It was a strange feeling.
A long time ago it was my profession to explain the museum’s programmed exhibitions, I was managing the so called Dynamic Lectures and I studied the content and the installation of each one.
Now the whole museum, including visitors and staff, were part of our strategies.
That’s how it all begun: Frans, Nico, Elia, Joana and I met at the museum early in the morning. Frans explained the project. First of all, we were going to visit the spaces, all exhibitions, and later, at lunch time, we had to put forward our ideas of how to participate and which actions we wanted to carry out regarding the contents, the objects and the exhibition room itinerary. Of course anonymity was required. We had to perform our actions unnoticed, to try to remain invisible.
As soon as I started walking through the galleries, my mood changed and I felt an intense concentration… Suddenly I was performing. In one room I was walking like a penguin, slowly with short steps. Another time I moved like a billiard ball, in straight lines, changed directions as soon as I bumped into a wall or an installed object.
I looked like a strange visitor, an old man with an eccentric walk and an extravagant outfit.
Anyway, I tried to be invisible to everybody
I noticed a woman standing next to me, and I spontaneously started to walk like her, making the same movements and building an unusual choreography…
It was a strange feeling. I already changed my behaviour, the museum was a magic cage where everything had a soul to dance with. People, spaces, and objects, composed a beautiful scene in which I ran around excitedly. It was intense.
I imagined all of us walking together or watching the exhibition with same movements.
Later we met again. We talked about our proposals and we performed all of them. We performed a concert with different noises, we also performed a bench choreography and finally we were looking for secret words: each one of us, should look for the others and steal their secret words.
As soon as I started doing it, I realised I wasn’t a performer: I walked, kept out of sight, I avoided other’s glances,
I avoided security guards and I behaved like a spy, I behaved like a conspirator. The whole day we were museum’s conspirators and we all tried to be invisible.
Thus began our meeting in Valencia. On our way to meet the double, a kind of ‘parallel’ Frans Van Lent in a jazz and chess club in the old town and… we got lost strolling through the city.
Sunday, September 18th 2016
We met at 11:00, opening hour at the IVAM (Valencian Institute of Modern Art). Frans, Nico, Pepe, Joana and me. TheParallel Show#8 had begun and from this moment, a story begins, a detective story, a story of the explorers of museums.
At the moment we crossed the museum frontdoor, none of us knew each other. We had to investigate and follow the trace of the artworks, building relationships and dialogues through a coded language between space, works of art, visitors and museum staff. At first, I went through a phase that consisted of me identifying with the environment, an attempt to achieve mimesis through empathy. For a moment, one ceases to be one self to be an other. The first feeling was invisibility. By the time I stopped being visible, I started to become audible: every certain interval of time I dropped my notebook. The first contact with the museum occurred through the light room. Light and darkness that created paths of absence and presence.
In this room everything is calm, nothing moves and the light remains.
It was in the hall of memory I began to dispel. An ethereal installation where one becomes volatile. A dance between fabrics that weave a reverie. Disappearance. And a figure emerges from the fabrics. We exchanged gazes and turned our backs to each other. We started walking in opposite directions, surrounding the maze. As we crossed paths, my notebook fumbled from my hands.
Points of departure and arrival (departure / Arrivé) that lead into a silent, cold and lonely labyrinth. A presence guards the entrance, so no one gets lost in between the walls’ stares. Absolute visibility.
A change of scenery is perceived when crossing the hall. The coldness thaws, it reaches the hall of matter and figures, of lights and deep shadows. From the profound silence, one can perceive life, sound and motion.
Later, I begin to wander through the museum and suddenly I emerge in a city inside a city within a city. Contemplation and identification with the space inside space within space.
Walks inside walks within walks.
Readings that initialize or end a path of the reverse. A trajectory that continues both around the building and it’s underground.
Crossing the museum’s boundaries, we found the room of the wall, where order and linearity acquire a resounding presence. The room of order transforms into the room of rhythm and sequence.
It´s 14:00 h. We meet, and in my notebook the following phrases can be found:
Making contact with the space.
Observing, exploring, living, enjoying, experimenting.
Throwback to childhood. Play, fun.
It’s like visiting the museum for the first time.
In search of an event, a happening.
The museum as a jungle.
The museum as a space of play.
Boundaries breached. Choreography of art.
Art, artists, visitors.
Being part of the exhibition space.
Re-defining it. Re-living it. Perverting it.
We sat down and started brainstorming. Together we created a whole. A new language of relationships between space, time and bodies. Producers of meaning finally turned into word hunters.
