During my research and stay in Amsterdam Geuzenveld-Slotermeer I noticed that many problems and tensions in multicultural society have a link with language. For instance: on the one hand foreigners are pressed to take part fully in Dutch society and learn the Dutch language; on the other hand there is absolutely no necessity to speak Dutch. Your neighbours speak Sranan Tongo, your colleagues speak Turkish, and the cashiers in the Supermarket speak Moroccan: why should you learn this non-spoken language?
Yet, ‘inburgering’ needs you to speak Dutch. The question is not ‘why?’ but ‘how?’ ‘If there’s a will, there’s a way’, says the Dutch proverb. If you want to learn a foreign language, you can. I am trying to learn the sentence ‘Ik moet Nederlands spreken’ (‘I must speak Dutch’) in the languages the Dutch government uses: Dutch, English, Arabic, Turkish and Chinese.
The sentence ‘Ik moet Nederlands spreken’ reflects and criticizes current immigrant integration policies in the Netherlands as one-way assimilation, forced by a dominating but undefined culture. This ‘integration’ does not open doors or cross borders, on the contrary: it will cause more segregation and closure of different minority groups.
As a Dutch artist living in Amsterdam Geuzenveld-Slotermeer, I am an outsider and always will be, the 17th ‘foreigner’ who comes in and snoops around, never to be seen again. With this project I want to engage myself as an artist to be seen and to be seen again. I will learn a confrontational sentence in a foreign language in public.
One Sentence a Day Keeps Me Away is a project that shows my progress in learning these sentences, thus staging the differences between in- and outsiders. To make ‘outsiders’ ‘insiders’, inhabitants of Geuzenveld-Slotermeer are invited to react to the different episodes. They will be able to contemplate and talk about themselves as an influencing society and as a society being influenced.