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We Are Here Collective
Elke Uitentuis (1977) is a visual artist based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. She rounded up her MA research at the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht in 2014. She got her BA Visual Arts at the AKI, Art Academy in Enschede in 2001 and her BA teachers’ degree in Art and Art history at the AHK in Amsterdam in 1999. From 2005 till 2013 Elke was part of atist duo Osterholt/ Uitentuis. Together with her colleague Wouter Osterholt she realized politically engaged community art projects at, among others, the Townhouse gallery in Cairo, the MAK center in Los Angeles, the Istanbul biennale in Istanbul, IASKA in Perth, Capacete in Rio de Janeiro and SKOR in Amsterdam. The projects Osterholt/ Uitentuis realized were most of times investigating possibilities to create a sense of commons and belonging within contexts that were heavily defined by hegemonic power structures. When the artist duo Osterholt/ Uitentuis stopped their collaborative practice in 2013, Elke got involved with the Amsterdam based refugee collective We Are Here. She founded Here to Support, an organization that strives for emancipation of undocumented migrants. Under the umbrella of Here to Support, Elke Uitentuis set up several educational and cultural projects that enable undocumented migrants to express and develop themselves. Examples are the ‘We Are Here Academy’, a school for undocumented migrants and theater play ‘Labyrinth’. In 2016 Elke left Here to Support to again focus solely on her artistic practice. Currently she is working on a graphic novel about fleeing Europe, an investigative story about human trafficking, borders and identity.
We Are Here is the first large-scale collective of refugees in limbo in the Netherlands. Based in Amsterdam, the collective was founded in 2012 in protest against the structural denial to the right of citizenship to its members. It consists of individuals whose applications for political asylum have been rejected but who are not able to return to their countries of origin, being deprived of their basic human rights. Together with artists, activists, and humanitarian organizations, We Are Here organizes shelter, food, education, medical care, and juridical assistance. They also investigate how art can provide space to reconsider issues of visibility, solidarity, representation, survival, and action. Former collaborations between BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht and We Are Here include projects with We Are Here Academy (2014•present) and Collective Struggle of Refugees. Lost. In Between. Together., New World Academy #2, founded by artist Jonas Staal and BAK (2013).