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#7: Huis van Gijn (general report)

Preparations:
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.

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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.

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#7: The employees and Us

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!

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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.

#4: Dancing in Tate Britain

As a reaction to the rigid structure of the building, the subdued watching habits of the public and the tendency to expand my empire I decided to dance! We talked about the possibility to dance on the present sound, but in that way it rather seemed a performance than an intervention. For me the most interesting aspect was to create a parallel way of looking to the artworks.

I listened to music of the following artists: Andrew Bird, Madonna, The Gossip and LMFAO.

By wearing earplugs, I isolated myself from others and created a different space. I noticed this especially in the connection to the paintings. The figures were stripped from their importance, no kings, queens, counts and godesses no more. They became people to flirt with, to give comments on their (lack of) clothing, and to small talk with. They’d probably liked this different approach, at least I did.

The more contemporary pieces on the other hand gave me more space to dance. Their abstract features made it less narrative, so I started dancing exuberantly. PARTY!

Also the presence or lack of people had their share in my way of dancing. I noticed some people laughing at me or even filming my dancemoves. It felt a bit uncomfortable, but I decided to neglect them. It felt good nót to be unnoticed, but I decided that this shouldn’t influence my concentration. At one point, two young people started to kiss, at that moment I really felt the presence of a parallel party.

So I danced and danced and danced and danced.
SORRY FOR PARTYROCKING!!!!!

Video:© FvL

#4: British Dutch heritage

The night before we visited the museum I read a small booklet about the Artist & Empire exhibition. It seemed a bit odd to first read the text and see the show afterwards, but it triggered my curiosity. By accident, or maybe it’s faith, I brought some replicas of the Dutch national heritage sign. I’m already working on this project for two years now, by giving these stickers to people I meet. It gives them the opportunity to create an alternative, personal monument.

The official definition of this heritage is: “All man made objects which are of common interest because of their aesthetics, their scientific significance or their historical value.” Most of the time buildings or townscapes are selected, but this can also mean something else.

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Visiting the Artist & Empire show, I noticed the British pride of their colonisation, the additional propaganda, the Christian missionaries, the contemporary mockery and the paradoxical worship of earlier figures. I remarked these themes attracted me more than the permanent collection, so decided to do something with it.

The main reason for this intervention was a painting from a scene where queen Elisabeth gave the Holy Bible to a black figure. This man, pictured in a humble pose, received this gift very grateful. I saw a parallel with the Dutch heritage replicas. This innocent sign is always given as a friendly gesture, while it’s actually a process of distribution and appropriation. By doing this in England, it would mean the Dutch empire was expanding.

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This was when the task of making new friends started. I couldn’t give them randomly to visitors, so I looked for excuses to start a conversation. Most of the time this involved the English language (what does this word mean / what is the correct translation?). At the end of the conversation I started about the sign. Only there’s a few times I realised it in the second instance that I could give these stickers, so I had to make second contact. This worked better than giving it in the first encounter, because we already created some understanding.

I also asked Andrew, Frans and Lisa to hand out some stickers, so they’d become missionaries too. Even after the festival this work was persecuted. We gave it to the restaurantowner where we had supper and on the moment we left the house where we slept, I gave it to our hosts as a thank you gift.

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Photo’s: © AM, FvL

#2: Malina

@Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden, the Netherlands

Malina is a 4-year-old girl, wearing blue jeans and a yellow sweater with a white elephant. She has dark blond hair and is my Bosnian neighbour from ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Jeroen, some friends and I took her to Naturalis in Leiden. She is very curious, wants to know everything and loves to hide under tables, chairs and in trees. I love her because of her adventurous mind and her lack of fear. She’s a daredevil!

That’s why we didn’t care to leave her alone for some minutes. She was playing with mammuth bones on the 3th floor, but when Jeroen and I returned after 15 minutes, we couldn’t find her anymore. It was 4 o’clock and most families were already leaving, so it wasn’t that crowded anymore. We walked to the top floor (5) and started our search there. We asked several adults if they had seen her walking around. At that point, she turned into a 5-year-old.

We looked everywhere, especially behind cabins and showcases. I yelled her name around and we asked some adults if they’ve seen her walking around. They didn’t see her, but in response to this question they told us story’s about the last time they lost their own kids. These people became our associates. When we saw them again, they immediatly asked us about Malina. This happened a few times during our search.

On the second floor an employee of the museum noticed us looking for a girl. She asked us about her and in a mindless moment her name turned into Malinda. The employee then made a call. At that point the whole staff of the museum started looking for her. We agreed that Jeroen and I should wait on the second floor. I stayed near the stairs, Jeroen started looking around.

The buzz now became real. The staff runned up and down the stairs while looking for her, keeping in contact with their walkie-talkies. The worried employee kept asking us about our child. Where could she be? Was she afraid to be alone? What did she wear? The yellow turned into pastel. The elephant remained white. No glasses. And her hair? In a little tail, yes. I almost started to believe in Malinda myself now.

I texted Frans and asked him to call me in 8 minutes and I became a bit nervous. This was getting serious. The staff was already looking for more than 10 minutes and the fact that we still didn’t find Malinda created panic. Time was ticking. The museum emptied. When Frans called it felt like a relief. Jeroen joined me and when we encountered a random employee, we told him Malinda’s grandfather found her outside of the museum and that they could stop the search.

Confusion took over. Okay, she’s been found, but you have to stay here. The employee we spoke first would come back here. And now we turned into Malinda’s parents. The moment when we told Malinda was outside of the museum, they told us that she and her grandfather were walking on the bridge to join us. At this right moment! She’s been found! Huray!

We left the place as quickly as possible …