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06.11.2016 | Words by: Floor van Hulsen.

On the 13th of October the first edition of Tijdgenoten was opened in collaboration with the Stedelijk Museum. The four works on display were all made by artist Mohamed Bourouissa and are called: Screenshot, Legend, ALL-IN and La Valeur Du Produit. The opening night could be described as an earlier art opening where Andy Warhol, Madonna, Basquiat and Keith Haring would also be perfectly able to entertain themselves. If you weren’t overwhelmed by the video-installations on display, then at least you’d be surprised by the performances that seamlessly matched Mohamed’s work. Counting 900 visitors who danced amid the art and a line at the door you start to wonder where all this enthusiasm came from.

For me, this was also the start of a new adventure. Coincidentally I work for both organisations. At De School I aid the hospitality team and I also do projects for the Stedelijk Museum which concern their youth program: Blikopeners. Blikopeners are young people who try to make the museum more accessible to a young audience. They do this by organising tours, workshops and events.

My personal mission is to excite my environment about art and offer them tools to better interpret art. At the same time I challenge museums to step outside of there comfort zone and encourage them to embrace projects outside the museum building. I do always try to encourage them to give these projects substance instead rather than just being desperate marketing attempts to draw a young audience into the museum. 

After sharing my ambitions and passion for art at De School I was called up one afternoon by my manager: "Would you like to guard the artworks during ADE and engage in a dialogue with the visitors on what they think of the works on display?" I immediately cancelled all my other plans and projects and filled my entire agenda-page with three letters: ADE.

Every night, with a clipboard and a pen in my hands I sat myself down on a stool in the auditorium. A lot of visitors were able to find the auditorium, some others weren’t. As people came in they seemed somewhat startled by the huge screen showing dark and unexplainable images. As people walked through the room, needless to say, there were a few folks who couldn’t stop themselves from making jokes and having a laugh with the projector. I thought to myself: "That’s fine, free your inner child."

It wasn’t until we were a few hours into the night that conversations got going. There was one guy who started talking about privacy after seeing the video-installation ALL-IN. He told me: "There are criminals who turn on your webcam, contact you to say they have images of you and threaten to release these images if you don’t pay them a large sum of money." I found this interesting and started thinking that maybe I should put a sticker over my webcam. What really touched my heart was a visitor who started talking to me about money and how it limits the things we stand for. He said that money can destroy human purity. I was also entertained by a man who shared his favorite artists and art experiences with me. "Oh yeah, you’re working with the Stedelijk Museum - where De Nachtwacht is on display.’’ Well not exactly, De Nachtwacht is in the Rijksmuseum, but you came pretty close. "Oh yeah, well that’s great too. I love Salvador Dali and Jeroen Bosch but Piet Mondriaan... well Piet Mondriaan is just shit." I loved the way this visitor felt no shame at all and he felt the setting was comfortable enough to share his honest thoughts.

However, there was one visitor that I won't forget easily. He sat down in the auditorium and watched ALL-IN three times in a row. When he started watching it for the third time, I handed him the English translation of the songlyrics. He stood up and jokingly rapped the English translation to his friends. I sat down at a bench behind them and the rapping fellow sat down beside me and asked me if I could explain a couple of things. Halfway through my story, he interrupted me to ask someone next to us for her opinion on the art. As this happened, a group of people in front of me turned around and before I knew it three different groups of people were having dialogues about consumerism, the capitalist system, our privacy and what all of this might mean in the future. As a coin on the screen was spoiled in a bloody colour someone said: "That’s the blood of the working class!" The images on the screen inspired new, socially critical topics of conversation. The conversation lasted for about an hour in a very open-minded and light-hearted fashion. No tension whatsoever. It ended with smiles and high-fives as people made their way back to the dancefloor to dance off the complex subjects we had just discussed. 

Amazed as I was, I sat back down on my stool at the entrance. What just happened? Is this the living proof that discussions run more smoothly under the aid of visual art? All I know is that I saw humanity in its purest form today. People really treated each other with respect and dignity. I wish we could see more of this instead of insult-based discussions online that reep no ground for mutual understanding whatsoever.

Has this blog made you curious to come and see Mohamed Bourouissa’s work? Don’t worry about a thing - the exhibition is still on until the 27th of November and you don’t have to go nocturnal to see it. You can also swing by from Tuesday to Saturday between 17:00 - 22:00 and during regular club nights.
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