LINE: In the room of light everything endures. Stillness, silence. Mysteriously, the light begins to spin. The rubbing of skin glows in elliptical shapes. The room comes to life. Let there be light, and there was light.
FAREWELL: In the labyrinth of memory, figures appear and disappear, come and go. They cloak themselves. Movements generated by the intertwining of streets that hide behind volatile silhouettes.
WET: The hall of matter and figures sounds like life itself, transforming into melody and movement. The room’s inhabitants produce footprints and footsteps, while a truncated voice is mellowed with sugar. Notebooks that lose their balance and shoe instruments make up an orchestra.
INTERFAXION: The wall hall has a linear rhythm. It is a sequence of works. And movements. It’s the dance hall in which new dancers join the repetition of pictorial contemplation.
TURN: The parallel show turned into a fun experience and a practice of freedom…a journey into childhood, to observe with new eyes and bring forth new issues. The parallel show doesn’t answer. It asks.
It is a language in which the body acquires importance in the exhibition space, where the event and serendipity itself shine and dance between the gaps of art.
And like all detective stories, a ludic promenade took place, in which the pursuers probably became the pursued.
A walk carried out by the detectives of museums, seekers of adventure, sliding under the attentive watch of the guards. A dance that was immortalized from the virtual. A drawing that seems to manifest that our actions took place in a parallel museum.
We started with 4 collective works. In one of the works Joana asked us to very softly touch the hanging lamps in Les Tombeaux of Christian Boltanski. The installation regained a touch of life. Even though it temporarily changed Boltanski’s work, It felt beautiful and respectful.
Part of the exhibition Lost in the City was a screen showing a (looped) 12 minutes fragment of the filmIn the Street (1947) by Helen Levitt. After I watched the film, it started again with a text about the subject: the life in the poor quarters of the big city. This text ended with: ‘The attempt in this short film is to capture this image’. So I watched the film again the full 12 minutes and then made a photo of that particular frame.
The same exhibition showed the work Modern Tower 8 by Julian Opie. The sculpture was placed directly on the floor without the use of a base. Presented that way, it created a very convincing illusion of size.
I decided to stand very close to the tower to influence that illusion: viewers might look at me and by doing that they would miss the sensation of size.
They could also focus at the tower. That would include me in the illusion, would turn me into a giant.
I was studying a work of Gregory Crewdson: – an old man crossing a wet street-, when I felt a person coming very close. Elia whispered a word in my ear. When I answered she quickly disappeared. I then walked out of the room and I noticed Joana. We just passed each other closely and softly spoke our words, almost at the same moment.
On another floor I saw Nico walking. I entered the space through smoked glass doors, and walked straight towards him. We both spoke out the words and I turned around and left again through the doors.
Then for a long time I was looking for Pepe. I vainly walked through all exhibition rooms and, a bit confused, I sat down on a bench in the hall. Just seconds later Pepe sat down next to me, looking a bit triumphant.
We said our words and these were the final words for both of us.
There I wandered through the galleries of IVAM, the Institut Valencia d’Art Modern.
We individually visited the exhibitions and conceived our contributions to the parallelshow#8.
Later we all gathered in the museum restaurant: three artist from Valencia, Elia Torrecilla, Pepe Romero and Joana Mollà and two from the Netherlands: Frans van Lent en Nico Parlevliet. During our collective lunch, we discussed the architecture, the exhibitions and our possibilities.
We listed some plans to be carried out by the whole group and several plans to be performed by individual artists.
We departed Dordrecht and arrived in Valencia. That happened to be the name of the installation of Christian Boltanski; Départ-Arrivée. Nice to see how cautious Pepe is performing in it.
I planned to do a sound piece in the exhibition rooms of Julio Gonzalez.
This performance was based on the sounds I noticed earlier in that same space: noises unnoticeably made by the visitors of the museum.
The participants in the performance were: Frans with a dry cough, Joana with a severe cough, Elia playing with her pen and dropping her notebook on the floor, Pepe and Nico creaking and squeaking the soles of their shoes.
Our performance attracted much attention from the attendants, who nevertheless responded very patient and helpful.
The sound was recorded on three smartphones moving around separately. Afterwards the recordings were superimposed.
In the exhibition Lost in the City we used 4 benches in consecutive galleries. Sitting on one of the benches you could only see the nearest bench in the next room. We all sat down and repeated the movements of the person on the next bench.
This way every movement travelled through the galleries. Afterwards I realised that it could have been even nicer if we had used the movements of an arbitrary visitor as a starting point.
