Artist Weekend: Women and Resistance

Artist Weekend: Women and Resistance

Remembering is repetition. Remembering is the only confusion. Do you understand?

by Amber Coomans

5 – 7 May 2017

As a heritage student, something I learned on the first day was that history is constructed. Heritage is a label that people stick onto something they find important. This Artist Weekend is about that very aspect of history: how come when we google the word resistance (verzet in Dutch), only one woman pops up in Google Images?

From Friday May 5th until Sunday May 7th I attended Castrum Peregrini’s first Artist Weekend: Women and Resistance, a weekend full of artist talks, debates, presentations and film screenings. The weekend is part of a yearlong program titled The Female Perspective, which focuses on questions of female identity, feminism and gender, both in relation to the historical context of Castrum Peregrini and its founder Gisèle van Waterschoot van der Gracht. I watched this weekend, obviously, through my own eyes: a young heritage student with many questions about history, heritage and also about Gisèle’s own affinity with the female identity which was broadly debated this weekend.

The weekend opens with an introduction by curator Nina Folkersma, in which she explains more about the Female Perspective in relation to Castrum Peregrini: the house of female artist Gisèle, where she worked and lived, is the perfect place for such an event. Castrum Peregrini not only wants to preserve the material heritage of her studio and living space, but also the immaterial heritage of friendship, respect, culture and art. In WWII, Castrum Pererini served as a hiding place where spiritual and artistic freedom was the greatest survival tool.

This freedom also plays a central role in the film by Lynn Herschman that follows Folkersma’s introduction. It is about the relationship between the feminist art movement and the anti-war movement in the 1970s. The film has an impressive beginning: visitors of the Whitney Museum in New York are asked to name three female artists. They can only think of Frida Kahlo. The movie continues and a long impressive list of female artists comes along. Artists such as Judy Chicago, Nancy Spero, Howardena Pindell and Judith Baca, names I have never heard of; names that young artist and art student Janine Antoni has never heard of and names that – in literature – seem unfindable in the libraries of America. The three words that describe the feminist art movement are still relevant today: Women Art Revolution.

 

Bianca Stigter, Marjan Schwegman and Pieter Paul Pothoven present their work on the 6th of May. Bianca Stigter is former editor of the Dutch national newspaper NRC Handelsblad and one of the foremost cultural critics and historical writers in the Netherlands. Later this year, she will release the revised and richly illustrated edition ‘Atlas van een bezette stad’ (Atlas of an Occupied City). Stigter presents an impressive list of female resistance fighters like Frieda Belinfante, Rosa Boekdrukker, Marie Tellegen and Gesina van der Meulen. She also shows that many of these female heroes were related to each other, and part of the Amsterdam elite. Next is Marjan Schwegman, professor in Politics and Culture at the faculty of Humanities at Utrecht University. From 2007 to 2016 she was the managing director of NIOD (Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies). In her presentation she explains how the women Stigter talked about, became invisible. These women became partially invisible because historians often defined resistance on the basis of hard, ‘masculine’ characteristics. In the work of Loe de Jong, women are virtually absent because, as a typical man of his time, he does not include how the people in hiding were taken care of.

The role of women, who appear in the Dutch history of the resistance, is mostly described as supporting in the form of a courier. The role as courier became the focusing-point, though at the same time, Jacoba van Tongeren for instance, was not only a courier but also had a leading role in the famous group 2000.

Schwegman is interested in the dilemma of using violence, especially because religion was very important in people’s lives at the time.

Multimedia artist Pieter Paul Pothoven researches Amsterdam based socialist resistance groups, like RARA and CS6 before, during and after the war, in which both men and women played active roles. He is also interested in the dilemma of using violence: how can this history be presented without falling into nostalgia and glorification of violence? He states that it all depends on your view on life: are you already seeing violence all around you? And what does the term violence mean? Some people see the exclusion of refugees as violent.

In the round table discussion afterwards, Pothoven states that the mainstream historiography is very patriarchal. He tries to put himself in the role of a young girl: what history books could I read in which I recognize myself? A member of the audience asks what it means that Pothoven, again as a man, is writing down this history of women. But why should men always account for this? Asks Schwegman: “I have written about men and I have never had this question.”

 

The third and last day of talks has a very different feeling than the day before: more personal and vulnerable, and this is mainly because the speakers tend to put themselves into the position of someone else. What the speakers have in common is their struggle with the theme “truth”.

