MAASTRICHT WHO CARES FIELDWORK An artistic project that examines the space of care in our society
Dernière mise à jour : 4 juil. 2022
For 2 years on and off we join the routines of residents and home makers of Pottenberg in Maastricht. We get an apartment, we live here, we make a home, we integrate ourselves in this neighbourhood. We learn and follow the ones who transform their house, neighbourhood, surrounding into homes. For themselves and for others.
Artistic team: Zsofia Pazcolay, Marina Orlova, Biljana Radinoska , Lisanne van Aert, Jetske Verhoeven, Alice Pons and Olivia Reschofsky. Exploring together new ways to collaborate, to engage into this long term research, to share our different processes and pass it on to others.
part of We live here - in collaboration with Via Zuid, Cultuur makers Maastricht, SOAP and WoonPunt
DAY 1 (Alice, Olivia and Zsofi)
Today is our first day with Who Cares? in Maastricht under the project We live here. We have three days to move into an apartment that has been given to us in the neighbourhood of Pottenberg (South-West of Maastricht), which will be demolished within 2 years. So is our apartment. It is therefore in pretty bad condition. The floor is falling apart. There is mould on some of the walls. Some of the things are rotten. There is this smell we can't identify, but it is ours and we feel the spirit and we are ready to care for it from now on. We are going to transform it into a home.
We pick our little suzuki via snapcar in Amsterdam so we can drive to Maastricht. It's a funny granny design car but it fits us well. We are getting some last things we can bring from our storage. Our famous tea set, fabrics, carpets. The Moha basics. We pick Bowie (Olivia's son) from the kindergarden who will join us for this trip. He is super excited. Luckily Olivia made two sandwiches because she knows that it is what he will need in the car. He sleeps for most of the car ride so it's perfect, we can chit chat and prepare for our first stay in Maastricht.
We arrive at the apartment and immediately we have to go to the kringloop with our two helpers. No time to land. Zsofi, our friend and colleague, is also joining us for this adventure. It's such a pleasure as she is a true core for Moha and we could not have a more dedicated soul to join this mission.
The first living area we create is a playing corner consisting of a carpet at the back side of the living room, with some toys so Bowie can hang out there and play. In the evening we make our beds upstairs. Laura, our production assistant for the project arranged some basics for us. Only problem is that we discover the blankets are way too thin and we will never manage to sleep with this in the night. So we check and see that Hema is still open for another 45mn. We jump in the car with Bowie and make it a family trip to go get these blankets. Mission accomplished.
Our beds are finally ready. It's modest but it's a beginning, and we can have our first ever night in our new home.
DAY 2 (Alice, Olivia and Zsofi)
Bowie wakes up at 6.00 because the light goes through the current curtains. Zsofi and Alice solve their problems by putting a black shirt on their face but everybody is up early. The table and the chairs we have are one of the centre points of the living room. It allows us to all gather and eat together even if for now we have nothing to cook with and not even a boiler or a knife to cut an avocado. We still find the way to make a nice breakfast using a scissor as a knife.
When Olivia decides to take a shower, we realise that there is no hot water. We surrender to the fact that we will remain dirty during these three days. We quickly get ready and we start our marathon of kringloop and other shops.
At the first kringloop we buy so many things that we feel ashamed at the kassa with our 15 green little shopping baskets, piles of pillows, sheets, lamps etc. A huge line is forming behind us. Everybody is looking at us a bit suspicious. We manage to go through this experience and put everything in the car even though Zsofi is a bit smashed by one of the little sofa bed, reminding us of the 90s, chosen by Olivia.
Before the second kringloop we trick Bowie to come with us saying he will have an ice cream (which he will) but first we want him to fall asleep in the car. We make several rounds until it finally happens. While he sleeps we finally get coffees which started to be dearly missed by Zsofi and Olivia. Still while he sleeps we start our new shopping, a lot of cheap and beautiful carpets, a microwave, more pillows, an armchair, cooking pots, knives and some art works. The people working at the kringloop are sweet, they break the ice by making a joke about Alice's hair. Alice is used to it so she doesn't get offended and she laughs along. They ask if her hair is like this because she puts her finger in the electricity socket.
We have a problem here in Maastricht. We can't understand much of what people say. It's really frustrating as our Dutch is rather good and it is important for us to keep the conversations in Dutch. However we face the challenge of the accent which we like but just can't understand.
Final steps are blokker and Action. For a vacuum cleaner, a boiler, and an electric cooking plate. In action we have to buy so much we are ashamed of the bill.
While doing this Olivia stays at home with Bowie (Bowie got his ice cream by that point).
They are playing nicely on the carpet on the playing corner building a little spaceship from lego but Olivia is tired so she closes her eyes for a second. Bowie does not like that and throws a sharp lego piece right into her eyes. It's devastating as it's very painful and she can't open her eyes for 5mn, but eventually it gets better. It's the life of a mother. Difficult to not take it personally, she just leaves the scene and goes to clean the kitchen which really needs to be cleaned and organised.
