Join the People!

Fred Rogers Dewey Legacy Project

By Filip van Dingenen

What About the People?

From before his tenure at Beyond Baroque in Venice, to his later work with self-organised arts communities in Europe, Fred Rogers Dewey upheld his radical commitment to steer people’s practical and intellectual energy towards the struggle for democracy and justice. In turn, people shaped him as a pluralist, editor and mentor in the school of public life.

With his highly unique and personal approach, Fred saw art, cinema, and poetry always as part of and parcel to the struggle with preservation and gentrification of the US Republic. His personal libraries – in Brussels and Los Angeles – remain enduring testimonies of his investigations into the human condition, enabling him to link dissident Syrian poets to Abraham Lincoln – and of course, Hannah Arendt, who was Fred’s guiding light. Indeed, in his decidedly anti-academic scholarship on Arendt, he turned political theory into the basis for public action, staging open readings and seminars – which he dubbed “working groups” and convened in art spaces and refugee centres alike.

What about FRDLP?

In collaboration with Beyond Baroque, the Fred Rogers Dewey Legacy Project (FRDLP) is an international team of stakeholders who aim to preserve Fred’s legacy by promoting the efforts of this peripatetic cultural leader whose texts and political activism only recently began to gain their much deserved reception in the US and in Europe. His eagerness to identify the critical intersection between politics and culture and his willingness to demonstrate how to put these ideas into action continues to resonate with diverse audiences. Organised by artists, publishers and curators, FRDLP seeks to safeguard Fred’s intellectual estate, while supporting those across the globe who aim to enact his texts in theory and practice.

A personal report of an encounter with Fred Dewey

This is a story connecting Los Angeles, Berlin and Brussels…
I met Fred Dewey in Brussels when he was invited for a residency at Superdeals in 2018 and organised several reading sessions around Hannah Arendt. As a philosopher and scholar he assembled with artists and scholars to set up reading groups in different parts of the world.

My conversations and meetings with Fred started with the artistic collective of Ecole Mondiale and our dialogue became much more intensive between 2018 and 2019. We began to meet regularly in the same bar in Brussels to discuss my struggles as an artist with an institution concerning my rejected PhD in the Arts. Fred was intrigued by the first Almanac of Fair Practices and our conversations took a whole direction into conflict and dealing with it on a personal level.

-----Original Message-----
From: Fred Dewey <>
To: Filip Van Dingenen <> 
Sent: Wed, Feb 6, 2019 11:34 am
Subject: Re: Update – Almanac of fair Practices

i hope things are progressing. the fair practices manual you sent me is absolutely impressive and great. was this produced in Brussels? i can't imagine something like this anywhere. how fantastic. i want to hear more about those people, but also your projects and whether the PhdD will happen for you and whether your advisor is coming through for you finally...  
On 22 Sep 2019, at 14:37, Fred Dewey <> wrote:  
the bottom line to me, i think, is that you are conflicted, and this is the actual subject. you fought yourself pretty much every step, and the part of you that did not want this finally won. that is a story that needs to be told, and certainly needs to be faced. but i have got the feeling several times you do not want to face this part.  
I have had many fights in my life like this, where i was resisting, delayed, refused, and so on. simply couldn't do the (VERY) simple things necessary to move forward and succeed. i was sabotaging myself. but of course, in such matters, there is much to be learned from this. some part of me may have known something my conscious did not. my life has been shaped as much by the things i fucked up and failed at as by what i succeeded at. writing my book was a massive clash of these two forces. because tho our hesitations and avoidances can be very illuminating, it is also true sometimes we are just plain self-destructive, rather than conflicted. we are afraid of success in things we care about. i see that in myself, and i see that in you too.

All this is why i identify with your situation, feel for you and do want to help. but before our discussion can further, you are going to have to admit you were fighting yourself. you let this play out in a bureaucratic form. with what i observe to be serious consistency, almost a systematic method.
i will be back in November for a performance in Leuven on the 17th. and aim to be in Brussels for a while. ….

Fred finally moved from Berlin to Brussels but sadly passed away in the summer of 2021. His personal collection of books was divided in between his former apartment in Venice Beach, Los Angeles and an apartment on Rue Vanderschrick in St-Gilles, Brussels.

Together with artists, philosophers and activists, we set up the FRDLP to preserve the European part of this collection in Brussels and to invite artists and scholars to work and learn from this amazing collection. A collection that is mainly focused on topics such as art & resistance, struggles of emancipation, esthetics/politics and civil movements. His book The School of Public Life, his references to Black Mountain College and engagements in self-governance and Neighborhood Council Movements in Los Angeles are still a source of inspiration in developing my artist practice and parallel bottom-up thinking. Parts of my writing “DIPLOMACY & PROTOCOLS for a multi species environment – *challenging the labyrinths’ (2019)” were in close collaboration and highly influenced by Fred’s engagement.
Open up his library! Share with you!