The Participants of Fashion held in Common got to spend a day with Dutch artist and artistic researcher Jeanne van Heeswijk to experience her unique way of working within various public spaces and with different communities.
During the public lecture, artist and artistic researcher Jeanne van Heeswijk presented an insight into her artistic practice, which explores how communities are constructed through shared experiences. Instead of analysing other communities, as Van Heeswijk demonstrated, we were asked to analyse ourselves through a series of exercises. Which was an enlightening experience and one that, in my opinion, strengthened our group cohesion. We participated in the following exercises:
In pairs, we interviewed each other and asked specific questions that were instructed by Van Heeswijk, such as: “how did you get here?” and “where are you going?” After which, the interviewer presented the answers to the entire group; introducing their interview partner in a different and creative way. It was refreshing and entertaining to see someone else presenting your responses instead of repeating your own presentation over and over again.
Digging deeper into our ‘emotional tissue’, we explored the concept of ‘network belongings’. Throwing balls of thread around while answering various questions like: “what are your belongings in the city?” and “what are your ideals?” resulted in a large web which connected the sticky notes on which we had written our thoughts and answers. From this, we were able to identify connections between certain ‘belongings’ or items and gather valuable information on how our community is constructed. To explore and understand our personal notions of ‘belonging’ further, we made a memory timeline. We outlined both global events – including: women’s right to vote in France (1945); the end of WWII (1945); the Tiananmen square protest in China (1989) – and personal events, which revealed shared histories and more recent, shared experiences.
Finally, we were asked to intervene and create an alternative pathway within the existing web, which represented an action of ‘gradual change’. In two separate groups we explored this idea of ‘gradual change’. One group held an exploratory poetry session in a cozy environment. Their path was called “reading – freedom – building energy.” The other group made a tipi construction from all kinds of workspace material (a spinning wheel, a mannequin, paper, fabric, etcetera.). Their path was called “warm places – on a cloud”. In this group, the participants’ skills were: comedy, craft, technology, mending.
All in all, the workshop was interesting and kept us all busy for a full day. It was a great learning experience to see just how Jeanne van Heeswijk applies certain methods to create real results for change. Experiencing this within our own community, guided by Van Heeswijk, made it feel real and authentic. I think the group cohesion has improved, as well as our understanding of each other and how we can use our skills to achieve change through shared goals.
(by Anna Wetzel)