The house is full of stuff. We feel that we did a good job and look forward to organising everything tomorrow. We order a pizza.
DAY 3 (Alice, Olivia and Zsofi)
Today is a deep cleaning day. The 4 of us including Bowie are full on, starting in the living room. Vacuuming, mopping, spraying pillows and carpets against bacteria and bad smell, disinfecting the kitchen, using our magic sponge which transforms every old item into a shiny one by being able to take the shape of everything and getting into the weirdest cracks. It's a very satisfying sponge. Who could have known that such a thing exists.
The living room is slowly getting into something. We keep the playing corner as it was the first most cosy location. We add another corner where the sofa will come and where you can do a bit more intellectual activities. Then of course our dear table. We also hang some art work there and there. And thanks to Alice we can finally expose our beautiful tea set which was hidden in the shadows for too long.
After we finish downstairs we have to take on the challenge of upstairs. We decide to hide the misery of the floor there by covering it with a patchwork of different carpets. We really like the results. Alice, despite her preggy state is not scared of heavy chemicals and she goes right at the mould. Spots it, sprays it, scraps it. Zsofi also does an amazing job in the toilet. We have now a panther carpet there with a painting of Jesus and a photo of scared foxes.
We get our first ever guest Ton from ViaZuid. We are proud to show him our progress. We can even offer him a nice tea at our beautiful table. After that we are getting ready to go. Bowie is getting tired and we calculated well because after 2mn in the car he fells asleep. We are satisfied with these three days. It's not yet our home but it's getting there. We look forward to starting to discover and explore the surrounding neighbourhood from now on. It's also exciting as we know we make this house not only for us but for other visitors as well. In the next two months we will come in shifts. Next round is Zsofi and Lisanne, then Biljana and Marina and finally Olivia and Alice again. Each of us will add their style into this research and will pass it on to the others.
DAY 14 (Lisanne)
Het is lang geleden dat ik bang ik in het donker was, maar vannacht was ik bang in het donker. Het waaide hard buiten, een ander bed, andere geluiden, een ander soort donker. Ik hoorde het geluid van een opstartende scooter en ik wist dat dit het geluid van een opstartende scooter was, maar toch zag ik voor me hoe een man in een lange jas (altijd een man in een leren jas) de deur opende met een cirkelzaag.
Ik wist niet wat ik moest doen om de angst te verjagen, het was pas één uur ’s nachts, ik kon moeilijk uit bed gaan. Normaal als ik niet kan slapen druk ik mezelf hard tegen Rubens (mijn vriend) lichaam, zijn lichaam reageert daarop zonder wakker te worden. Misschien is dat thuis: een arm die, als in een reflex, in alle vanzelfsprekendheid, om je heen slaat.
Nu moest ik zonder die arm. Ik probeerde iets met mijn ademhaling, maar de angst bleef groeien, dus ik pakte mijn telefoon. Ik weet dat het koele beeldschermlicht de slaap alleen verjaagt, maar ik wilde niet alleen zijn met mijn gedachtes, met de man in de lange jas en de cirkelzaag. Ik dacht aan Alice, en aan Friends, en ik keek allerlei YouTube-filmpjes over celebrity’s die over hun outfits praten.
Uiteindelijk viel ik in slaap terwijl Scarlet Johanson vertelde over het roze pruikje in Lost in Translation en Gwen Stefani over een pluizig lichtblauw bikini-topje. Deze video’s zijn een thuis, vroeger keek ik op maandagavond altijd modeprogramma’s met mijn vader.
Nu zit ik achter mijn laptop, te ontbijten, een geïmproviseerde poging om mijn ochtendritueel van thuis over te herhalen. Radio fip staat aan, in plaats van de krant las ik poëzie, ik zette koffie zonder koffiefilter. Ik ben moe en denk: misschien is thuis niet bang zijn in het donker, de angst voor het donker is de angst voor het onbekende, misschien is thuis niet langer onbekend zijn. Hoe zorg je ervoor dat je ergens niet langer onbekend bent?
Toen ik gisteren in de trein naar Maastricht zat, dacht ik na over wat ik jullie kan geven. Hoe ik eraan kan bijdragen om van deze plek een thuis te maken. Ik bedacht me: ik kan jullie mijn herinneringen aan deze stad geven. Jullie komen uit allerlei landen, ik ben 80 kilometer hiervandaan opgegroeid. Ik ben hier geweest, in verschillende tijden, met verschillende mensen. Thuis is ook een plek die herinneringen draagt. Daarom heb ik gisteren twintig kilometer gelopen, kriskras door Maastricht, in de hoop herinneringen terug te vinden. (En mezelf, dat moet ik ook toegeven, ik ben de laatste tijd teveel weg geweest, te druk, te veel, te vol – ik was niet klaar om naar buiten te treden, niet klaar voor nieuw – deze wandeling, deze tijd alleen, deze stappen waren ook een poging om weer thuis te komen in mijn lichaam).
Voor ik deze herinneringen ga uitwerken, ga ik eerst nog even op zoek naar een fiets. Ik heb een fiets nodig om ergens thuis te zijn.