Aya Johanna Daniëlle Dürst Britt holds an MFA from Leiden Unicersity in Islamic studies. She is an editor of the online al.arte.magazine, which publishes articles in Dutch and English about art, culture and society in relation to Islam. In Leiden she studied the life and work of Hasrad Inayat Khan, the founder of the Universal Sufism, and father of Noor Inayat Khan: resistance fighter and first female radio operator to be sent from Britain into occupied France to aid the French Resistance. Apart from an impressive ancestry, with royals and a long line of mystics and musicians, she also grew up hearing Dutch, as her father’s organisation would develop into the universal Sufi Movement in the West. It has a significant branch in the Netherlands, especially in the city of The Hague. Noor Inayat Khan built up a resistance group, but was betrayed by a jealous woman. This lead to her being imprisoned for several years, and eventually, a death sentence. Her last word, before her execution, was: ‘Liberté!’. This could be interpreted in the spiritual sense she grew up with: spiritual freedom. Britt asks herself the question: “What would I do? I am like her, I love music, art, and mysticism. Would I sacrifice myself?”

Ronit Porat works with photographic materials and combines them with biographical texts and materials from archives. She was born in a Kibbutz in the north of Israel, where history played an essential role in the formation of both personal and national narratives. When she finds a story that touches her in a way, she adds a layer of imagination and very often an autobiographical layer. She states that she is not very interested in the “truth”, because there is no such thing as truth. She really enjoys spending time in archives but finds it difficult to get access. Later in the round table discussion an audience member presses the fact that archives are constructed, and that fiction and history cannot be separated.

Annet Mooij, researcher and writer working on a biography of Gisèle recognizes this. Histories are stories, filled with affection and emotions. This makes writing the life story of Gisèle so very difficult. “My task is to add some meaning, logic or even a question mark to the stories. The story behind the story is impossible to find.”

Of course the weekend is about the Female Perspective, but Gisèle herself really struggled with the term femininity. In the period of her resistance in the war, she was responsible for the money, in that way she wasn’t ‘female’ at all! Later, one of the hiders accused her of being too masculine: “You made use of my male part, now you accuse me of being too masculine!?” In a letter to her husband, mayor Arnold d’Ailly, she even writes that she hates being a woman. Besides, Gisèle never focused on herself as a ‘female artist’. In that perspective it’s even more interesting that a weekend like this is, which is focussing exactly on the female aspect of artists and resistance fighters, is being organised in her former studio. What would she think of that?

 

Remembering is the only repetition. Remembering is the only confusion. No matter how complicated anything is, if it is not mixed up with remembering, there is no confusion. (Insistence, Andrea Greyer)

This quote of the screened movie sums up this artist weekend for me. I ended up having more questions after the weekend than I had before. What is resistance? What does female resistance mean? What is truth?

Reasonable Doubt – Mieke Bal

Exhibition

Reasonable Doubt by Mieke BalReasonable Doubt_Mieke Bal 18 maart 2017 Photo by Przemo Wojciechowski

Opening Saturday March, 18th at 17 hrs

Reasonable Doubt (2016), the latest film project by cultural theorist and critic Mieke Bal, is an experiment to audio-visualise ‘thought’. Mixing docu-drama with theoretical fiction, the project stages scenes from the lives of philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650) and the Swedish Queen Kristina (1626-1689).

Reasonable Doubt is on show till 13 April 2017, open Tuesday till Friday 12 – 18 hrs.

Thursday 13 april, exhibition is closed at 15:30 hrs

Artist Talk: Mieke Bal on Reasonable Doubt 

On March 30, Mieke Bal will talk about ‘thinking in film’: an experiment to audio-visualise thought. In accordance with her concept of ‘thinking as a social process’, this talk will not be like lecturing ‘at’ people, but sharing the excitement of discovering how things work.  RSVP productie@castrumperegrini.nl

read here the review by Jeroen Lutters published in MetropolisM: “Hommage aan Mieke Bal”

Nieuw: De Kaarten van Gisèle

Nieuw, nu verkijgbaar

Kunsttarot – De Kaarten van Gisèle

lancering: zaterdag 1 April 16 – 18 hrs

Het kunstenaarscollectief DE PARASIET  maakte een selectie uit de vele objecten uit het atelier van Gisèle (1912-2013) en schreven er telkens een korte tekst bij die tezamen een serie serieuze, wonderlijke, wijze en ludieke levenslessen vormen in hun nieuwste KUNSTTAROT – De Kaarten van Gisèle die nu i.s.m. Castrum Peregrini wordt gepubliceerd.

