The Netherlands is slowly but steadily reopening. The restrictions on theatres and museums, however, are more on the slow side. One week before it started, SPRING Festival Utrecht was granted permission to offer live performances, becoming one of the so-called test-events before theatres across the country follow suit after 5 June. To the 1.5-metre rule and the use of masks upon entry, an added hurdle in the form of a negative test-result was asked before each performance. The whole process leading towards each SPRING performance was tinged with slight sadness. Walking from the test-site to the theatre, amidst fully booked terraces and smiling people going for sunny shopping sprees, I felt a bit like a pariah. First world problems, I know. But still. A feeling undoubtedly fuelled by the lack of cultural vision shown by the Dutch government so far. Asked on May 11 why cultural events were so late in the reopening schedule, the Minister for Health, Welfare and Sports Hugo de Jonge replied they were not essential. ‘You can always play a DVD instead’.
What follows is a letter of sorts, and two postcards – three testimonials of experiences lived in the context of shared, artistic events. No DVD was found to be a valid alternative.
A letter to dancer Rebecca Collins
For the first hour (out of three) of Katja Heitmann’s Museum Motus Mori, a ‘personal encounter’ with a movement archive, dancer Rebecca Collins and I sat down in one of the white rooms of Utrecht’s Fotodok Museum, and we talked. Four or five neutral wooden boxes, big enough to serve as a small bench, were scattered across the floor. Rebecca asked me to show her the physical positions I played in as a child, the ways I remember my parents moving and the way I embrace my partner – and asked me about what those positions and movements spoke of, what they meant to me. All the while, she observed and mirrored my gestures, telling me now and again what stood out and thereby also recording residual movements I make while I talk.
The ‘Museum’ itself had been explained to us (four) audience members upon entry. Moone Rovers, Heitmann’s assistant, told us in the lobby about the people who had come before us since the project started in 2019. Scattered on the floor of the hallways leading to our designated galleries, sheets and more sheets of thick, grey paper with drawings and scribbles, always introduced by a name, a place and an age, proved her point.