DAY 15 (Lisanne and Zsofi)
Today Lisanne picks up Zsofi at Maastricht station. We only met once before in Rotterdam, so this is a nice chance to get to know each other a bit better. Zsofi comes all the way from Budapest. Since we are both very tired, we start the day with drinking a coffee in a cafe and talk a bit about the topic of home.
Lisanne says that she is working in all kinds of cities in the Netherlands, which means that she’s on the train very often and sleeps in all different places. Often this feels a bit overwhelming and she thinks she wants to change this towards the future. She likes the idea of living all these different lives, at all these different places, but she is looking for a deeper connection at one place.
Zsofi feels the most homeless in her life now, she just doesn’t live anywhere. She had to shrink the meaning of home for herself. It’s not a place anymore, it’s more in herself, more in rituals, more in imagination. Comfort in discomfort. Conditioned to feel home in temporary places. It takes a lot of energy to have to adjust all the time. Shattered. She says she heard that it takes two years to start to feel at home in a new place.
We think: this project it’s not about building a new home, it will never be our home, it’s about understanding the temporality, and moving to somewhere new. To move to a place that will be demolished. Can you feel at home in a place, when you know that it will be demolished?
Then we take a walk to the house. Lisanne develops herself into a tour guide telling Zsofi about carnaval, Andre Rieu etc. As we go, we notice that there is a sharp line between the city center & Pottenberg. You cross one street and the whole atmosphere changes.
When we enter the house, Zsofi first notices the smell. It’s very hot and the air is weirdly dense. Catpiss. Dust. She is pleasantly surprised by the feeling of entering the house a second time, it feels way more comfortable, clean and organised.
Lisanne did a little research: this is not the only building at this square that will be destroyed, the flat at the other side will go down as well. We talk about the question: why destroy instead of renovating? Is it money? What is behind this? We want to know more about cooperative motivations. Is it about gas? We talk about painting all the dirty, broken places in the house gold. Like the Japanese tradition of glueing a broken vase, with golden glue - Kincugi. The art of embracing damage & deconstruction.
Then Jackie comes, (the artistic director of ViaZuid, who invited us for this project). We have a really long and inspiring conversation, in which she tells us more about ViaZuid, the project, Pottenberg & her own relationship towards Limburg and Maastricht.
We really like her, and we want to be a bit more like her: she is a really hands on person, very active and nice, and passionate. She is talking about her house, it’s the old farm of her parents. She went back there around 10 years ago, and she changed the meaning of it. She brought in culture, she programs performances in her barn. Jackie really encourages us to share our questions, ideas and doubts with her - to keep on having a more artistic discussion. She seems to be very open and curious about our project.
Later Lisanne goggles Jackie's house, it’s really pretty.
Jackie tells us that Pottenberg is one of the four neighborhoods in Maastricht which need extra attention, because of its vulnerabilities, like joblessness & health issues. It is close to the city centre, however it’s still really isolated. As an example: it’s the first time that Jackie comes here, even though she has been working in Maastricht for a long time.
Our project is supported by Woonpunt & Adhoc. Woonpunt is a woningbouwcorporatie, Adhoc is an antikraak-platform. For Woonpunt the wellbeing of the people who live here is essential. They think culture helps to revitalise some neighborhoods. The administration is responsible for social housing, they care about people.
In this flat there is a specific dynamic between people that are living here for a long time, and antikraak-people (mostly students) constantly moving in and out. The residents who stay are always confronted with newcomers. How can we earn trust for them? How can we show them that we are here to stay? Who are they at all, the people?
In the flat at the other side of the street there is a buddy-project - psychology students live there and they pay almost no rent, as a compensation they are connected to lonely residents and they have to visit them on a regular basis. There is a guy living in our building who wants to stimulate people to educate themselves. His initiative is called SLIM.
At the back of the house there is a Islamic school. There is also a buurthuis, De Romein, with a jeu-de-boules-club, and they also do bingo. At the other side of the road there is an Armenian church.
After the meeting with Jackie we are really enthusiastic. We feel like we got a better idea of the project and the scale of it. Jackie tells us that she wanted an apartment for residencies for a really really long time, but it was impossible to get. She’s really happy that they finally found a place and that she can host us here.
DAY 16 (Lisanne and Zsofi)
We decide to walk around the border of Pottenberg between 9-11, all along the edges and feel the scale of the area. It is indeed quite small. It only takes us 40 minutes to see everything. At the edges of Pottenberg there are some really nice houses, with very well maintained gardens.
We also see a lot of stickers, we think it’s a way that people are defining their territory. Stickers of football clubs, of right wing political parties, about anti-vax en remigration. Yesterday, when we were looking up the data, we saw that PVV (Party for Freedom) is by far the biggest party in Pottenberg, a nationalist, right-wing populist political party.
Walking around we feel a bit like detectives, both in a long coat, taking pictures. We ask in the shopping centre if there is any laundry service close by, there isn’t.