Programma, na welkom & introductie

– het 1e exemplaar wordt overhandigt aan Susan Smit, auteur van o.a. de historische roman ‘Gisèle’
Sietske Sikkes over de werking van het geheugen. Sikkes is senior onderzoeker bij het VUMC/ Alzheimer Centrum
Jarry Porius over de verwachtingen, met welke verwachtingen zal het Tarot het beste voor je werken. Porius is als senior researcher verbonden aan de TU Delft en aan de Erasmus Universiteit
– masterclass tarot met aansluitend privé massaleggingen,
Met op zaterdag 1 april de speciale aanbieding: € 12,50 voor aanschaf van het Kunsttarot – De Kaarten van Gisèle

Of bestel dit bijzondere Kunsttarot nu via productie@castrumperegrini.nl – De Kaarten van Gisèle € 16,95 excl. porto kosten

Het Kunsttarot – De Kaarten van Gisèle wordt in een beperkte oplage geproduceerd.

Het Kunsttarot – De Kaarten van Gisèle in de media:

 

 

 

Critically Committed Pedagogies – Amber Coomans

Critically Committed Pedagogies, #2

A recap of  a semi-public seminar

by Amber Coomans

March the 10th is a vibrant day in Castrum Peregrini. Together with Dr. Esther Peeren, (University of Amsterdam, ASCA and Amsterdam Centre for Globalisation Studies), Professor Peter Kraftl (University of Birmingham), Jack Halberstam (Professor of Gender Studies and English at Columbia University) and the moderators Renee Turner and Frans-Willem Korsten, the students of the Piet Zwart Institute and many other guests immerse themselves in “critically committed pedagogies.” Although the word critical may sound as a cliché, Frans-Willem Korstens states, together with the word committed, it’s exactly what this seminar is about.

Esther Peeren

The seminar begins with Dr. Esther Peeren talking about where we teach and how the spaces in which we teach influence learning. She’s inspired by philosopher Michail Bachtin and his so-called chronotopes: intrinsic connectedness of temporal and spatial relationships that are artistically exposed in literature. There is the chronotope of the adventure novel, in which the main character always forgets the things he has learned in the previous episodes and is constantly surprised by everything. In this world learning is not possible. Another example is the chronotope of the Road, in which meeting new people from different backgrounds is central. Bachtin states that these chronotopes also exist in the real world.

The chronotope of the Salon is the place where dialogues can happen and where there is a more dialogic and interactive atmosphere. Perhaps this is an example of what a classroom should look like?

What does it mean to have this seminar at Castrum Peregrini? You could see the former WWII hiding place as a learning space for the hiders. They continued learning by writing and discussing, as in the chronotope of the Salon.

The discussion then turns to the VOC-room in the University of Amsterdam where the faculty of Humanities is now seated. How does the history of this place influence the learning processes that characterize this place? And what does it mean that this hasn’t really been discussed? Our heritage from WWII seems to be allowed to haunt us, as shown by the popularity of the Anne Frank house, but our colonial history isn’t. Why is this the case? Peeren concludes with Bachtin, who explained that learning is an internal conflict: It’s going to be difficult! That internal conflict, or internal dialogue is not ignored at Castrum Peregrini. It is a learning space and thinking space where attention is paid to time and space. If more learning places such as universities would pay more attention to time and space, we would achieve different ways of learning, resulting in more inclusion.

To end with a clever statement from one of the students: It’s not about what the space does to you, it’s who you become because of the space that matters.

Peter Kraftl

The second talk of the day is given by professor Peter Kraftl. He talks about his research on geographies of alternative education, and alternative childhoods in the UK, which is fuelled by his interest in space and place, being a geographer.

Alternative childhoods question standard ways of testing and the way children’s bodies are treated in schools. They create spatial ways of learning. Examples are the so-called forest-schools in Denmark, where the pupils are largely being taught outside in nature, the Kilquhanity Democratic school in Scotland, where teachers and pupils come together every week to discuss what will happen next week in a completely democratic way, and the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland which is more spiritual. What was striking in his research is the fact that teachers in alternative schools speak about love so often. Love as a completely non-sexual, non-romantic emotion. In mainstream society these senses of love are touched upon, but not as frequent. One of Kraftl’s respondents states that we need to see something like love as something bigger than just between two people: love as a responsibility. Kraftl concludes that we need to see alternative childhoods as autonomous, rather than seeing them as alternative. They are autonomous because most of the time they are independent and more outward-looking. They are distinct, but not divorced from the mainstream!

