How to make room?

How to make space? Having a studio space for a few weeks in CAMPO in Gent to be able to build prototypes and work things out spacially and visually makes a huge difference. We worked on building a prototype space that is also a process, a space for the Unreliable Archives. It was a joy to work with scenographers: Saskia Louwaard en Katrijn Baeten and to watch them wordlessly creating magic together.

These were the questions I gave them as a starting point:

How to create a space that is also a process?

How to create a space for transformation?

How to invite people into a space so they feel welcome, curious & their senses are open?

How to create a listening space? A touching space?  A space that wants you to add things or respond?

How to create a brave space: where comfort & discomfort are in fruitful tension?

How to create a space where encounters between material, histories, stories and entities is built in to how you move through the space?

How to create a space a space which is performative, in that it does things & encourages you to do things (in the broadest sense)?

How to create a space that is ridiculously personal (to me), but at the same time accessible so people can see and feel their own memories and associations?

How to focus on the light and air in a decomposition/ transformation process without avoiding the dirt?

How to create a space which is re-composing?

How to make a polyphony of different voices visible/palpable in the space?

How to create a space where people want to read aloud the sentences they see integrated in the space & possibly reconstitute new conversations and combinations of words?

It was also a privilege to work with fabulous performer Célia Fechas on the texts, to experiment with live translation and to record her voice for some of the sound stories.

Charlotte Peys was also in the Archives picking up where we left our ongoing conversation with stones and lines. Always a joy.

The space is gathering more and more stones and rocks. The stories have become stone stories. The layers are topological and geological. How to make room? is a question asked many levels: How to take up space? How to give back space, land, stolen goods? How to re-root ourselves in different ways in our environment and in relation to each other? What is buried in the ground, what happens when you bring it out into the light and how is it or can it be transformed? What rituals do we need to do this?

The dramaturgy of The unreliable Archives: the invitation to the audience, the rituals, the texts and the polyphonic sound in the space will be the focus of my last residency for 2021 in Kaastudios with Workspace Brussels in september.

After all the hard work in the heat and rain of june, we invited a few people into the prototype space. We asked them to give honest feedback about what the space does, what they thought worked and what they missed. This was useful to see what I do and do not want: What is important and what I have overlooked. More on this in the next post.

Here are a few photos from the residency in CAMPO.

Thanks to Marika Ingels, kristof Blom, Pol Heyvaert and all the CAMPO crew for making us feel at home and for your ongoing support of my artsitic research. Thanks to Kopano Maroga, Sophie Desomere, Helena Elshout, Jacky Klune, Fabian Espinosa Diaz, Inez Louwagie, Sabine Declercq, Charlotte Peys, Enrica Camporesi, Bea Van Robaeys, Lieslot Siddiki, Hannelore Siddiki, Hans Roels, Tine De Moor, An Gordier, Barbora Wouters, Stef Peters, Caroline Van Peteghem for support and /or visiting the Archives and giving your honest feedback. Thankyou to all the people I interviewed in South Africa and my family, your stories are mixing and turning to stone, or liquid gold. They are coming to life in the Archives, unreliably of course.

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Unfold a room – Stanza: on Proximity

Stanza means room in Italian and a verse in poetry or a rhythmical text. What does it mean for two or more artists to work on their own research and practice in proximity with each other? To share an in-between space, and reflect together? Stanza: is that in-between room.

Stanza, (or in Flemish Stanza’n) became a verb, a form of exchange. To Stanza is To room, to unfold a room, to make room. Stanza-ing is mapping, breathing, moving, exchanging, playing, learning, gesturing, being attentive to, crafting, caring, laughing, creating, stacking, gathering, wandering, stretching, incanting,… To Stanza is to build and unfold a temporary space through shared actions, rhythmically, ritually, generously.

Stanza: On proximity is a journey Enrica Camporesi and myself started on a long Corona proof winters walk in a nature reserve in October 2020. We have both worked with Mestizo Arts Platform and taken part in a Work in Progress festival. They encouraged us to talk, to meet, telling us there were so many links between our practices and our current artistic research projects. So we went for a walk and exchanged images and talked for hours. It was cold outside but a little fire was lit.

