New World Academy (NWA), established by artist Jonas Staal in collaboration with BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, brings together political organizations invested in the progressive project of politics with artists and art students in order to deliberate about the possibility of art to constructively contribute to political struggle. Gathered around concrete examples of art and cultural activism at the fore- front of their respective cases, the first three sessions of this inaugural iteration of NWA are organized together with the cultural workers of the National Democratic Movement of the Philippines, the refugee collective We Are Here, and the open-source advocates of the international Pirate Parties. Each session is followed by collective public presentations, performances, campaigns, and exhibitions.
This informal publication, New World Academy Reader #2: Collective Struggle of Refugees: Lost. In Between. Together., is issued as a collection of texts to accompany the second in the series of these intensive workshops. It gathers knowledge from within the concrete reality of We Are Here—a group of refugees in Amsterdam who find themselves imprisoned by the interstices of the legal framework regulating immigration in the contemporary global world. Challenging this very framework, the group insists that their presence has to be dealt with publicly and openly, choosing the strategy of creating visibility of a problem that society otherwise prefers to ignore. Having created alliances with artists and appealed to the remnants of freedom customarily associated with what we call the “art world,” We Are Here has a number of practical propositions to reflect on the well-known political adage of “What is to be done?” It is this propositional ethos we would like to embrace in order to prompt what has always been the key ingredient art has had on offer for society: imagination. Imagination, however, not just for its own sake, but also for thinking through the world otherwise than how we got to know it.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank We Are Here, all contributing artists and authors, my colleagues at BAK, the partner institutions that have made this project possible, and of course the artist Jonas Staal. I hope this publication can contribute to the cause of We Are Here, even if—faced with the major challenges that have to do not only with human dignity but with the basics of survival—a book can do only so much, humbly and modestly.