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Curfew in sound and images

The night-time curfew in the Netherlands came into force on Saturday 23 January. While the curfew is in force people are not permitted to be outdoors after 9pm. Curfew, ‘a regulation requiring people to be indoors’ was very common in the Middle Ages: as the city gates were locked, the bars would close and the prostitutes went home. The city guards kept watch at night and would make sure that everyone obeyed the rules.

The curfew was consigned to history with the emergence of modern cities, the middle class economy and street lights. Curfew could only be imposed by government in emergencies, such as natural disasters, epidemics and wars to protect the citizens against themselves.

At the moment, Amsterdam reminds us somewhat of those scenes in the Middle Ages; while the lights are on indoors, the streets are empty with only the occasional patrolling guard to be seen. Of course, everyone in Amsterdam had become familiar with the empty and deserted roads in the first wave, but the sound and images of Amsterdam after curfew are different again.

This time the motorways are completely deserted at night with knock-on effects for the rest of the city. The sounds that can still be heard sound even louder than normal; squealing, empty trams, loud phone conversations, noisy mopeds, dogs barking, a bicycle chain that badly needs some lubrication, your own breathing in an otherwise completely quiet city.

Monique Vermeulen tried to capture this incredible period for the Amsterdam Museum using sound and images. While most people are on their way home between half past eight and nine o’clock, Monique takes to the streets. She also went looking for hard hitting stories in the collection and online, as well as for creative responses and civil disobedience. The results are presented in this gallery.

This room is curated by:
Monique Vermeulen

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Soundtrackcity met dank aan: Gemeente Amsterdam West Het huis van Amsterdam