On 31 October, two groups from the city were our guests in the Werksalon. The goal was to generate first ideas for stories and issues that should have a place in the museum. If you were the maker of the program of the museum, which stories would you talk about? How do your stories touch the stories of the members of your group? And can we extract the few first themes from these stories? These questions were leading during the second Werksalon-day with the groups Vluchtelingen in de Knel and students from International School Eindhoven, on Wednesday 31 October. We wanted to explore topics and issues hidden behind what the participants shared with us.
"We want to be a better neighbor," is how director Charles Esche opens the program in the morning with the participants of the refugee-organization; the participants of the school will join us later in the afternoon. “We don’t know how to be a better neighbour and you don’t have the answer to that. We’re going to find out together.”
Since the groups have visited eachother’s locations in the first meeting in September, it’s now time to get to know the collection better. Curator Steven Ten Thije walks shows works of Piet van der Hem, Taus Makhacheva, and Otobong Nkanga. “Art is reflecting how we look at the world and ourselves in it. This is translated into an image or an installation. But, he asks, how can we tell a story that represents histories of different people? How can the museum be our museum?
Intern Merel Buiting asked one question prior to the day's meeting: bring a photograph or object with you that answers the question: ‘what makes you get up in the morning and what keeps you awake at night? The objects, photographs, and spontaneous drawings that were made in the Werksalon tell us something about the subjects and themes that occupy the participants' minds. Photographs of torn-up homes, the love between a mother and child, a broken globe highlighting Palestine; all participants explain in one minute what their photograph, object, or drawing means to them. Steven distills all the themes that we collect (like family relations, desires, populism, humanity, prejudices, health, spirituality, and will) down to two slogans with the group: “It’s our job to be human," and “It’s our task to be human". In the next meetings we will work with these texts.
At half past two, the students of the International School Eindhoven join in. It is their first time at the museum and the first time that the two groups actually meet in person. Project coordinator Hilde van der Heijden asks the students to interview the participants in the other group about how their morning went. We are pleasantly surprised by the stories shared and the experiences exchanged!
The program continues with a museum tour for the ISE students. We also walk along the banners from last year's groups hanging in the exhibition "The Way Beyond Art." On one of them is written the slogan "Do/Don’t: blend, behave, belong" from the group of the International locals. Steven: "next time, you are also going to make a banner like this with a slogan, so already start thinking about the subjects you want to talk about."
After the tour, the participants of the school follow a workshop that is given by Ghislaine Schlechta. Prior to the Werksalon day we asked them to think of two dilemmas. One with a focus on the question: what will get you up? And one with the focus on the question: what keeps you awake at night? We presented all of the students' fourteen dilemmas on a flipper. The dilemmas made up by the students had themes like identity, politics, power, self expression, and environment and sustainability, such as:
•You are a bad country leader but there is peace or you are a good country leader but there is war.
•Censorship of all important global news is terminated or you can never know the news ever again.
•You live completely on your own planet and won’t feel lonely or you live in an alternate reality where you can feel more emotions including negatives and positives.
There is just one rule: you have to choose! The workshop led to a lot of enthusiasm and intense discussion amongst the students. If you are a good leader, does that mean you are capable of establishing world peace? What is a good leader? And what is the purpose of life if there is nobody around you to share life with? Or, could you also use your positive emotions to turn negative emotions around?