Black Water

Black Water shows an obscured world in Amsterdam that will disappear in only a few months. In the middle of the new and luxurious residential area of Zeeburgereiland you will get an intimate experience of a space that was once “our common shithole”. 


A hidden space in one of Amsterdam’s main public works, to which all inhabitants contributed for decades, by visiting their toilets.Black Water embodies the origins of Zeeburgereiland. The three sewage treatment silo’s have been standing around in a desolate atmosphere for decades. Our intervention emphasizes forgotten qualities in our contemporary cities. Black Water lets you enter darkness, silence and absence. Contrasting strongly with the young urban neighborhood that surrounds the silo nowadays.


With the installation Black Water, RAAAF once again points to the unique hidden qualities and potential of 10.000 vacant public buildings in the Netherlands, presented in the Dutch pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2010. These buildings were constructed in different eras, with function, crafts and the use of materials being time specific. As non-reproducible buildings, the silo’s represent the current disappearance of irreplaceable affordances and experiences offered by vacancy in all our cities. Often it is forgotten that these vacant public buildings don’t belong to the real-estate market but are unique common resources that potentially could be available to all inhabitants in society. 


Black Water is part of a research project at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy into the relationship between visual art and new forms of social collectivity. Over the years RAAAF’s research has been supported by the Mondriaan Fund for Visual Art, Gieskes-Strijbis Fonds, NWO, BPD, The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), Gerrit Rietveld Academy, Sandberg Institute, and the European Research Council. We are grateful for all this support. 


Client: Rietveld Academy 

Team: Ronald & Erik Rietveld, David Habets, Daria Khozhai 

Photography: Maurcie Spees 

Location: Sewage treatment silo, Amsterdam

Status: temporary installation november 2021

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