Lisanne has her train to go back to Amsterdam, and we walk together through the centre so Zsofi can drop by the one and only laundry in town. It is really in the center next to fancy vintage shops, and designer stores. We are wondering if really everyone has a washing machine at home? It takes 40 minutes to walk there with one bag of our laundry. Maybe next time it could be a nice mission to find someone in our house to do laundry for us. We could offer to cook lunch or something similar.
The dirty clothes fit into 2 different machines. I have to read a qr code with the phone and pay 2x5 euros. 41 minutes washing. Then change to the drying machine, another 5 euros. But at least they all can fit into one machine.
In the meantime I walk around the hood, I eat fries, and buy golden and black paint, plus brushes to experiment with our kintsugi / black hole idea on the walls. Later I try on a very small scale the golden paint in nail holes, and on small wall damages. The black hole idea with the black paint I can’t try because at the end I have no time for it. I find the spot though where I would start: in the ground floor living room, on the ceiling close to the door where a lamp used to be earlier. The black hole could start to eat up the whole house bit by bit and maybe towards the end of the 2 years it would be all black. It is only a fantasy, an idea for now.
After I finish the laundry I fold them well and start to walk home. I know it won’t be easy, because the bag is heavy and I am tired but I think it is nice to feel the distance of the suburb in my body.
In our neighborhood there is not even one shop. Even the small local shops are hardly accessible. All of them have very limited opening hours. There is not even a coffee place, a pavilion, an ice cream store, almost nothing where people could come around on a Saturday morning. On my way I find a shopping list which I take home with me and tape it into our logbook.
I arrive back with the plan in my head that I might go back to the centre later for some events but I have not, it is already 8 pm. I try the golden paint on small holes and cracks….there is more to experiment for sure!:) I make salad and eat yoghurt with fruits too as a dinner. I make some Bumble matches on BFF mode (a feature on Bumble dating app to find friends instead of dates), and I will try to see if there would be anyone there to make friends with from the city. On facebook I check some places, like the Lumiere, it has a great cinema program. I also enter a group, where you can ask all kinds of questions.
DAY 17 (Zsofi)
After waking up I go running. I go towards the border of Belgium, crossing the golf fields. Through the bushes I manage to find my way all along down to the riverside which is already Belgium in my understanding. It is nice to find this bigger water surface. There are some sports bikers. I go back on another route where I pass by the golf hotel..wuuu..it is a resort for old or (old feeling) white (or white feeling) people and it feels very strange. The buildings were all very new and isolated in the forested area. Pottenberg is just a jump from this place, the contrast is quite big.
I am wondering how Pottenberg is really this island of inbetween the center and this golf paradise and how our project is a response to a bigger urban scale problem. I wonder if the Woonpunt’s motivation is also to elevate this district to bring it closer to its neighbours. Why is art the best tool? What scale of a project could actually have a nice impact here? The district is quite small and it would not be very hard to position ourselves in the public space or in the small, now very empty shops, to be able to meet the people from all around. It would be very important to actually gather experience of meeting people, to understand who the different voices are.
I meet a 10-12 years old boy when I walk out of the Jumbo. He is also walking towards the shop and I say hello to him because he is throwing stones on the road. I tell him I am going to the shop. He says he does too. I ask what he plans to buy, he says snacks. He speaks good english and I ask how come. He says he plays video games. We go to the shop but he goes on another path. Somehow when I exit he catches up with me again. His name is Halit, at least this is how he says it, in writing it must be different. He tells me he bought ice cream and he has to run because it will melt. But then he walks very slowly with me and I follow his pace. I ask him if he goes to school around here, he says yes. I ask if he likes it and he says he likes his friends and not the classes because it is boring. He also says that one of the sports teachers is racist and calls him a monkey. I say I am very sorry to hear. He says his ice cream will get melted and he runs inside his house.
After breakfast I go on a small round in the house to search for Kim, and the students Carmel and Lisette. The students I can not find, because I have no further info to find them, only that they live on the same floor with us, just on the other side. I go to the first floor to find Kim, who is part of the SLIM organisation. She is responsible for keeping people motivated and helping them to be active. But of course I don’t get it 100%. She is in the flat with the colourful flags around, but her door is closed. The door next to it is open, and there is a lady inside. I say hi to her, she comes out and after finding our most common language (german) we start to speak. She says she doesn't know where Kim is now, and we check the paper on her wall if her nr is there.
This old sweet lady is Ria, she is 81 and her husband Yu, 88. I have seen him crossing all along the corridor with his walking frame. Ria says she has lived here for 60 years and she likes it. She has 2 kids, and she likes when the grandkids come over to her. She seems very friendly and patient with my bad German speaking.:) I tell her we are 6 female artists who will be around from time to time, so I think we could all introduce ourselves to her. I ask if she is anxious about the demolition and she says it is okay because they will move to the new building on the other side which they are going to build after it's demolished.
