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Dr. Janna Schoenberger, lecturer and tutor at AUC, recently contributed two essays to the Stedelijk Museum’s exhibition "Amsterdam, the Magic Center: Art and Counterculture 1967 – 1970." "Amsterdam, the Magic Center" opened in July 2018 and will be on view until 6 January 2019.

Amsterdam Magic City Exhibition, Janna Schoenberger
Installation view, Amsterdam, the Magic Center: Art and counter culture 1967-1970, 2018, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Photo: Gert Jan van Rooij

Counterculture in the Stedelijk

The show is a collaboration between the Stedelijk Museum, the Rijksmuseum and the International Institute for Social History. It examines Amsterdam as a hub of counterculture, ranging from photographs to sculptures and video clips from 1960s television programmes. In order to delve deeper into the exhibition’s content, the museum has created an online platform with articles, short descriptions of the included artworks and an audio tour of the show.

Drawing upon the expansive collections of the Stedelijk and the Rijksmuseum, the exhibition seeks to survey the results of the developments, happenings, protests and experiments 50 years later. Positioning the city of Amsterdam and its urban policies as integral to these tumultuous years, the show highlights how the city became a stage for citizen-led social change.

Ludic play and actions in 1960s Netherlands

Dr. Janna Schoenberger was asked to contribute to the extensive research on this exhibition in the form of two essays. In “Public Playpens and Women’s Catcalls: Dolle Mina’s Ludic Action”, Schoenberger analyses how the Dutch feminist group Dolle Mina embraced a form of protest using ludic actions: those that level poignant social critiques but are encased in playful, tongue-in-cheek humour. Although offering new ways of thinking and garnering mass attention, the humour, Schoenberger explains, may have ultimately resulted in their political message being misinterpreted by portions of the public.

In her second essay, “Hoepla: The Power of Ludic Prime Time Television”, Schoenberger looks once again at how ludic critique was implemented in the Dutch television programme Hoepla. Briefly lived, the boundary-pushing show was meant to provoke its audience in a digestible form, being deemed both “crazy” and “serious.” Schoenberger emphasises the astute use of ludic critique in the episode Hoepla 2, which became infamous for showing the first nude woman on television, but simultaneously drew attention to the tragic plight of Moluccans in the Netherlands in an era of post-colonialism.

In both essays, Schoenberger reveals that while ludic action made it possible to bring such social critiques to a mainstream audience, it may have also overshadowed the seriousness or, in certain cases, the urgency of the underlying message.

Dr. Schoenberger’s teaching and research

Dr. Janna Schoenberger teaches Global Modern and Contemporary Art at AUC. She completed her PhD at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Her dissertation, “Ludic Conceptualism: Art and Play in the Netherlands from 1959 to 1975,” explores the critical capacity of play during an era of pronounced social change in the Netherlands.

Beginning in August 2018, Schoenberger joined the Rijksmuseum as a fellow in order to further research the cultural atmosphere of the Netherlands during the 1960s.