Another point of discussion in the room revolves around the issues of class and inequality in relation to alternative childhoods. It really depends on the places you go to, states Kraftl, because there is a huge diversity within alternative childhoods. It is an important topic.

Jack Halberstam responds to Kraftl’s talk by saying that love being defined as opposed to sexuality is nonsense and impossible. Kraftl agrees that it is indeed problematic to separate love and sex (and jokingly suggested perhaps a very British thing to do.)

A student presses the question whether it’s ethical to homeschool a child. Isn’t it a form of child abuse? Maybe it is, but maybe it’s abuse to put children in a learning environment with only people of the same age. A complicated but interesting subject with much to discuss about.

Jack Halberstam

The seminar ends with Jack Halberstam talking about frightful leaps into darkness based on Auto-Destructive Art. In Halberstam’s own words: from talks about utopian projects we now dive into total destruction at the end of the day.

‘Art without a safety net’ is what Halberstam speaks about, in combination with why we might use queer theory to think differently about death. Why? We’re living in a world where life expectancy has been greatly increased. Also, technological investment happens so fast that we will reach the moment where we will have transcendent the physical condition of death. At least, this is what the trans humanists want us to believe. In a way, Halberstam states, we already are at that point because of IVF. People that normally wouldn’t be able to reproduce are able to now. You can see humanity move towards destruction and we have to think about reproduction and death differently. Auto destructive artists, like Gustav Metzker who lived in Amsterdam for a while in the 70s, aim to think about these subjects in a different way. Metzker has tried to shatter the sentimental investment in WWII, by making clear that the genocide continues and could easily happen again.

Halberstam ends with the following: let’s see if this archive of auto destructive art can give us a set of tools to think differently about embodiment, life, death, risk, safety, art, creativity, and violence. Is there anything within this archive that we can use for the current set of disasters that threaten us?

The contribution of Jack Halberstam was also broadcasted on Castrum Peregrini Facebook Live Feed, Friday 10th March.

As part of the project The Warp and Weft of Memory artist and writer Renée Turner took the initiative for a number of Critically Committed Pedagogies in the House of Gisèle on 20 January and 10 March 2017. The Warp and Weft of Memory is a research project by Renée Turner, which will result in an online narrative exploring the contents of Gisèle d’Ailly van Waterschoot van der Gracht’s wardrobe, and the ways in which it reflects her life, work, and larger histories through textiles and clothing. The Warp and Weft of Memory is made possible by the generous support of Mondriaan Fund

Amber Coomans studies heritage at Reinwardt Academie Amsterdam, and a minor Philosophy, Worl religions and Spirituatlity at HKU Utrecht. Amber joins team Castrum Peregrini on a voluntary basis.

 

Critically Committed Pedagogies, #2

Seminar

Critically Committed Pedagogies

Friday March 10th from 10:00 – 17:00

with contributions by:

Professor Peter Kraftl, chair in Human Geography College Director of Internationalisation at the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Birmingham.

Dr. Esther Peeren is Associate Professor of Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam, Vice-Director of the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA) and Vice-Director of the Amsterdam Centre for Globalisation Studies (ACGS).

Jack Halberstam is Professor of Gender Studies and English at Columbia University. Halberstam is the author of five books: Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters (Duke UP, 1995), Female Masculinity (Duke UP, 1998), In A Queer Time and Place (NYU Press, 2005), The Queer Art of Failure (Duke UP, 2011) and Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal (Beacon Press, 2012)

Moderated by Renee Turner and Frans-Willem Korsten 

Working from the unique place and the history of Castrum Peregrini, the Master Education in Arts programme of the Piet Zwart Institute and Castrum Peregrini, will host this semi-public seminar. Examining unexpected sites and paradigms of learning, the aim is to plot spaces for maneuverability, if not resistance or possibilities for imagining and acting otherwise.

As this is a working seminar with limited space to facilitate discussion, reservation is required. This event is FULLY booked >> If you wish to reserve a place on the waiting list, please do so before Monday, March 6th. Send your request to: Susana Pedrosa Email s.m.de.melo.pato.pedrosa.de.jesus@hr.nl