She of course adds : if I am going to make it…I am very old as you can see. I say of course not! :)
DAY 22 (Marina)
I leave the house in Amsterdam just before heavy rain starts. I am in a rush, so I don't take the rain jacket, thinking not giving in to Dutch weather is the way to beat it (naive) - so I get soaked completely on the way to the train station. All trains at Amstel station are cancelled for the day except for intercity to Maastricht. We get on ours at 14.13 and it is packed. I change my clothes in the toilet, we have to walk back and forth to find a spot to sit even on the stairs. Later Biljana spots two proper seats and we move. I get a feeling of adventure, a trip, as when I was a teenager going to the countryside back in Russia. It is exciting. We read the diaries and talk about our confusion and how we don’t have a precise idea of what we are expected to do and what all of it means, but it is a nice challenge to find a way to embrace that uncertainty. Upon arrival we sit in the nearest cafe and have our decaf oat milk cappuccinos (if someone told me a few years ago that would be my drink of choice, I’d laugh in their face). There are Ukrainian refugees walking past us as they are staying in a hotel next door. I am thinking how strange it makes me feel every time when I hear them talking in Russian, and then guessing that they must be Ukrainian (depending on the region they are from, people’s accent can be more or less strong, so I can’t always distinguish a Ukrainian person from a person from South of Russia just by the speech).
We almost get on the wrong bus. I assumed Maastricht is such a small town that all the buses go the same direction from central station, very condescending of me. We get off a bit earlier to go buy slippers as my sneakers are still full with water and we’re both sharing the culture where one must take one’s shoes off when entering any house, so having slippers is a must for a feeling of home. We ask a young guy on the street for the nearest Action store, but it results in us informing him about an Action which he didn’t know about as it’s new. It is in a big shopping centre, which clashes with my expectation of a poor neighbourhood. We also get some weird food in the supermarket (don’t shop while hungry, never ends well) and get to the apartment.
The apartment surprises me as it is much bigger and nicer than I’ve imagined from the descriptions. There is a bit of smell and not much air inside, which always is when an apartment is left for days with closed windows and no curtains in summer. So we immediately open all the windows and the front door to let the air circulate, doing the dance with the wind and finding objects to use as door and window holders (chairs, shoes, pots, bags, etc). It is still sunny outside, so we sit and have our meal on the balcony/terrace, looking at people passing by outside and a couple of times passing us.
The whole disposition of having the door always open and sitting outside (and the rain on Friday) gives me a strong feeling of this place being a summer house of a friend’s grandmother (in part because of the aesthetics of the decor), which is very nice and making me feel nostalgic for the past that was fiction. Now I realise, there is something very theatrical about this situation, like I’m being in a play, some sort of a durational immersive theatre performance about a parallel life.
We take a short walk just before the rain starts, and after sit on the balcony with our food and drinks (my big revelation of this trip - Radler, which only has 2% of alcohol, which is perfect for me) until late.
We choose our rooms based on which 2 have curtains. I get the purple one, but we have to move the bed to the wall as I can never feel comfortable sleeping in the western tradition (culture? habit?) of situating the bed in the middle of the room. We find mould in the corner being covered with a small mirror, so we have to move the bed to the other wall. I am very happy with the amount of pillows I can gather for my bed, and go to sleep.
Marina comes soaked. I am late but it seems as if the rain made everything slower. Water is dripping off her and entering the train I feel a bit alien. It is good to be in company, since lately travelling alone has changed for me, it asks for a different kind of presence and attentiveness that I don't access so easily. I have some food and sandwiches prepared, as the notion of a school trip stayed in me with a message that I got the previous day from marina suggesting to share, like: "I can bring shower gel you bring shampoo." It gives me the memory of preparing for a school trip with a friend. The train journey is long and short since all the negotiation with space and other passengers makes time go faster.
When we arrive, we take a coffee break. As in the saying - the body arrives at a place but then it takes time for the soul/spirit to arrive. Well, in retrospect mine arrives on the third day.
The place where we get off the bus, seems slightly off and in this off-ness I find resemblance with the place where I live in the Noord of Amsterdam. Sitting in front of the house, on the balcony, smoking cigarettes feels natural to me although with one eye (as far as i could see) we are the only ones practising this.
DAY 23 (Marina)
I wake up early from the sun (didn’t close the curtain fully, which was a mistake for the east side). While finishing my coffee on the balcony, Dave (manager of the neighbourhood) and Carmel (a student doing her MA in psychology and volunteering in return for housing) come to visit us. We sit in the living room and chat for about 30-40 min. They tell us a bit about the history of the neighbourhood (built in 1958) and the building (built in 1960) and current problems of the residents - intercultural conflicts between Dutch elderly who are nostalgic about the 1970s when they had a sense of community that they belonged to and are now blaming the immigrants (there are many Syrian refugees with their families); problems with addictions, aggression, domestic violence and mental health; problem with this neighbourhood being not cared for sufficiently by the municipality (for instance, the building on Terra Cottaplein was promised to be demolished and a new one would be built with a higher quality living standards, but that is being postponed for years, so residents lost trust and are envious to the other neighbourhoods). Also both of them mention problems of the organisations they work for.
Luckily, Carmel has decided to stay for a second year to pass on the job for the next volunteer. Her work with the residents is organising the community garden where they can get a box to grow something and it is a chance for them to socialise.
