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Angry Mediamatic to give away books

20 June 2008 - The tour of the popular El Hema exhibition will not be cancelled, but Mediamatic will give away its art books for free. The initiative is a protest against Culture Minister Ronald Plasterk, but it is also a way to create a social network of people who will take care of the books.

Last month, the Culture Council recommended raising Mediamatic's subsidy from 220,000 euro to the devilish amount of 666,000 euro, as part of a revision that would increase the national art budget by over 25 million euro. Since Plasterk has rejected the revision, the budget increase for Mediamatic is now in danger.

"Damn, this can't be true", was the first response at Mediamatic, says director Willem Velthoven. He says Mediamatic has an 'extremely large number of activities' on a budget that is very low compared to similar institutions. Last year, the institution worked with about 250 artists.

Much of the work is done by volunteers, including Velthoven himself. "For me it's just an expensive hobby. We're not going to be able to carry on like this".

Velthoven estimates that the national subsidy currently amounts to 25 to 30% of Mediamatic's budget. Other sources of income include EU and municipal subsidies and income from activities, such as the sale of products at the El Hema exhibition.

On a 'hunger subsidy', Mediamatic will no longer be able to manage its library containing thousands of titles on new media, art, culture and design, Velthoven says. As a protest, the books will be given away for free as of Saturday 28 June.

The Stedelijk Museum jokingly announced it will arrive with a wheelbarrow, but that is not what Mediamatic had in mind. The books are to be picked up by people who really want to have them and take care of them.

In order to receive a book, they will have to create a profile at the Mediamatic website, add some info on the book received and promise to oblige when someone else wants to borrow the book. In this way, the books are to 'enrich the social network'.

The action expands on previous work by Mediamatic on social networks. The Mediamatic website currently has 3,000 members, 2,000 of them considered 'active'. Most of them have an arts background.

The initiative to give away the contents of the library was inspired by the Bookcrossing website, which allows to track books that have been 'released' at public places for other people to find.

In addition to the book distribution, Mediamatic has now placed Google ads on its website, so as to show the possible consequences of its meagre budget, Velthoven says. It may also have to stop receiving school classes.

Mediamatic is primarily known for its El Hema exhibition, an Arabic version of the popular Hema department stores. In collaboration with Kosmopolis, El Hema will open in other cities as well.

Mediamatic. Photo: Willem Velthoven


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