A month later we did it again, walking, exchanging, talking. The next month we invited Visual Artist Charlotte Peys to walk with and despite the rain, the fire grew bigger. Performer and director Duraid Abbas joined us around a drawing table (a table covered in paper and things to draw with). This is a research methodology used to think together with your bodies (phenomenologically). We talked and drew and exchanged sources of inspiration and the challenges of artistic research and practice. The tone was set for the residency a month later.

in April 2021 we set up home with Mestizo Arts Platform in Rataplan, Borgerhout, Antwerpen. This residency was a joint artistic research residency. We would work on our own artistic projects in seperate spaces. Enrica working on Oertaal: Oefening while I worked on The Unreliable Archives. We set up the Backstage in Rataplan as a joint reflection space. We were curious about what could happen in this shared space in proximity to each other and each others work. We invited Charlotte and Duraid to step both into our own individual worlds to work with us on specific aspects of our research (visual language, drawing as performance, movement and ritual,…) and to be an integral part of facilitating our shared world. This shared world became a room for, and belonging to all four of us.

Enrica Camporesi, Charlotte Peys, Duraid Abbas and myself in Stanza, @Mestizo Arts Platform @Rataplan, Borgerhout, Antwerpen. 19.04.2021-1.05.2021

We started each day together in Stanza. We decided to be Sybills, mythical creatures who can foretell the future, but because they can only talk in fragments, there are many possible ways to interpret their visions. How did we unfold this room of fragments? We exchanged small gifts of practice. This could be a warm up exercise or a drawing, something we had made with our hands or a smell, a photo or a quote we wanted to share. On the wall we had written questions we were thinking about that relate to our artistic research and practice. The table was covered in paper and there were drawing impliments everywhere. We let the associations and conversations open up as they went along. We each brought our critical thoughts and questions to the room, and we mixed them with intuition, evocations, spells, games, physicality, attention and care. These words and this drawing by Charlotte came to viualise the room:






We would like to share how to Stanza’n. We are working on a self-build package/game that you can unfold yourself at home, with friends, colleagues and fellow artists. We will talk more about this experience and its influence on our own artistic research and practice in an interview with Ciska Hoet be published in the winter. (drawing of two faces by Charlotte Peys)

Thankyou to Charlotte, Duraid and to Enrica for making this a unique experience. Thankyou to Charlotte, Tine & Mulanga at Mestizo Arts Platform for their support and for looking after us so well. Thankyou to Femke, Gregory and Atia at Rataplan Borgerhout for making us feel so at home in their house.

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Unfolding The Unreliable Archives

April 2021, Rataplan, Antwerp, under the wings of Mestizo Arts Platform. As part of a joint residency with Enrica Camporesi: ‘Stanza: on proximity’. (more about this in a separate blogpost) In the Photos: Enrica Camporesi, Duraid Abbas, Charlotte Peys, Mulanga Nkolo, Bert Serneels & Gaea Schooters. Photos by Karolina Maruszak.

This is the first time The Unreliable Archives unfolds themselves in a large open space. It is exciting and daunting. There is a lot of material: paper, photos, newspaper articles, sound stories, conversations, sentences pulled out the conversations, microphones, blanket creatures, earth, decomposting blankets, earth, moss, fragments and fossils.

The materials form islands on the floor and try to find ways to catch the attention of people who enter the archives. In the second week, one or two people people enter the Archives and on the last day there is a small crowd. The materials try different tactics to catch their attention: smells, tactility, they themselves as numbers, giving themselves names,…most of these labels are gone by the end of the second week. The materials communicate in their own way, they invite touch and send out signals. They rearrange themselves when I go to bed at night.

Blankets are appearing and setting up shop in groups of three. They want to be knelt on, to be sat on. They create a place to consider the sentences that have appeared on long strips of paper. The sentences are rearranging themselves into different conversations. There are microphones that either make reading aloud possible or just a bit too scary. New sentences appear in different coloured felt tip pens. They want to join the conversation.

Then there are these stories, these individual stories of shame and pain and joy and sensuality. Stories of packing boxes and packing tape, of old soft blankets you still have from your childhood, of not allowing yourself to take roots and being torn between loving the sounds of your own language and being ashamed to speak it. Stories of blaming anyone but yourself for what goes wrong in your life. Stories layered geologically, carrying traces of histories, buried memories and sudden laughter. These are beautiful messy stories where people bang the table and laugh so hard the microphone jumps. Where someone cries or starts to sound drunk or says small minded things in a booming voice or have to shout above the music playing in the restaurant to make themselves heard. Stories where people are bitter or frustrated and people are fighting for change. Stories of being sent away, of being removed, of wanting to leave. Stories about the impact of colonialism, racism, apartheid, economic systems, corruption, migration that trouble all easy ideas of what putting down roots and home means and at the same time express the longing and sensuous joy of our need to do so. These stories are coalescing slowly, geologically. They are chrystalising like hot minerals bumping up against a impervious band of hard bedrock. These stories are stone stories.