When I ask whether there is more individual work being done with the residents, she replies that it is not really possible without experts being involved. Dave is managing a lot, but he is not a professional social worker who’d have training in dealing with complicated psychological situations. I ask more about mental health care for the residents - basically there’s none - only the standard procedure of getting a referral from a GP, but many residents do not do it as it doesn’t really get them help. Carmel confirms that it would be great to have a mental health professional / social worker assigned to this community, but it’s not happening and that is very sad. She gives a few examples.
There is an aggressive Dutch man who was convicted in Germany for stabbing someone, but German authorities did not want to deal with him, so he got released and lives in Pottenberg now without supervision or support, so it is not safe for the others. There is a person with schizophrenia, who had an episode and was complaining that the walls are shouting at him. In reality it was the neighbours shouting, it is the family where the wife is suffering from domestic abuse from her husband, but nobody can intervene unless she seeks professional help herself, which is usually impossible in those situations. So nothing can be really improved for those people unless there are professionals working with the community. Also Carmel says that many of the residents are too scared to engage with people from outside, so this garden project is the best way as residents go there willingly, but clearly those who are in need the most, are not part of it, unfortunately.
My interactions with Dave and Carmen make me reflect a lot about the edge of art and social work, what I would see as fitting there and what not, what would be my interest in it, what would be my concerns and so on. My sociologist identity gets activated and I am very inspired. I see this project as having a big potential for a holistic work to be done, combining dimensions of personal, artistic, sociological, social work, political, historic, psychological. That is a very complex challenge, and it is very much what I am longing for, and something that I feel I myself have potential to contribute to.
After Carmel leaves, I have my online therapy session, in “my bedroom” - part of feeling at home practice for me, however the last time I was living continuously at one place was before July 2021, so I’m used to doing it wherever I can have privacy. In the evening first we get fries at the “famous” snackbar on “our” square (the lady is a bit frustrated with how indecisively we order).
There is a man walking behind the counter, I am trying to guess whether he is the owner who we were recommended to talk to, but there is a queue, so it isn't a good moment to find out. Then we walk to an old restaurant for dinner that I’ve found with good reviews and low price (they have a steak special for 8 euros, but it isn't good and the waiter is a bit rude) and we talk about our grandfathers. Finally we get to the Lumier cinema to watch a movie that I really wanted to watch - “Everything everywhere all at once”. It was strongly recommended to me by a filmmaker friend, it just premiered in the Netherlands. We find out that neither of us had been to a cinema in years and I have a strong intuition that it is important to see it while we are here. For me it is true - that movie (btw, absolutely amazing) affected a lot how I related to being in that flat and in Pottenberg. It is very existential, about a multiverse and the possibility to jump between one’s own parallel lives (something that I think of often during my life). So I am inspired to see more connections to the place. What if I was living there? What if I was born there? Now? In the 70s? What if I was born in Syria and got there as a refugee? What if I was a social worker there? What is the meaning of me being there right now as me?
On the first night I expected to be scared as it happens these past few months when I sleep in a new place. To my surprise I fell asleep like a watermelon in a river. Such vivid descriptive dreams come to me during the night. It feels as if the dream is waiting for me to change my sleeping place so it can come and show its face. I’d rather not say much about it now, since I am navigating in it, but I do recall strongly the morning where I felt as if I was already busy the whole night in my own private cinema. Well a cinema where I directly participate.
Dave and Carmel come, and I am curious to study the face of Dave although I don’t want to be found staring. They sit on the sofa, me on a chair and Marina on some pillows. For a split of a second I feel slightly uncomfortable thinking that we all don’t sit at the same height but then I let go of this and allow myself to enter in the conversation. It feels as if each of us is sitting on a mountain of experience, as being here and now also means that there is a then and there present. These temporalities get mixed for me as we gently start opening the conversation to the neighbourhood and the way how it is organised.
Their honesty is inspiring for me and maybe the lingering of promises not fulfilled by the municipality. It makes me think of home as in Skopje home. Every election there is a promise that the street will be fixed and patched (since there are giant holes) and after every election it is not. Such is the impression of Dave: people don’t trust anymore, as in that they don't matter, since the municipality promises certain things that happen for other people but not for these people. I don’t want to get tangled in language in these descriptions. I am ok with nurturing the impression of our talk in a V. Woolf quote from Room of one’s own: "… it’s better to be locked out, then to be locked in."
Days blend for me and I can’t remember if this was the night we went to the cinema or the other night. How good of Marina to organise our way, little walk, dinner on the way and cinema. We talk about our grandfathers and different ways to hold a memory.
