On September 14 and 15, 2019, the people of Utrecht gather at BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht for a collective endurance performance, The City Staircase. It unfolds in two parts, each as a six-hour relay of conversations with and between Utrechters about the future of their city.
The key architectural element of BAK—the staircase—lends itself temporarily as a staircase of the city. Much like in communal housing, residents come together on the staircase to deliberate on the concerns and joys that shape their relation with Utrecht, engage in radical listening to one another, and together advance propositions to shape the city’s not-yet. Broadcast live and recorded as collective, bottom-up, unsolicited advice from people to their city, this performance at the same time inaugurates Trainings for the Not-Yet: a long-term, large-scale project convened, with a multitude of collaborators, by artist Jeanne van Heeswijk and BAK, 2019–2020.
Trainings for the Not-Yet is an exhibition as a series of community-to-community trainings. It is driven by van Heeswijk’s ongoing quest of “preparing for the not-yet,” and her intuition that if only the extraordinary wealth of community competence generated from everyday life and ordinary struggles for survival could be linked up through training and learning from one another, the not-yet could assume a new, radical form beyond what is thinkable today. This seems of extreme urgency in a world shaped by multiple acute emergencies, especially the injustices and asymmetries of power compelled by ecological catastrophe and the so-called refugee crisis, as well as by recent technological developments and the violent resurfacing of right-wing politics. Vis-à-vis such acute emergencies, van Heeswijk has put in motion an immense, sweeping process of invitation and interconnection of individuals, groups, and communities; those engaged in struggles against the structural violence and unequal distribution of resources in today’s society. Bringing together a multitude of collaborators from various walks of life, locally and transnationally, Trainings for the Not-Yet becomes a continuing, rolling assembly of people, communities, ideas, objects, rehearsals, art, shared food, research, talks, politics, performances, screenings, “teachings” and “learnings,” as well as the manifold transversal relations among them.
The works by van Heeswijk, or projects she (co-)initiated, as well as those by numerous artists who have joined on van Heeswijk’s invitation, could together be seen as an exhibition in its own right. However, rather than an exhibition, van Heeswijk sees it as a training ground with learning objects (instead of objects of art), which gain meaning through their activation in daily trainings. Organized so the contributors alternate seamlessly between teaching and learning, the trainings engage radical listening, housing struggles, cooking and sharing a meal, dreamscaping, modeling collectivity, and pre-enacting the future world by living it as if it were possible.
Within BAK, Trainings for the Not-Yet is part of the ongoing institutional query into how to be together otherwise, understanding the (art) institution as a proxy—and indeed, a training ground—for a future world composed from social and ecological justice. Conceived as a basis for assembling around common concerns, and as a place where, in the alliance of art, social action, research, and radical pedagogy, alternative imaginings of the world can be not just envisaged, but made. Concurrently, Trainings for the Not-Yet is part of the research trajectory at BAK, Propositions for Non-Fascist Living (2017–ongoing), intersecting with two iterations of this research: Propositions #9: Deserting from the Culture Wars (November 13–17, 2019) and Propositions #10: Instituting Otherwise (December 6–7, 2019).
Convened by Jeanne van Heeswijk and BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht in collaboration with:
Laura Raicovich, Maria Hlavajova, Adelita Husni-Bey, Patricia Kaersenhout, Shumaila Anwar (Initiative for Diversity, Inclusion & Peace (IDIP)), Angel Bat Dawid (Le Guess Who?), Utrecht in Dialoog, Habiba Chrifi-Hammoudi (U Centraal), Joy Mariama Smith, Adrian Piper, Denise Valentine, Nancy Jouwe, Black Quantum Futurism (Camae Ayewa and Rasheedah Phillips), Chloë Bass, Beatrice Catanzaro, Kolar Aparna, Mehbratu Efrem Gebreab, Yasmine Eid-Sabbagh (Arab Image Foundation) and Hamada al-Joumah, Qanat, Jérôme Giller, To Be Determined (Clara Balaguer and Gabriel Fontana), Fran Ilich, Jun Saturay, Ying Que, Grace Lostia, Alejandro Navarrete, Bakudapan Food Study Group, Urban Front (David Harvey and Miguel Robles-Durán), Afrikaanderwijk Cooperative, Superuse Studios, Freehouse, De Voorkamer (Pim van der Mijl and Shay Raviv), W.A.G.E, Philadelphia Assembled (Toward Sanctuary Dome), Staci Bu Shea (Casco Art Institute), Laced-Up Project (Sarah Mobley and Maaike van Dooren), Whitney Stark, Carmen Papalia, Zein Nakhoda, Homebaked Community Land Trust (CLT), Britt Jürgensen, Marianne Heaslip, URBED, Homebaked Bakery (Angela McKay), Homegrown Collective (Samantha Jones), Selçuk Balamir (de Nieuwe Meent, Code Rood), Joska Ottjes (Vereniging de Kasko, Bond Precaire Woonvormen), Irene Calabuch Mirón, Ethel Baraona Pohl, Refugee collective We Are Here, Elke Uitentuis, Abdulaal Hussein and Paul de Bruyne, New Women Connectors, Stranded FM, Joram Kroon (Prace), Welkom in Utrecht, Gabriel Erlach, Ultra-red, Mustapha Seray Bah (Stichting Mowad), Goldsmith.Company, Extinction Rebellion Utrecht, and others
Find the full programme HERE
Trainings for the Not-Yet has been made possible by generous contributions by: Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science; the City Council, Utrecht; VSBfonds, Utrecht; BankGiro Loterij Fonds, Amsterdam; Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, Amsterdam; K.F. Hein Fonds, Utrecht; and Fentener van Vlissingen Fonds, Utrecht.
Van Heeswijk wishes to acknowledge Matteo Lucchetti, Francesca Masoero, Damon Reaves, Cease Wyss, Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, and the BAK 2018/2019 Fellows for their vital contributions to the development of this project.
September 14, 2019–January 12, 2020
Opening: September 14–15
BAK, basis voor actuele kunst
3512 TG Utrecht
 The City Staircase, 2019, collective opening performance and installation, was initiated by BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht and Jeanne van Heeswijk in collaboration with Utrecht in Dialoog, community organizer Gabriel Erlach, and the people of Utrecht
 Jeanne van Heeswijk, “Preparing for the Not-Yet,” in Slow Reader: A Resource for Design Thinking and Practice, ed. Carolyn F. Strauss and Ana Paula Pais (Amsterdam: Valiz and Slow Research Lab, 2016), pp. 42–53.