One half of my brain is trying hard to control everything, make lists, have a plan and structure all the information logically into an accessible and logical archive. The other half is entirely unreliable, flitting from impulse to impulse, associatively weaving a tappestry of connections or falling asleep under a tree. I often follow my intuition and record what I enjoy hearing or what catches my attention. I gather loose pieces of information that seem meaningful at the time and keep them together in constantly changing systems and folders. I have been told I need to stop gathering, make choices, find form.

When I plug in my computer and hear my recordings on four great speakers in a large space I know i can trust my instincts. The sounds of the morning birds chorus in Mpumalanga and the sound of pots and pans in the kitchen in the morning in Bethal. Me recording my own footsteps in a Finnish forest and ending up with the zoom of mosquitos in every track. The voices of the children who stole my headphones and dragged me around the garden in Lapland making me point the microphone at everything saying ‘what about this? what does this sound like? These sounds are my base line. ‘ When I listen to a Finnish artist talking about how everything is alive and how it is possible to move around and still be rooted I can feel myself orientating in the complexity. I understand it is all connected. When all this comes together in one space I know, that this tapestry is weaving itself around me. These Unreliable Archives will find form and they will form me in the process.

This residency was about letting go of control and seeing what the material does with me and observing what it does with the people who enter the space.

Thanks to all the fabulous people @Rataplan and @Mestizoartsplatform and to the STANZA crew: Enrica Camporesi, Charlotte Peys and Duraid Abbas. I felt at home with you all for two weeks.

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Memory is unreliable, ask my mother.

A short soundwalk in the park with The Unreliable Archives

My current ongoing artistic research practice is about composting colonial histories, taking root and finding home. It sparks from the desire for and difficulty of how we could relate to each other and the world outside of Colonial, Eurocentric and human-centred frameworks and how we can find and share rituals of transformation to start trying.

It is called the Unreliable Archives.

The Unreliable Archives are archives with unruly tendencies, much as colonial histories have. I am interested in ideas of slippage between words and meanings, histories and how they are (un)documented. I zoom in on Apartheid and post-Apartheid South Africa. My aim is to use Saidiya Hartmans method of critical Fabulation as a method of engaging with the Archive. I am attempting to write polyphonic conversations based on interviews with people from a variety of backgrounds. These conversations are taken out of context, and meant to be read aloud by whoever is passing through, in the hope that new conversations will ensue. This is an attempt at de-composition, at composting both personal and colonial histories.

The Unreliable Archives, as an ongoing artistic research-practice seems as if it will never stop transforming, developing and finding form. This process orientated practice will have no final definitive version. However, there will be a series of public moments where you can join me in The Unreliable Archives. You will be able to listen and read unreliable memories: my own and those of the people I have interviewed mixed together in polyphonic texts. Maybe you might want to add some of your own. This artistic research-practice is developing in conversation with Enrica Camporesi, Charlotte Peys, Kopano Morago, Sanne Van Rijn, Ruth Benschop, Bart Van den Eynde, Steven Brys, Hans Roels & the people and more-than-human entities I encounter in The Unreliable Archives. The Unreliable Archives is supported by Toneelacademie Maastricht the Arts Council of the Flemish Government.

In the coming months i will be doing three different residencties. I am very excited about this and thought I might share a regular update about the process with images and sounds.

From 19-30 April I will be with Mestizo Arts Platform in Rataplan in Borgerhout, Antwerp together with Enrica Camporesi. We are experimenting with a proximity research residency. We will work on our own projects (Rona: The unrelibale Archives, Enrica: Oertaal:Oefening) and we will share a proximity room to map and question and inspire each other. we will meet there every day, invite people to have visual, verbal an gestural conversations with us and our growing atlas of images and ideas. It will be called: STANZA: on proximity. (Stanza is both a verse and a room in Italian).

From 7 june-3 july I will be in CAMPO in Gent working with performer Célia Fechas and scenographers Saskia Louwaard and Katrijn Baeten to prototype a portable archive-object-space-place-installation.