DAY 24 (Marina)
We have a walk to the Belgian border - possibility of which and its outlook I find to be very tragicomic (I have a long relation with border and border politics). Having tea on the grass in the golf fields. We have to move a couple of times to avoid being shouted at / hit by golfers. This whole situation of having the poor neighbourhood surrounded with Ibiza XL solarium, big shopping centre and a huge land dedicated to the most classist sport - seems psychedelic and very real at the same time. I have to think about how this is the closest nature part to Pottenberg and if I were a kid or a teenager I would totally want to hang out on those fields all the time. Very sad that it’s not a public park. Very sad that golf is still popular in general. In that walk we talk about being a spy, workshops on being a spy, identity politics in the art, care, ideologies and ethics and how they are misused, personal relation to the profession, desires for the future, etc.
When we come back, Biljana has a call and I gather lunch from what was left from before. We are not eating really well these days, so my gastritis is activated and we talk about ordering food in the evening. Biljana is sleeping, so I go to Action as I want to experience buying stuff for the house and I have some ideas, and there is no other time left for that. I get a tray-table that is nice to use on the balcony, another little blanket, a speaker, a door stopper and some water-based paint, as I think it could be good to collect drawings or writings on the wallpaper that can be repainted later (I really wanted to do it, but didn’t have time in the end) and some funny clay as a joke in relation to the movie which I thought would make Biljana laugh (it did not).
When I come back, we decide to eat well this time and order chinese food. While we are waiting for it, we negotiate how we reorganise the blankets and pillows in the living room so it satisfies both of us. I am thinking of it all those days - how interesting it is - this way of communal living which is separated in time with other “temporary tenants”. For me a big difference between feeling like a guest and feeling at home is whether or not I have/am allowed agency over how the objects are in the space. As a guest I wouldn’t try to “improve” anything and that’s showing respect. But the assignment was to feel at home, so I take the liberty and I am excited to think how it would feel if people came there more often, not knowing every time what would be changed in the apartment, but not being frustrated about it as it is the agreed communal frame. We talk about Augusto Boal’s theatre exercises that we’ve both experienced. The food is a few times more than what we’ve imagined, so we very quickly get full with just 1/6th of it and stay for a few hours talking about and having radler on the balcony. That is a very important conversation, I feel, again jumping between where we are, who we are, where we are coming from, where we are headed and what we are doing.
Another night of vivid dreams. My repertoire is unknown to me, so every night it is as if I am purchasing a ticket to my own imagination. I am torn between feeling happy that I am dreaming at all and slightly sad for the content of my dreams, since they are full with people who are now deceased and I get to meet them in my dreams. Waking up feels a bit blurry and I selfishly hold on to the dreams as I go through the morning because it brings me some strange feeling of home. At the same time, aware that I am cohabiting the space with Marina, I try to be careful to not let my energy be contagious and the best I can do is keep quiet and suggest a walk. We go to the golf field. It feels like we are in Truman’s show or we fall of some kind of Marvel sequence. I am thinking, while sitting on the field, of the direction of the golf balls, since later I find out that we are both those kids who would get hit by a ball in gym class. I manage to navigate my pre-fears into this tranquil landscape. We go near the border of Belgium, represented by a fence. A thought passes by me thinking how we are both busy with our residence permits, but I resist that whirlpool and stay on the surface of this sunny day and shamelessly well crafted gold grass. We talk almost all the time, sometimes I am in, sometimes I am out, sometimes I don't fully know where I am - in a geographical but also literal sense. Talking about the art market is maybe another way of talking about a landscape.
Coming back to the apartment it receives a slightly new meaning for me: it is now a space of knowing or even of some small habits. It's no longer new but it's also an on-going negotiation with the space.
Some of these days, we see a blue long flying bug that is very very blue. It gets me thinking about colours in a sense of home or whatever that is. Later on when I am going to sleep I peek into Marina's purple room, and enter mine, the dream cinema.
DAY 25 (Marina)
First time I am awake before Biljana. From the beginning the day is not how I expected it. Somehow I lose all control over time, but I decide to go with the flow and not feel too bad about it. We agree that Biljana leaves earlier and I go to AINSI for performances in order to meet Jackie and leave after that.
I go to do laundry at Carmel’s as we’ve agreed the night before. I ask her if she eats meat because we are hoping to give her the rest of the chinese food that we couldn’t possibly take with us. She is pleasantly surprised. So I divide the remaining food in three parts - for me, Biljana and Carmel, I think everybody gets between 2 and 3 portions. Btw, it is really delicious. We figure out that there is a problem with the trains, so the journey is way longer and more complicated than usual, while Biljana is a bit of a rush to get home. We hang the laundry, then we sit down to calculate all the expenses, it gets us talking about other things and we have a small argument. It takes some time to find an understanding. We try to get ready to leave. I am supposed to do the cleaning and Biljana to sort out garbage, but the latter turn out to be overly complicated. Here in Pottenberg they take garbage 2 times a month, so you can only bring out the garbage to the street on those two days, which is of course quite complicated for us as we are not always present in the house those days. I suggest several strategies to simplify this task for which we do not have time, including cheating - to take the garbage with us and dump it at somewhere on the way in a standard city bin, but Biljana insists on doing it properly, which means separating it and getting it to the recycling bins and getting the special bags from AH and leaving it for Laura to take out later. In the end I realise that because of all this I don’t have enough time to pack and clean, so I decide to stay until Monday morning - so that I can resolve the garbage, clean, pack but also finish my idea with leaving scores for other residents.