Four benches in my notebook
Apart from our performances there were several coincidental parallel events happening in the exhibition, like this couple sitting in front of a projection of the film Just Imagine by David Butler (1930).
While departing IVAM at the end of the day,
I made a photo of my reflection on the banisters.
Apart form our meetup at the railways station and a pleasant walk in completely the wrong direction, it all started with a cup of coffee in the beautiful and sunny garden at Huis van Gijn. With our cups emptied, we went of into the museum. The house that is now the museum used to be the home of Simon van Gijn. After his death van Gijn wanted his house to become a museum in which the many collections he owned were displayed. Yet he also wanted his former home to stay in tact.
On the third floor a film was shown in which a group of people lived for 24 hours in the house in the same manner as the former residents did in the early twentieth century. While the temporary residents were dressed in early twentieth century clothes and doing their early twentieth century things, they were constantly commenting there actions from a contemporary perspective. The scenes were set up in such an artificial way that even the 24 hours of pretending seemed to be a fiction, a role they played.
Just as the role of actors in the film, my relationship towards the house felt rather unclear. I am in a museum which is not a museum and I am in a home which is not a home. In what way did I have to look at the rooms and objects around me? After lunch we went back in, now it was our turn to create our own roles and play them.
At some point we all took folding stools, which were provided by the museum, to the third floor. There we all chose spots in different rooms and sat on our stools. When we sat there unmoved for a while, the automatic lights switched off. Later on we used the folding stools in the ballroom. There we sat on them along the walls and had conversation. The alarm in the ballroom was tuned in a rather strange way, when someone walked in a sharp beep went trough the room. Whenever the beep went off, we would hold the conversation for a moment and change our position in the room. During the conversation we spoke about a number of things such as: what we like, Michel Houellebecq and nihilism, roughly in that order.
Huis van Gijn was picked out by Malou because of its smaller size. We would not be able to disappear in the museum and therefore the Parallelshow could not stay unnoticed. This was in my opinion a great decision. But although our presence was rather odd and the show was actually interfering their daily routine, the staff was friendly and did not intent at any moment to stop one of our performances. It probably helped that we were polite, but I am sure that they are friendly people as well. In reaction to this we decided to learn more about the staff. This lead to a number of pleasant conversations from which we wrote our conclusions down on the blackboard at the children reading corner in the attic. We stayed in the museum from 11.00 am until closing time at 5.00 pm, when we left the museum this felt way to short.
This is the first Parallel Show Frans van Lent was not involved in. He asked me to organise this show, so I had to address my own network and think about what a parallel show could be. Since Gijs Velsink and I work together a lot, it was obvious to ask him to join me. But next to that, I wanted to ask some artists I was not acquainted with.
It became a chain reaction of Gijs recommending Karina Beumer, Karina recommending Timo van Grinsven, Timo recommending Erin Helsen. I liked the fact that some artists were not really focussed on performance art, but more on sculpture. It could give some new dimensions to The Parallel Show (although it turned out to be mostly about performance).
I choose Huis Van Gijn with conviction. I visited the Onderwijs Museum (education) and the Dordrechts Museum (with the painter Schalcken on display) as two other options, but this all seemed too sentimental. Too nostalgic.
Huis Van Gijn is a place where time stands still, but it seemed impossible to join this illusion. And next to that, the place is quite big with its four floors, but still small enough to stay visible. I liked the scale of this house, so it became a yes.
June 3, 2016
We met between 10.30 and 10.40 at the trainstation. Everybody was in time, so we enjoyed the sun and walked toward the museum. I guided, but walked the wrong direction without any doubts. A friendly resident mockingly lead us the right way. He lived in the same street at no. 164 and we said goodbye.
On 11.05 we entered Huis Van Gijn. It was allready busy and we had some coffee / tea in the garden and got to know each other a little bit. I explained something about the background of this event and after that, we started our visit / tour / expedition / inspection of the museum.
At some points, I was alone, at some points I talked and looked together with the other artists. I guess this was the same for everybody.
We met again at 13.30 in the garden and we had a delicious lunch. We spoke about striking features, our ideas, options to do. Karina immediately suggested the idea of collaboration and everybody agreed. We made a list of stuff to do, in which I summarized the ideas the others came up with.
Suddenly, time flied, so we had to hurry up, since the museum was closing at 17 p.m. You can read about it in the other reports.
At closing time, we tried to extend the opening hours. As a last gesture, we wrote something in the guest book. Karina wrote the wrong date. We were the last ones leaving.