From 20 september-to 3 October I will be with Workspace Brussels in Kaaitheater putting finishing touches on the installation-performance and inviting people to come and visit the Unreliable Archives.

After this I will continue to work in and on the Unreliable Archives as an artistic research-practice for as long as it continues to transform me and the people and entities I encounter.

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This is weirdly familiar

This is weird

April 2020: Three facts: I am sensitive to smells, the sun is shining, we are in the middle of a lock down due to a rampant global virus.

Like I said, this is weird. We are in week three of Lock down in Belgium. We are advised (ahem, told, socially pressured, threatened with fines) to stay in our houses as much as possible, except to get exercise, walk, go to the shops or work, if our work cannot be done online, or is saving peoples lives. I am ok with this. I live comfortably in a light and airy co-housing apartment with a garden, space, parks and nature nearby. I can order anything I want online. My jobs can be done online, although I may not be saving lives, I can keep students calm and help them to graduate before the summer. I can continue my own studies. I have an excuse to be anti-social, introverted and read that pile of articles. No excuses not to write those essays, research and grant proposals.

I mean I would rather be in a Finnish forest lying on a carpet of moss right now, but I am not complaining. Life is good. I am healthy, my family and friends are all ok. I can just about ignore the virus and the fear if I do not Google too much, watch the news and keep obsessively washing my hands. I can post culture tips on instagram and enjoy all the passing memes. #Lifeintimesofcorona.

So why am I having these strange olfactory and visual flash backs? Why am I paralysed when trying to leave the house? What is the sun shining brightly on my bare foot together with this specific combination of smells causing my body to remember?

This lock-down is familiar to me. I grew up in this world. I was born in Swaziland and lived in South Africa under the Apartheid regime for a large chunk of my childhood. An expatriate world of separate houses safe from the outside threat, safe from the ‘natives’. British passport, long haul flights, boarding school.

April 2019: I board a plane to Johannesburg in South Africa. I want to experience how it feels as a place, now. I want to move through its air, smell its smells and talk to people who stayed while it changed and didn’t change. I rent a room in a house in Sandton, the same place I lived as a teenager in the late 1980’s. I am in the garden, the smells hit me first, specific plants, sprinkler on earth, cicadas and morning birds chorus. I am feeling bright Highveld sun shining on my bare foot, in a gated housing complex, behind a high wall. I spend more time inside a house than I ever do at home, in Belgium. This is life for privileged people in Johannesburg. The outside world holds some kind of threat, the fear of violence keeps you locked ‘safe’ inside your own home. The Familiar dance William Kentridge often pictures in his work.

April 2020: I am amazed how quickly I adapt to the new rules under the lock down. There are new social codes, a slower pace. almost no traffic. You can hear the birds clearly. There is an  utter lack of public life: no bars, cafes, shops, no morning coffee at the station, on the way to work. I worry about a ‘Shock Doctrine’ effect, about basic rights being eroded even more than they already are, the economy being used as a excuse to erode social support structures, about artists being unfunded, forever. I think about refugees and homeless people, people in precarious housing, children in precarious family situations, people in the slums in Johannesburg, all packed into tin shacks with no running water. The virus will kill people because they couldn’t wash their hands and don’t have access to health care. I know I am in utter, utter luxury. I have always been in this position. Privileged segregation/separation: inside and outside, the bubble with gates, walls, digital screens between us and them.

The mixture of bright white sunlight, crisp cold air, fresh washing hanging outside, budding and carefully flowering plants, the smells of cooking.  Springtime in Europe, Autumn in South Africa. The smells of domesticity with the outside world at its edges: disinfectant hand gel and fear. My body hesitates to go outside. I need to move, get fresh air. I know I can’t catch this virus by cycling along the river or walking to the shops and yet I am paralysed. My body is trained to stay inside. It is both an expat childhood and a boarding school training. I often have this hesitation, this familiar difficulty getting out the house. I never understood it until this virus locked us in our homes. I grew up locked either in my home or in my boarding school dormitory.

Lock down is strangely familiar to me.

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Heading North: Artists residency in Lapland summer 2019

Just back from South Africa in May, I spent a month at an artists residency in Campo in Gent. I spread all my material out on the walls, listened to interviews for clues about where to go next. With the results of this proces I headed north, for my next artists residency, further north than I have ever been before. It is quiet up north.

