Dancing Museums: Maritime Museum

Dance researcher/performer Maroula Iliopoulou follows the research process of Ingrid Berger Myhre in Museum Boijmans van Beuningen. Read her text and follow the journey!

Since Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is currently undertaking a renovation, their collection has been dispersed across neighbouring institutions, under the title ‘Boijmans Next Door’. That being said, Dancing Museums collaborative European Project has been on the move as well.

During the local residencies for the Dancing Museums Project, I followed the appointed choreographer, Ingrid Berger Myhre, at three different institutions in Rotterdam: the Maritime Museum, the Museum Rotterdam and the Kunsthal. Curious about how a choreographic residency especially within a museum environment can unfold? Navigate yourself through the local choreographic residencies of the Dancing Museums Project to follow the journey

Maritime Museum: getting to know the workplace and the people 

How can what is on display tell us something about what is not on display? This, in particular, is one of the ideas which Ingrid is interested to explore during her research. With that in mind, Ingrid’s priorities on day one of the residency is first to wander around the exhibits at the Maritime Museum and reflect on her experience from a visitor’s perspective. Following to that, she seizes for opportunities to connect and arrange moments of exchange with the museum staff for the next days.

Behind the scenes: the craft of paper restoration

This is the map by Joan Blaeu from 1645-1646. It is in fact more like an encyclopedia rather than a map, as it gives important information about the world of that time through images and descriptions of the world in latin. It is the second day of the residency and while Ingrid is standing in front of that map, she gets the chance to meet with Frank Götz, the paper conservator for the museum who invites the choreographer to take a glance on the paper restoration department and watch the work behind the scenes. Indeed, we are taken on a proper tour in the lab as well as later, in the debot of the museum, where they keep an impressive collection of more than 9000 maps and atlases dating back to the 15th century.

This encounter turns out as a surprising treasure – being taken on an alternative route throughout the building- undoubtedly that kind of potential that Ingrid was looking for at the beginning of that residency.

Meeting with the educational manager 

On the second day, Ingrid meets with Hanneke Kempen, the educational manager of the Museum. This meeting offers resourceful information on the priorities and the mission of the museum. The Maritime Museum focuses their vision on becoming a centre of knowledge about maritime progress, both in terms of history and contemporary developments. This is reflected through a variety of educational programs, which are intergenerational and engage a variety of target groups.

Certainly, the pedagogical approach with respect to the experience designed for the visitor is highly present at the Maritime Museum. ‘Interaction, stimulation, participation’ are the key elements of the strategies utilised for the activities organised to engage the viewer of any age into an immersive journey throughout their tour.

Choreographer’s thoughts and reflections  

Reflecting on her experience this week as a visitor, more through the choreographic lens, Ingrid notices that her practice blends in a different manner within that environment. As opposed to a Museum of Contemporary Art, she mentions: ‘the amount of stimulation throughout the exhibitions at the Maritime museum creates an environment that’s hard to compete with when you work on a level of subtle epiphanies. Here people are not looking for subtleties.’

Ingrid’s choreographic practice looks upon facilitating an environment for the viewer, where there is an agency offered in order to experience the journey on their own sense. Providing a ‘space’ of choice for them to decide the level of participation and crafting a series of events, nuanced and dramaturgically coincidental, which can be perceived differently. How does Ingrid’s approach live inside a context like this?

The Maritime Library

It’s day three of the residency and I meet Ingrid at the library of the Maritime Museum. The library was established in 1857 and it is considered to comprise the oldest and most comprehensive maritime collection in Netherlands. Her visit on the previous day has sparked her interest to look further into Dutch history, as well as the nature and utilization of maps in the history of exploration.

Maps & terrain- exploring the architecture of the building

The design and architecture of the building constitute important factors to look further at in order to understand and visualize the way people navigate through and thus experience the exhibitions. Interestingly, at the Maritime Museum, there is a theatrical set up of the levels/floors of the building which are designed in the form of ship decks. From each ‘deck’, it is possible to widen your attention span not only through the same level but also across parts of the other decks/levels, even outside through the windows and the harbour.

Ingrid attempts through physical tasks to observe and look for those long lines that connect visually different parts of the building and are perceived through various points of view. One of the tasks is mapping the points of view between two dancers who are constantly changing their position. Keeping track of their proximity/distance in relation to the rest of their visual extent at the occasional spot where they are located. The task of measuring and interacting physically with these dimensions composed a playful experiment to approach the architecture of this place.

Ingrid contemplates on the idea of perspective: “Movement is always embedded in perspective. As perspective always implies a direction, an intention and a distance/proximity. A perspective always and by default includes something and therefore excludes something else. This is why is is inherently political. Besides, it represents a point of view which can be shared only by stepping into someone else’s shoes. It asks for embodiment to be fully understood.” Departing from this idea, Ingrid starts to create a draft of potential applications of it throughout the visitor’s journey.