Red Window Talk: Red Light Heritage

21 June 2023

8:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.

Join us on 21 June to discuss the history and future of sex work in the Red Light District.

book tickets

Invite someone along

In 2018, the installation of a red stained-glass window in one of the Oude Kerk's chapels caused a fierce public debate and a years-long legal dispute. The commotion surrounding the work Anastasis by artist Giorgio Andreotta Calò raised the question of how contemporary art fits into an ancient monument. Since then, every year, on the longest day of the year, we talk about the relationship between heritage and art.

This edition, we zoom out and delve deeper into the neighbourhood, together with guest curator Julia Visser of Red Light Heritage. We talk about the historical presence of sex work in the neighbourhood, how it is under pressure, and how the claim to heritage by local sex workers and sex work activists challenges current understandings of heritage.

OUDE KERK LEZING 21 06 20190052l


Angelo Custódio unknown springs - sonic poem for the disruptive power of desire
Julia Visser
 Guest curator's talk of project Red Light Heritage
Anna Torres
Graduating Architect AHK - presentation XXX Re-Sexifying Amsterdam's Red Light District
Amber Sikkema
Graduating Architect TU Delft - presentation project
Panel Talk
with Anna Torres, Amber Sikkema, Violet Vintage (Prostitution Information Center) and Marianna van der Zwaag, curator of the Oude Kerk.

More about the speakers

Anna Torres
is an architect and artist based in Amsterdam. Her work focuses on issues of spatial justice, feminism and sexuality in public urban spaces.
After completing a Bachelor’s in Architecture at the University of Montreal (Canada), Torres graduated from the Amsterdam Academy of Architecture in 2022 with the project XXX: Resexifying Amsterdam's Red Light District. Currently, she works as a guest teacher at the Amsterdam Academy of Architecture and run my own practice at the intersection of art, architecture, activism and research. Read here more about the graduation project. 

Amber Sikkema is an architecture student at TU Delft and is in the final stages of completing her master's degree. Her current research focuses on the integration of sex work in the Wallen area. Being a resident of this neighborhood she experiences the many different faces of the neighborhood and got inspired by the community living together here. Her thesis revolves around exploring the intricate relationship between the windows, sex workers, and the neighborhood itself. After observing the historical transformation of this relationship, she noticed how the windows slowly started to shrink and disappear. Since sex work is an inherent part of society, she believes that it deserves recognition and integration in the city and argues that the disappearance of the windows poses a challenge to the social position and acceptance of sex workers. In response, rather than focusing on saving the sex workers, she emphasizes the preservation of the windows instead. Something that could be done by rethinking the approach in which we are currently preserving our cultural heritage. In her work, she aims to shed light on the social dynamics within the neighborhood and proposes innovative architectural and urban design strategies that aim to ensure both material and social characteristics of the Wallen.

Angelo Custódio
is a research based artist working with voice and performance. He creates sonic based experiences from a crip~queer perspective, informed by critical theory and embodied knowledge. Trained as a classical singer, Angelo explores the relations between poetics and techno-somatic ways of voicing. Through listening, he develops sonic encounters with the vulnerable, opening ’cracks’ to wild(er) spaces that utterly invite freer ecologies of living. For the occasion of Red Window Conversation: Red Light Heritage, Angelo invites the audience for a listening moment (or perhaps a moment of self love). unknown springs is a sonic poem for voice and live electronics that addresses the disordering principle of desire. It attunes the audience to other ways of sensing/feeling, towards an embodied interiority that resonates with the vibrancy of the body.

Violet Vintage
is a team member for the Prostitution Information Center (PIC), a sex worker and academic. With master’s in gender, violence and conflict, Violet’s area of expertise is feminist geography, knowledge reproduction and experiences of marginality amongst the sex worker community. Violet's research compared De Wallen's architecture and social factors to those of the proposed erotic center.

More information on the programme

The public space around the Oude Kerk is an urban weave of choices and nurture. Just as the Oude Kerk carries with it many layers of (im)material heritage, we find the same in the cultural-historical context of the neighbourhood. Which aspects of culture we classify as heritage is always in flux and brings with it emotions. According to the municipality and the current inner city approach plan, the inner city should become a place where heritage is cherished and cultural innovation is embraced. However, with stricter regulations around opening hours and façade advertising and plans for an erotic centre outside the city, the historical presence of sex work in the area is under pressure. What is allowed to belong and what should make way? Can the perspective of heritage help preserve the legacy of sex work in the Red Light District?

On 21 June, we will delve deeper into the question of heritage with, among others, guest curator Julia Visser of Red Light Heritage. Anthropologist Mary Douglas published her famous work Purity & Danger in 1966. In it, she argues that what is classified as 'dirt' changes per local context. Muddy boots, for example, are not dirty when they are in the garden, but they are in the bathroom. According to Julia, we also see this reflected in current tensions in the neighbourhood. We see some aspects of heritage as undesirable in the city centre and should be moved outside or should not belong. In other words, heritage also seems to be a moral issue. Even during the discussions about the placement of the Red Window in the Oude Kerk, there was a sense that a hard line was being crossed here. Where does this feeling of being around heritage come from today? And who decides what should or should not belong?