Arbetsstugan is an old school for crafts in Muodoslompolo, a tiny village in Northern Sweden, just across the border from Finnish Lapland.  It peeps out between the trees, surrounded by lakes and forests, rocks, and not much else. My partner and I were invited by visual artist Maria Huhmarniemi (Patterns collective, Finland) to work in two of the many studios in the old school building her and her British husband are doing up. We worked, dreamed, made visual what wandered through our heads. We swam, walked, listened to the silence, dealt with the inevitable mosquitos, met other artists and many gentle, open people. We fell in love with the North. We will be back.

I left Campo with ideas, direction, but i still needed to kill a lot of darlings, make choices.  In Lapland I made those choices. Lapland changes your internal tempo, you look more, see more. I am excited to get to work weaving the many threads of my research in the last few years into one larger performance and/or installation piece. I am doing this within the framework of a Masters in Theatre: research and practice, at the Institute for Performative Arts, Maastricht in The Netherlands. An exciting year ahead. I will keep you posted.

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Migrating Dialogues #3 Ladies Choice & wat nu?

Migrating Dialogues Nu: 25 jaar na de einde van het Apartheid era ga ik naar Zuid Afrika voor een maand om mensen te interviewen. Daarna ga ik in residentie bij CAMPO (Gent) en at the Artists Association of Lapland (border Finland/Sweden).

Migrating Dialogues in de laatste periode in beelden:

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Migrating Dialogues op UN/SETTLED festival slot weekend: 11 november 2018 om 11u

11u op 11 november 2018 duiken we met Migrating Dialogues in een militaire bunker in provinciale domein Raversyde in Oostende tijdens het slot weekend van UN/SETTLED festival van KAAP

Exact 100 jaar na de einde van de eerste wereldoorlog kijken we naar de grenzen van de toekomst. Kom kijken en luisteren naar onze nieuwe intieme luisterverhaal: Ladies Choice.

Ladies Choice is een gesprek tussen mijn moeder, een vriendin en ik over kiezen, expat zijn, grenzen stellen, vechten tegen oude patronen en de zee. Hoe draag je jouw verleden naar de toekomst, welke geuren, geluiden en beelden reizen mee?

We spelen in een militaire bunker vlak aan de zee: Het zal een volstrekt unieke beleving zijn – een eenmalig gebeurtenis – dus zorg dat je een zitje reserveert (plaatsen zijn gelimiteerd).

je kan hier reserveren

Voor meer over UN/SETTLED festival kijk je op:

#KAAP, #UNSETTLED, #eych2018, #europeforculture, #atlantikwalleurope

Ladies’ choice: Een performance over ontheemding, dekolonisering en taboe

Rona Kennedy gaat in deze performance in gesprek met haar moeder Audrey en haar vriendin Lola. Ze praten over lijnen trekken in het zand, schorpioenen uit je schoenen schudden, nieuwe talen leren en dozen uitpakken. Ze dansen, zingen en stellen vragen aan de zee. Ze graven naar herinneringen, zelfrechtvaardigingen en blinde vlekken. Ze zijn expats, maar wat is dat eigenlijk?

Deze performance maakt deel uit van Migrating Dialogues, een verhalenproject over migratie, macht en privilege. De makers nodigen je uit om verhalen te delen en samen na te denken over ontheemding, dekolonisering en taboe.

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DANKJEWEL-Crowdfunding campagne Migrating Dialogues geslaagd!

DANKJEWEL aan iedereen die ons crowdfunding campagne steunde!

Dankzij jullie haalden we ons doel en meer!

Dankzij jullie kunnen we ons artistiek onderzoek naar Migratie, dekolonisering en taboe verder zetten! Je hoort nog van ons!


Steun onze Crowdfunding campagne en maak onze project en Podcast reeks mogelijk!

We hebben al 27% en nog 19 dagen te gaan! nu nog de laatste 73%

Merci bij voorbaat voor jullie steun!


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Migrating Dialogues in NEST

Migrating dialogues #1 ‘Inheriting the Empire’ en #2 ‘Spaghetti Junction’

Installatie te beluisteren in LOKET in NEST op: 19 februari / 24 maart / 5 mei

Luister performances op 10 en 11 mei in BOM festival, Bij de Vieze Gasten

in de zomer installatie en performances bij KAAP in Oostende tijdens het festival UNSETTLED…

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