Dance researcher/performer Maroula Iliopoulou follows the research process of Ingrid Berger Myhre at the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum. Read her text and follow the journey!
Since the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum is currently being renovated, their collection has been dispersed across neighbouring institutions, under the title ‘Boijmans Next Door’. Having said that, Dancing Museums collaborative European Project has been on the move as well.
During the local residencies for our Dancing Museums project, I followed the appointed choreographer Ingrid Berger Myhre around 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? Then navigate the Dancing Museums local choreographic residencies to see 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, was one of the ideas Ingrid was interested in exploring in her research. With that in mind, Ingrid’s first priority on day one of the residency was to wander around the exhibits at the Maritime Museum and reflect on her experience from a visitor’s perspective. She then seized the opportunity to connect and arrange exchanges with the museum staff over the next few 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 than a map, as it gives important information about the world of that time through images and descriptions, in latin, of the world. On the second day of the residency, while Ingrid was standing in front of that map, she met Frank Götz, the paper conservator for the museum, who invited the choreographer to look at the paper restoration department and watch the work behind the scenes. We were taken on a proper tour in the lab and later saw where they keep an impressive collection of more than 9000 maps and atlases dating back to the 15th century.
This encounter turned out to be a surprising treasure – as we were taken on an alternative route throughout the building- undoubtedly offering the kind of potential that Ingrid was looking for at the beginning of the residency.
Meeting with the educational manager
On the second day, Ingrid met Hanneke Kempen, the educational manager of the museum. This meeting offered the chance to find out about the museum’s priorities and mission.
The Maritime Museum focuses their vision on becoming a centre of knowledge for maritime progress, both in terms of history and contemporary developments. This is reflected through a variety of educational programmes, which are intergenerational and engage a variety of target groups.
Certainly, the pedagogical approach with respect to the visitor experience is very important at the Maritime Museum. ‘Interaction, stimulation, participation’ are key strategic elements for activities used to engage the viewer, of all ages, in an immersive journey, throughout their tour.
Choreographer’s thoughts and reflections
Reflecting on her experience as a visitor this week, through a choreographic lens, Ingrid noticed that her practice blends in a different way in that environment. In contrast to a Museum of Contemporary Art, she says: ‘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 to facilitate an environment for the viewer where there is agency offered in order to experience an individual journey, providing a ‘space’ for them to choose the level of participation, and crafting a series of events that are nuanced and dramaturgically coincidental, and which can be perceived differently. How does Ingrid’s approach live inside a context like this?
The Maritime Library
On day three of the residency, I meet Ingrid at the library of the Maritime Museum. The library was established in 1857 and it is considered to be the oldest and most comprehensive maritime collection in Netherlands. Her visit on the previous day had sparked an interest in looking further into Dutch history, as well as into the nature and use of maps in the history of exploration.
Maps & terrain – exploring the architecture of the building
The design and architecture of the building becomes an important factor to further investigate, in order to understand and visualise the way people navigate the space, and therefore 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’, the view widens, to not only across the same level but also across parts of the other decks/levels, and even outside through the windows to the harbour.
Ingrid tried, through physical tasks, to observe and look for the long lines that connect different parts of the building visually and which are seen from different points of view. One of the tasks was to map the points of view between two dancers who were constantly changing their position, keeping track of their proximity/distance in relation to the rest of their visual reach, at the spots where they were located. The task of measuring and interacting physically with these dimensions, made a playful experiment, building a relationship with the architecture of the place.
Ingrid, contemplating on the idea of perspective, says: “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 it 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.” With this in mind, Ingrid started to think about potential applications for this within the visitor’s journey.