With a reputation of being one of the wildest party venues in Amsterdam, Sexyland is more like a house that is owned by a different person every day, consisting of a strange yet calming fusion of every subculture that possibly exist. It’s a community where people come to dance, to socialize, maybe even to scream but also to embrace the wonderful existence of humanity. As 3 years have passed since the club was founded on the NDSM-wharf, their next step is to maturitize whilst maintaining it’s childlike spirit; always growing but never aging.
-The name ‘Sexyland’ stems from the sex shop that once was located in the red light district in Amsterdam where the current venue was supposed to happen, the location changed but the name stayed. The name is quite provocative, in the sense that sex shops have a notorious image but why did you deliberately decide to maintain the name ‘Sexyland’?
Aukje: Before Sexyland, we had Eddie the Eagle museum and the juxtaposition is always interesting; Eddie the Eagle was a terrible ski jumper who came last in his races and is still famous as the underdog, whilst a museum holds the allure and is the most prestigious cultural institution in the art world. When you put those two things together, you get something that you don’t necessarily understand. It just seemed very correct to call it Sexyland when we got this shed at the NDSM. We invite so many different people that everyone needs to relate to something that they are not particularly related to. Everyone had to take a step towards us, whilst we take a step towards them. So in that sense, the word fits in very well. Names are so difficult but when fate provides you one, it ends up making so much more sense. It related to our history but also to what we intended to do. Fate and common logic. There is no common ground in Sexyland. It’s a little bit provocative to everyone. So in this sense Sexyland is really for no one.
-In a previous interview you stated that you had questions surrounding authenticity but now you rather believe that everything belongs to everyone and every work of art is in a certain sense, born of a collaboration. What initiated this change in mindset? Considering ‘Sexyland’ is a club that has a different owner 365 days, did this change in mindset help you in the creation of ‘Sexyland’?
Aukje: It’s basically just getting older. Not per say in age but you learn. I tend to feel from people who don’t know who they are or not somewhere yet, that they still have this sense of needing to be cool. They can’t be open, friendly and sweet to everyone because they are afraid that being sweet to the wrong people will touch their ‘image’. Sometimes I go out with my sister and there are some hipsters who don’t look at me at all but when they suddenly hear that I am the founder of Sexyland, their behavior towards me changes. That is just because that person is not in a spot of security and therefore still has these rules on who is important and who is not. The same with this authenticity thing. I never had one material but only concepts. This sometimes leaves you with nothing because concepts can look like each other but depending on how people look at it, it can be interpreted in different ways. In school, if I made something consisted of a red balloon but if there was another girl who completely copied me making something similar who was famous for making art work with balloons, then the work would become hers and not mine. If you have a certain style, it is easier to fit into a certain box. That bothered so much for so many years. At one point however, I realized that I can’t do something ‘else’ but I can embrace what I do. Now I’m cool with making everything an open source because I know that my brain is my material. Even with Sexyland, I didn’t come up with it all by myself. I did it with my art-partner Arthur van Beek and a whole group. It’s another example of doing what you want to do essentially. The world is so secure and so shapeable, everything is always an accumulation of things. You can stuff anything in it, making it nothing but everything at the same time. We can do it everywhere and anywhere in the world because the concept stands as a house, without it actually being something which is actually quite nice.
-Sexyland has an image of being a club open for everyone yet has retained its exclusivity. How do you think the club has managed to maintain this inclusive for all but sexy exclusivity?
Aukje: That is maybe because it is open for everyone but people hosting have to apply. That being said, we don’t expect anything and also the boundary is very low. If I was the owner of paradiso, I would have to say no to certain people. Here, I can say YES to everyone. Because of this, we get people who are not so afraid to ask if they can do something. That makes the possibility enormous and therefore the surprise enormous. We get big names as well which is what I quite like. I think that it’s pretty cool that everything happens in the same shed. This balance is quite important.
-So do say yes to everything?
Aukje: No, but we do say yes to everyone who approaches. We say ‘yes man, that’s amazing just send it’, so we can see what happens. We never say ‘nah, it’s not good enough’ because of my taste. If it is tailored to one person’s taste, then it’s not Sexyland anymore. The same as anything political. I’m not right wing but an event can be about it. When we handle the proposals, we say no sometimes if it’s just a techno event or a birthday but a lot of times we try to manoeuvre it a bit. There was this one time where a boy sent a proposal for his birthday. We were like ‘nah, it’s not really a place for a birthday bash, but maybe you can come up with something that this city needs?’ This is something we often say. Later, he came up to us with another offer saying ‘I actually want to make this party for my brother who is autistic. For him it is always a bit too much going out and I just want him to fall in love with someone.’ We ended up throwing a party here so people with disabilities could come. That party was such a success that they’ve created a whole company called Special Social Club now. A lot of times by manoeuvring something, it can become something more. Effort is what really makes the difference.
– Was there ever a time when the visitors of an event acted or turned out to be completely different to expectations prior to the event?
