An itinerary of local residencies: Stedelijk Museum Schiedam

Dance researcher/performer Maroula Iliopoulou follows the research process of dance artist Ingrid Berger Myhre for Dancing Museums II. Read her text and follow the journey!

A performative warm-up in advance of your tour, an exclusive intervention, or a treasure hunt? Curious to read more about Ingrid’s research on the 5th & 6th week of residency for the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen? This time the research was accommodated at Stedelijk Museum Schiedam.

Attempting to shake the rules of how we usually walk (or are expected to) inside a museum, always with respect towards the exhibits, Ingrid suggests an experiment designed for one or two visitors at a time. For the 5th and 6th week of her residency for the Dancing Museums EU Project, Ingrid developed an interactive -one on one- guided tour at Stedelijk Museum Schiedam. She had the opportunity to share and test this with a few visitors on her last day of the residency.

The experience designed for the visitor was arranged by appointment and had a 25 minutes duration. Can you imagine yourself entering the museum spaces and being continually moving from one exhibition to the other while you have no time to look properly at the exhibits? Instead, you are invited to follow the flow of the events unfolding in front of your eyes, one after the other.

Kristin de Groot, the artistic director of Dansateliers Rotterdam, participated in the test-tour. She shared with us about her experience:

‘Even though the journey felt like an energizer, it was also a journey in itself, a performative treasure hunt with things, interventions, and people performing on the way. It felt a bit like hiking in the mountains, the moment you see a trail, a forest or a mountain come to an end, you want to continue as you are curious to see what is beyond what you can see. I think that notion, to see beyond, stimulated my senses and curiosity, which made me really want to go back into the museum spaces.’

Interestingly, the word ‘discover’ used by Kristin, to articulate her experience on how her gaze was taken into a journey and the curiosity ‘to see what is beyond what you can see’ points towards one of the critical questions that Ingrid’s research revolves around. How her choreographic proposal could serve as an alternative platform to perceive the exhibited work? In the process of crafting the visitor’s journey, Ingrid has been more interested in ‘looking for’, than ‘looking at’. This invites the visitor to take on different perspectives and employs a dramaturgical aspect of the expectation along the way.

Ingrid’s choreographic practice is often concerned with challenging the way we look at things. Departing from the components already present in the museum, architectural and environmental, she and her collaborators composed a network of coincidences – resembling a treasure hunt – in the quest of playing with modes and registers of attention.

The idea of a treasure hunt, as a playful choreographic device to craft the journey through a museum, poses some interesting questions: What do we consider a treasure? Is it something of value? Are they per se hidden? What could be the means to disclose these little potential treasures?

The utilization of the little tokens inspired the nature of the events designed for this experiment. They also linked the in-between spaces by revealing the trajectory intended for the participant. Through their tactile exchange, they also became a symbol of consent, a contract for interactive participation.

Speaking of the choreographic composition, the repetition of this exchange established a motif, a rhythm for the guided tour. The pace of moving from one room to another was ever-changing. From following the tail of one event, to stop and discover a hint until you continue again to witness something else, taking a break in the middle of a staircase and then hurry to find a hidden choreography in the off-spaces of the museum (basement, foyer, staircase).

In a museum, if an object is left inside the exhibition spaces, it will immediately be removed by the staff for security reasons. This leave-no-trace policy became a guiding principle for the choreographic apparatus. Like seeds from Hansel & Gretel’s tale, the material objects appeared and disappeared consistently around each event as if by magic. So did the performers, as they assembled into a swarm and then dissolved. This ephemerality of the guided journey resonates with the very nature of movement and dance. Likewise this itinerary manifests as a fleeting experience to be merely encountered in the present time.

The proposal invited the participant to trace alternative routes throughout the building and visit spaces that they would not traditionally go to. This hidden itinerary made the journey an immersive experience, which went along with a sense of care and preciousness in terms of the personal address(one on one- individual experience). “Hidden”, precisely because the trajectory was unfolding and disclosing for one specific point of view whilst it was invisible to the other visitors in the space.

Inhabiting both the exhibition spaces as well as the off-spaces of the museum, the proposal created volume in the kinaesthetic experience and a sense of whole in the point of view offered. Ingrid worked with both proximity and distance, drawing attention to interventions taking place in front of our eyes or far outside in the courtyard through a window. Ingrid called this exploration, of zooming our attention in space in and out, ‘frames & scales’. Frames used not only in their literal form, but also metaphorically utilising elements in the space and in relation to where our body is situated/moving through in these spaces. ‘Framing’ offers an invitation to consider and embody a way of seeing. What we see or choose to see is a projection of our personal heritage and our previous experiences, but what if we adopt another perspective? In other words, by taking a perspective, we situate ourselves to what we see. A frame maneuvers our attention and stimuli both in the micro-level of what is framed and in association to the bigger scale, of its surroundings and of what is not involved in that specific point of view. In that sense, the proposal facilitated the opportunity to appreciate different aspects of what we encounter.

The tour ends, and the proposal welcomes the participant to retrace the journey and explore the museum at their own pace. By all means, with all the senses awakened, the tour must be fascinating after the previous adventure.

By Maroula Iliopoulou