We spoke about The Elementary Particles, Michel Houellebecq,
‘De kaart en het gebied’, the public and the beautiful servant who threw the ice-tea over Erin.
Gijs explained us what nihilism is about.
We played with the toys while Malou was reading to us.
We dozed on the mattresses under the showcases with miniature carousels. Timo folded the paper which carried the humidity information. We tried to figure out the names and interests of all attendants; Kees, Jaqueline, Charlies and Betsie. We sat in the rooms of the House van Gijn until the automatic movement lights switched themselves off.
We didn’t get lost and we didn’t switch roles, and we didn’t try to kill the time.
Without doing any research I went to Dordrecht to see Huis van Gijn. I expected a very old museum with old paintings of old people.
When I got there I was surprised to see a beautiful house that had turned itself into a museum.
A museum full of different objects, some collected, others part of the original inventory.
We (as in the group of five artists) first looked around after a quick talk in the garden. While walking around and looking at the exhibition and the way of exhibiting, I started to look more closely into the more unnoticed things. For instance the sensors for the lights, sound and alarm.
It felt weird to investigate the space. My state of being as a spectating visitor ended after I had seen the whole exhibition. Normally you would leave after that. It felt like I was doing something wrong.
We returned to the garden for drinks. Everybody talked about the experiences and what we could do as a group. My ideas were not ready. I erased everything I had in mind. There were only questions regarding what could be a good performance in a space that has so many rules. And what the minimum of a performance would be. The decision of being there for a long time with five Artists was maybe enough.
In one of the performances we occupied different spaces with the little stools from the museum. Something happened that we did not plan. By sitting in the space without any focus on the work present we ignored the function of each room. We were just there. Sometimes we met because we switched from room to room. When three of us met in the room full of dollhouses it felt like we changed the space a little. We added a function with our quiet gathering.
Our stay became more and more an invasion during the day. The guards were getting confused (we were already using their first names when we talked with them). And visitors started to ask questions or left the rooms very quickly when we were there. It was nice to use the museum. It has a perfect setup.
Meeting the employees Starting my expedition, I first noticed the modern additions in the museum. Chicken wire, fire extinguishers, air humidifiers, plastic food, etc. I asked one of the guards about the humidifier and he told me why this machine was there. This was my first encounter with the employees.
Walking aroung in the house, I noticed every floor had a differend guard. Gijs and I met another guard on the first floor, she told us about her experiences with the ‘haunting house’ and the fact that her colleagues didn’t believe her. I got interested in the staff and during our lunch meeting, we decided to get to know them and gain some more information. Every aspect in the Huis Van Gijn is collected and disclosed. The family Van Gijn, the housekeepers, the carpets, the collection of books, vessels and ceramics, the dinnerparty’s. So why isn’t anything about the current situation visible?
Not everybody felt that comfortable with the perspective of chit-chatting, but Gijs, Karina and I were enthusiastic en eager for acquaintance. Not on a stalking / bigdata kind of way, but we started conversations in a sincere manner. Just to chat a bit. We gathered the information we got about Bahar, Jacqueline, Kees (all guards) and Charlies (from the coffeebar) on the chalkboard in the childern’s corner.
A few visitors came to take a closer look to our activities. We involved them in designing the board and included their names and hobby’s in it. The young girls started to draw and we had a fun conversation.
After this, we concluded the drawing with a notion that this all is part of The Parallel Show. When we left, with the inevitable chatter with the staff, we noticed our visit din’t stay unnoticed.
Nice to meet you!
Let yourself be amused One of the most striking sentences I came across was about mrs. Van Gijn in one of the movies about the family’s life. At a party, she had nothing more to do than talk about literature, travelling, art and ‘to let others amuse her’. This statement suggested a passive attitude, and I see certain similarities with visiting a museum as a tourist. It’s a place for pastime, where you’re searching for something to amuse you.
By chance I carried a book from Michel Houellebecq, which I had lent from Gijs and wanted to give back. The title is ‘Atomised’, a so-called nihilistic classic, suitable for intellectual conversations about literature. I proposed to read this out to eachother in the childern’s corner. We also used this book as a startingpoint for the conversation in the ballroom.
This work consisted of five adults sitting at a childern’s size table and bench, listening to the first two chapters of Atomised. It turned out that this book, complicated and very intellectual, is not very suitable for reading out loud. Allthough some sentences and parts of the story were amusing, it was difficult to follow the storyline and the keep paying attention. In this place, intented for pleasure, arose boredom and confusion.