Aukje: Yes it is always different than we expect. I had an event that didn’t turn out as magical as I had expected. It was an event hosted by Joost Van Bellen. For his whole life he has organized events. For this one as well, he had worked so hard to make it. He called the event ‘Andersomdag’, meaning the other way around. He started the event at 6am in the morning and worked backwards. He put in so much effort, inviting drag queens that were dressed backwards so their heads were on their shoes, an actually newsreader we know from television came to do the news backwards, the morning paper was done backwards, someone who could speak backwards and some rap performance backwards. Beer cans on the floor, all the lights were off as if the party was over and a thank you speech came on. The concept was amazing. I don’t know what it was but there was an opening for another event on the same day. This meant that very few people were at this event. Sexyland then became very empty. This is an example of one person giving his everything but in the end, you think ‘for what?!’ . There was this 16 year old girl who applied to do a party on Tuesday, saying she wanted 15 bands, an installation with an exhibition and all these things. We thought ‘what the fuck?’ but we also thought we might as well say yes because she was 16 years old. That Tuesday blew my socks off because the venue was just full of kids absolutely going for it with their tops off. They had so much energy that they needed to channel because they can’t go to other discotheques yet. This enormous vibe of need and wanting. There were 12 bands not 15 but it was a Tuesday night and I thought ‘wow’. You just got to give everyone the benefit of the doubt because you never know.
-Some of the most wildest parties are thrown here. Is there a particular event that is memorable or means something to you ?
Aukje: The most memorable event that changed everything for me, was called the ‘best of Sexyland’. Everything came together. It also depicted our next step which is a step that we are working towards now as Eddie the Eagle Museum became more mature but remained as wild. The thing is, that these events are all amazing that it’s hard to pick out the best one. What you do see is that we reach different subcultures but still it is Monday; punk, Tuesday; opera, Wednesday;Art school exhibition. The chance of the punk going to the opera night is quite low, you know? You still see punk, opera and art school people. The melting is not that evident. With the best of Sexyland, we basically just invited 365 people from the first year because it would be conceptually wrong to say and pick what was best from our view. We asked everyone and said ‘look, we’re going to do best of, one night.’ We rented an extra tent so there were two Sexylands next to each other. We started early so everyone who wanted to do something, could do it. That evening was a production from hell but also heaven. What we then saw was super old people looking at these vogue competitions and then these voguers were taking over the place. After that, this very shy girl trying to sing opera thinking, ‘I’m not going after these people’. But then she starts and everyone sits on the floor to listen to her. There was this bizarre punk hip hop that people were tuning in on, next to people playing chess with some parents. Everyone was just open and the energy was amazing. A lot of people saw things they don’t see normally. For us, it was the most special. Now we want to basically create SUPER SEXYLAND WORLD. It is a huge new venue with all of these subcultures at the same time in one building. You pay five euros for entry and step into sort of like the arcades you find in Tokyo. So you can always find something you are comfortable with but also something you are not. We are working on it very very hard. Hopefully, it will be opening in March next year.
-I was wondering why Sexyland was trying to move venues.
Aukje: The old one will always be there but we thought we needed to make this next step. I love the bars in Tokyo where it doesn’t matter where you order from because at the end of the day, the money is split equally amongst them. So niche and small places are given the same relevance as big and commercial shops. It doesn’t matter how big or small your place is because everything is shared. I’m super obsessed about these kind of things.
-During your youth, was there a club that you went to often that had aspects you wanted to incorporate during the foundation stages of Sexyland?
Aukje: I was 18 when I first moved here. I went to a party and just thought ‘is this Amsterdam? fuck.’ It was not a club but it was a canal house with four floors, more like a house party. In every room, they did something different. I think that had a big impact on how Sexyland was shaped because the fact that it was in a house, was the most intriguing part about it for me. We don’t have bouncers at Sexyland. We don’t have a cloakroom or a place to hand in your ticket. We don’t even have a backstage. Even if big stars with fanatic fans are coming to see them, the stars are just next to them after the show. Everything is like a house. So if you steal something, you are basically stealing from my house. That’s why collaborations go really well because they respect it. That bit of trying to make it feel welcome, warm and inviting without too many rules is the inspiration that came from those memories.
-NDSM werf where Sexyland is situated was previously one of the largest shipyards in the world but is now home to a plethora of artists and cultural initiatives. Compared to before, how did the creation of the NDSM werf as an art city change the arts and culture scene of Amsterdam itself.
Aukje: For this SUPER SEXYLAND WORLD, we are offered to do it in a different place. This is because the municipality have all of these ideas that the spokes-point is now in a completely different area far out north or west. It’s to make the land more valuable for expats to buy a house there. That is not how gentrification is meant to be though. What we can say is that NDSM was one of the last free spaces. Several hundred thousand new houses have been built in the last year because they have this enormous problem of overpopulation. Now there is so little space where you can actually just do something. It’s a toughie for NDSM because a lot of those amazing buildings that could have fit in can’t now because Redbull and MTV have taken their space. That is not creation but commercialized offices. So I don’t know how it shaped the city of Amsterdam but I do feel now like ‘oh shit, we actually have nothing left.’ We should be more gentle with these art spaces because otherwise they would just all move away. I even thought about moving back to Rotterdam because I feel more freedom there, than in Amsterdam.
-So when the government is finished working on one area of the city, it moves to the next without thinking about the consequences?
Aukje: What the government does is just short time management. They inject loads of money to where they think is a problem area and say, ‘yeah, now it’s great’ and move focus to another area that they can fix. There are still artists that have to move out of these places, having left with nowhere to go. Experiments take time and sometimes people forget that. They love the word pilot projects but they find it difficult or scary when it becomes permanent and loses temporality. That is a shame.
text Ayana Waki
A conceptual club on the NDSM in Amsterdam North. For 365 days it has a different owner, every day. The owner of the day decides what kind of club they want it to be, which can vary from art exhibitions to sporting events, from gangster rap nights to dinners in stroboscopic light.