Gentrification As A Strategy Game

Contemporary art and new media institute Mediamatic has invited us (Golfstromen) and 21 other Egyptian, Middle Eastern and Dutch artists and designers to explore the North of Amsterdam. We spent this summer mapping the borough’s visible and invisible locations, people and data flows, and research its history and future. Our collective work has resulted in an exhibition and gives rise to the first Arabic travel guide to The Netherlands. We created the strategy game Gentrification Battlefield.

“Amsterdam-Noord serves as a pars pro toto for The Netherlands. Apart from the pivots of Dutch culture – Hema, Bakker Bart, roundabout art and cargo bikes – it houses provincial polders, conventional townhouses, and the well-known Dutch multiculturalism. (…) It is conflicting and heterogeneous, but at the same time has a strong sense of solidarity and camaraderie. It is one of the most undiscovered, and therefore exciting locations of The Netherlands. (…) Since the nineties, artists and cultural entrepreneurs have been working on turning Noord into a vibrant cultural area, attracting nomadic artists and media companies alike. But Noord also has the highest unemployment rate, and the highest percentage right wing voters. (…) Whether it’s a town of its own, or a peripheral city borough, Noord is unmistakably a conflicted area.”

Ten years ago only a few dared to cross the IJ river to occupy an abandoned hangar. Meanwhile, the frontline of ‘gentrification’ has moved. The NDSM Wharf is firmly in the hands of the invading forces led by companies such as MTV. And also the car repair shops of Buiksloterham and Nieuwendammerham lose ground to creative companies with concrete poured floors and apple green chairs. To give insight in how the gentrification evolves, we decided to present the process as if it were a battle. In collaboration with animator Coen Rens we created the official Amsterdam-Noord Gentrification Battlefield Map. The result is an animation which shows a simulated isometric real-time-strategy game where the old and new inhabitants are fighting over possession of the land.

Amsterdam-Noord is slightly changing. Not everyone is happy with this. The battle of Noord is a fight between traditional inhabitants defending their positions, and new ‘Noorderlingen’ discovering this district as a new frontier. The NDSM Wharf and the Van der Pekbuurt are already taken over by the invasion army of hipsters and yuppies, but big parts of Noord are still left alone. What will the future of Amsterdam-Noord look like? Who wins Gentrification Battlefield? Play this strategy game with hipster Timo and his freight bike and Volkswagen van! Cross the IJ river and fight your way through the North. Or play with traditional Sjaan and her Canta car to defend affordable housing and save good old Dutch ‘gezelligheid’. But be careful: soon a secret tunnel will be opened…

The Noord exhibition at Mediamatic has opened on Friday 10 September and will run until 9 November.