the now legendary original Dutch graffitti artist – and the Stadskunstguerrilla (SKG, City Art Guerrilla), a group of nihilistic intervention artists around Erik Hobijn. Von Bibikov, who seemingly was hard to miss in the early 1980s, also performed at V2_, for instance on Saturday 18 September 1982. One of his notorious actions took place in 1982 when artists connected to V2_ staged the occupation of the university of Nijmegen as part of a small exhibition, and declared Mike von Bibikov the new rector magnificus. The artists had put up posters with the texts like “Good Morning, this is a coup d’etat”. The atmosphere quickly became unfriendly, the immediate take-down of the exhibition was ordered, and some of the artworks were destroyed. (Later apologies were made by the university).

The third book is Ultra, in which Harold Schellinx minutely reconstructs the Ultra-movement, a kind of Dutch no wave, of which many visual artists (Rob Scholte, Ad de Jong), writers (Dirk van Weelden) and others who were to become important in the Dutch scene, were part. Joke Brouwer features in Ultra, as she was the drummer of one of the most interesting Ultra-bands, Minioon. Schellinx quotes extensively from a 1980 interview with her, in which she, surprisingly, mainly talks about biology and evolution – another ‘seed’ of V2_’s later activities.

The early years of V2_ (then in fact without the underscore) were partly well documented. There are many photographs, folders with press material, year reports and photocopies. A video camera was amongst the first acquisitions of V2_, and some good video footage of concerts and exhibitions survives. As an important hub in the cassette-world, V2_ released sound recordings of events on cassette. The quality of all this material varies (in all respects), and not all events were covered. And yes, at that time there was still a lot of painting going on, also at V2_, and there were many concerts, culminating maybe in 1985 when Einstürzende Neubauten, Laibach and Sonic Youth played at V2_. All of this was before the Manifesto for the Unstable Media – of which a proto-version was published on 31 December 1986.

Though the photographs were already digitized years ago, hardly any of this material was ever published on the archive website of V2_. Over the past few months we have ordered (again) more than 15.000 digitized photographs, scanned the print materials, and digitized old VHS-tapes. A choice from this is accessible on the website. So if you are interested in the Dutch alternative scene, the beginnings of V2_ or the alternative new media 'scene' from the 1980s, take a look at V2_events from 1983, 1984, 1985 – and later.

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