At home with her again

Interview by Angela Donskaia
Photos shot for Subbacultcha by Annabel van Royen

On 14 June we’re organising L.A.N. Party at De School featuring some of our favourite local artists. One of them is DJ, writer and activist Emma van Meijeren. You might have heard her before in the podcast De Schermerzone or seen her live behind the decks as her again. On a sunny morning in Amsterdam, Emma guides us through the place she calls home and gives us a glimpse of who she is.

Hey Emma, thanks for having us in your home. Have you always lived in Amsterdam?

I grew up in the suburbs of Utrecht. I always lived at the same house with my parents. Until about four years ago. Then I moved out for a semester abroad in Santa Barbara and after that, it felt like the right time to move to Amsterdam.

What makes something a home for you?

Honestly, home is where the Wi-Fi is. My friends and family live all over the world and I’ve never felt much at home in the cities I lived in. So the internet is really important for me to connect with people.

Your room looks super bright and is full of books. How did your room look like as a child?

Everything had the same pattern: the curtains, my bedding. Everything was covered in stars, moons and suns.

How important are books in your life, then?

Books are very important. I read every day, sometimes over 10 minutes and sometimes for hours.

What is your favourite book?

Ah, I think that’s impossible to answer. If all stories would be destroyed and I’m only allowed to read one for the rest of my life I would choose Astrid Roemer’s Was getekend.

I came across your name so many times on the internet. From podcasts to line-ups and articles. Are you always busy with so many projects?

Yes, because I feel like you need a balance, especially if you want your writing to have some sort of engagement with politics. It’s important to organise and do different things to engage with people.

You DJ under the moniker her again. Who is she?

She’s like a feminist killjoy. It’s a term coined by Sara Ahmed that describes the person who calls out sexism, racism or homophobia at the moment nobody wants to hear or talk about it. It’s the same spirit of the sticker with the smiling sun sign from the All men? Nein danke project.

What was that all about?

I started that around a year ago together with Fenna Fiction. The line-ups for a lot of big festivals were being announced and I just got so tired of seeing that the majority of artists were male. I had just bought a t-shirt with a smiling sun logo that said ‘Heterosexuality? Nein Danke’. Originally, the logo is from an anti-nuclear movement and said ‘Atomkraft? Nein Danke’. I was attracted to the passive aggressiveness of the smiling sun. So we launched stickers and t-shirts to address the issue of too many mostly-white-male line-ups.

Could you tell us something about that poem on your mirror?

It’s a poem by Judith Herzberg. I came across her poetry last winter. I was struggling a lot with my mental health and I opened the book on a random page at this poem called Moed. It reflected really deeply on what I was going through. There are these five lines that I think are beautiful:

Lopen is op voeten balanceren,
op straat zie ik de warme wezens
die ook de onbegrijpelijke moed
hebben gehad om op te staan
in plaats van niet.

I think when your health is interfering with your day-to-day life, it can be such an individualizing and isolating experience. I hate when poetry tries to universalize such experiences. Judith makes a connection outside of the individual experience which is not universal, but more of an intimate relationship to the next person—who could beanyone. That’s very comforting to me.