developed and performed as part of Unboxed, at Over het IJ Festival 2023
co-production: Dansateliers Rotterdam & Over het IJ
guidance: Hilda Moucharrafieh
production support: Job Leseman
In June and July 2023, we made ourselves at home in the architecture of the slipway at NDSM, the slope from which ships manufactured on the shipyard used to enter the water. Through weeks of roaming, dancing, watching, sitting, being tousled by wind&storm, and a total of 26 performative encounters in 8 days, we began to meet this place.
For the past year, we have been looking for temporary homes across cities, traversing Singapore, the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium. Reflecting on migration and displacement, it was intriguing to delve into the history of the NDSM-wharf, rich with cycles of manufacture, departure, and arrival. What leaves, what returns? In the face of rapid change, how can thinking through cyclicality transform the way we think about loss?
A person is folded, unfolded, enfolded in a piece of paper. Pulled apart into something that floats, a paper boat is sent out into a body of water. In this performance, we make room for co-imagining: room for bodies and materials to shape each other, for the defunct to be precious, for hard things to be made soft.
At NDSM, the performance engaged (not coincidentally) with Longing to Cross the Horizons, an artwork initiated by Hilda Moucharrafieh. The floor mural functions as “a counter-monument (to the NDSM wharf) for refugees who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea”. It is designed in collaboration with artist Haitham Haddad, artist collective We Sell Reality, and friends, featuring one sentence from a letter which was found in the pocket of a migrant who drowned in 2015.
“Dear sea, thank you for receiving us without a visa or passport.”
This project exists within the trajectory of our research on loss, processes of transformation, and reconstruction—floor (triptych) is a patient attempt to make sense and respond to a world we know we are losing, where loss permeates every corner.
NDSM (Nederlandsche Dok en Scheepsbouw Maatschappij) is a former shipyard in Amsterdam, that ceased operations in 1984. After this large area of docks and shipyards became derelict, it was purchased by the borough of Amsterdam-Noord. Through the 1990s, NDSM was largely squatted by artists. When it started to undergo an urban regeneration process and gentrification, discussions between the squatting artists and the authorities led to a number of squats being recognised as cultural hotspots and incubators. Today, it has distinctively touristic characteristics, while still being a home to ateliers and performing art festivals.
This former shipyard is a place that has undergone much transformation in the past decades, and many battles over its use. It bears many faces – of industry and manufacturing, trade, squat culture, cultural incubation, gentrification, urbanisation, and tourism. We were deeply inspired by the variety of its faces, and specifically by the aesthetic of urban freedom that it now dons, being a place where graffiti is legal and encouraged. This specifically-permitted freedom (that also comes with destructive forms of vandalism like littering, trespassing, and damaging of property), alongside the industrial skeleton of NDSM, lend a harshness to the area. Spending weeks on that site, we developed a desire to meet the harshness of this place with softness, and questioned how we could introduce a new perspective of tenderness into its character.