Discover Eindhoven, The Netherlands in this catalogue of creative happenings

“We are performing culture”

June 30th, 2010

Filed under: ART & DESIGN

Instatements discussion

It is 30 degrees within the flimsy walls of La Città Mobile, but it doesn’t stop a small group of thirty or so curious Eindhoven residents from gathering to discuss “adapative reuse” of local buildings. A pithy topic, perhaps, on a very sticky Sunday afternoon. This session marks the beginning of an ongoing dialogue. I feel uplifted that such a discussion has come into being. I have started this blog to document creativity and cultural happenings in Eindhoven. So, I come to watch it happen in real life. 

The moderators of this discussion are Van Abbe museum “Your-Space” curator Clare Butcher and independent architect Uri Ben-Ari: two non-Dutch residents of Eindhoven who have set up the project Instatements. The project aims to examine the reuse of fomer industrial spaces under the theme of 2010’s Days of Architecture – “herbestemming and hergebruik” (translated roughly into “re-destination and reuse”). Imagine that a property owner or developer hasn’t yet decided what to do with an old factory building. The building can be rented out at a reduced rate. Tenancy in this case will be temporary. What will this impact be on the people working in those spaces?  And can a model such as this ever be sustainable rather than unstable? 

To me it sounds promising/exciting/full of possibilities to learn and connect. There is an exhibition until 5 July at La Citta Mobile to accompany the Instatements project. In the program notes, the David Harvey quote talks about how residents are individually and yet collectively responsible for how they re-make themselves and the city. Wow! How can I participate? How do I, through just living here – and yes, perhaps temporarily – re-make myself and therefore remake the city? Tell me more! I’m neither a sociologist nor a future expert. I’m a writer. I worry about this town.  The point is that the factories that were once a defining characteristic of the Eindhoven landscape have fallen into disuse because the city’s main source of industry is no longer industrial.  Reusing space in a way to enrich a community is one answer to a city that is dangerously turning into a fantasy destination that reasons if it tells enough people it is creative and vibrant, then it will be. 

An old Philips building

To be honest, on Sunday I thought we would have a discussion about what adaptive reuse actually means for the people who will do/experience/facilitate it. And that perhaps we would be told stories of or given images of imagined scenarios in more depth (than the accompanying exhibition). But I must have missed the parameters of the discussion or I misunderstood the goal of the afternoon – even though it was conducted completely in English. Instead of co-imagining future adaptive reuse or exploring the question “How does a city’s residents define the character of a city, and how is that manifested in the case of Eindhoven?”  the discussion was “How does Stichting Ruimte (an intermediary between property owners and creative tenants) negotiate with local council to release more workspaces to the creative sector? Why are there 200 people on the waiting list? Why do these spaces have to be temporary?” I started to think, um, how is this talking about adaptive reuse? I couldn’t see the link, theoretically or practically. Also, why does reuse of these spaces have to apply purely to the creative sector in this investigation? Why are we talking about Eindhoven’s marketing strategy to be a creative city, and the establishment of cultural “ghettos”? I wanted to know how temporary tenancy might impact on local resident neighbours. By the way, are there any locals here? Why is this discussion happening in English? I was not alone. One of the other participants told me he was disappointed that discussions became so abstract, regardless of the language. He couldn’t grasp what was being discussed so he tuned out and bided his time until it was polite to leave. 

The question that I wanted addressed most is – how do the people who live in Eindhoven really make it the city that is, by becoming the people that they are? And how, in re-making ourselves or simply fulfilling our own potential, do we make Eindhoven fulfil its potential? 

I applaud Clare and Uri for their efforts to examine this topic. We may not all have been satisfied with the outcome of the session, but this is a culturally significant discussion for Eindhoven. As one participant exclaimed “we are performing culture, every day. Culture is not separate to a city!”  And that’s how thirty enthusiasts, sweating and labouring in mind and body, individually and collectively, were “doing” an aspect of Eindhoven’s culture last Sunday.

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