I leave to go to AINSI, by bus it would take me 55 min and by walking 1 h, so I decide to walk. I am already late, so I have to walk really fast to be there on time. The way is quite picturesque. I’d do it again without rushing. At the entrance I meet by Jackie and her friend Habib. After the show Jackie introduces me to so many people that I go into my sociophobic mode where I smile and nod without understanding who all the people are and what I should say or do. There are several “important” people there - a woman from the government, heads of some institutions, etc, but I am too overwhelmed to pay attention.
I have a conversation with Habib, a young mechanical engineer with a curiosity for the arts, who came to the Netherlands 10 years ago from Iran as an Afghan refugee. We talk about politics and immigration struggles. After Jackie takes us on her van. It’s a van for transporting goods for her farm, so Habib kindly chose to sit in the back, which has no chair and no window. I thank him and very much enjoy learning about Jackie’s biography while she drives me home. I really like her. It turns out that she used to have a theatre on her farm and some makers who are big now, had their first showings there, including Duda Paiva - who I have been interpreting 10 years ago in an international puppet theatre festival in Moscow. I am thinking about decentralisation. According to Jackie (it seems to be very true actually) there are many more opportunities outside of Amsterdam. I wonder whether I would be able to live in a small city. I don’t know. Definitely not alone.
After they drop me off, I go to AH for the special garbage bags, but it is already closed. I am happy I still have that chinese food left for my dinner. It actually feels nice to experience being alone in the apartment. It makes it feel very different. I enjoy that quietness.
Another night, another ticket, another movie, another morning feeling already as if I need a nap. Maybe someone was living here before and already knew about that room, the position of the bed and who knows what. I like to think lately that my presence is a continuation of other presences, may it be plants or animals. The previous night Marina made a comment about getting a dog at some point. It's part of the solar system called Home. My body feels drawn to the sofa in a desire to take a nap after the night program. I did manage to get some the previous days but on Sunday with my plan to leave earlier I get a bit in a different mood. Since we spent a lovely night on Saturday evening, talking on the balcony, on Sunday morning I feel as if i have finally arrived. Made of contradictions (I am), such is this space, or maybe any space since I started thinking what if I am like a snail, bringing my house with me, house of thoughts, habits, words and the desire for a healthier diet.
Sorting the garbage gets me into a mode of ungraspable fiction, since all systems that are so strict appear alien to me. I go out for a cigarette on the terrasse and then again there is no one sitting outside although the weather is not so bad.
I have a wish to also meet a kid eating an icecream as Zsofi did, but I do see two small flowers next to each other in their beginning phase of growth. Then a woman cleaning her doorstep quite rigorously as if she was angry at the door, maybe because no one passes that door step but her, or maybe because some dust comes and knocks at weird times.
Since the first day we talk how 3 days is short and by the end of the day it was no longer a talk but a seed of a need to spend more time in the place. Oh the train back to Amsterdam, what a postmodern drama, all scenes are mixed, no order whatsoever and even the slightest attempt for an order feels like a pre-amputated muscle. Such was my journey: bus at 15.15, Maastrich central then S-hertogenbosch and on the halfway to Utrecht the train stops and starts driving back again to S-hertogenbosch. I felt like a balloon with no air after a party when it gets tossed and forgotten under the sofa. So again in this city train in Breda, from where I board a train to Utrecht to be cancelled after 10 min in it and make a run for the train to Rotterdam, where after I have to quickly run and get the f….ing supplement and back on that train to Amsterdam. It is not only that I am hungry, I have left over food with me but no fork (good metaphor can be) but also I feel a slight regret to not leave a day more and watch the show and meet Jackie. Oh well. By the time I get home, I take out a frozen pizza and put on a show called Hacks that Marina was watching that morning. She gave me a face mask to put on for the night, but I still had the train of my face so I just let it rest.
DAY 26 (Marina)
I wake up later than I thought, I have to go to AH to get my breakfast and those bloody garbage bags. I think if we recycled more thoroughly, the “restafval” could have been so small that I could just dump it in the bin at the bus stop. I keep missing trains as I have so much to do and everything takes longer than expected.
But I am happy I make a game with those scores and leave it on the shelf. I also spend some time writing in this document. On the bus to the train station I regret that I haven’t actually visited the city. I want to come back.
I am writing this diary the whole time I am on the train, and I do not even finish. It’s hard for me to start writing, but when I do, I can't stop. When I get off the train, it is raining again. But my bike is not stolen and the journey ends exactly how it started - with me getting wet.
DAY 56 (Alice and Olivia)
We are arriving in Maastricht and it is really hot. We don’t know it yet but it is going to get hotter in the next few days. We are curious and a bit nervous about arriving back to the house. We have not been here for a long time. A lot of things have happened since then. Where should we start?
When we enter it actually feels familiar and good. We immediately make a start by reading back all the notes from the girls and editing them so that we can publish them later on in the blog. This process, reading all these different impressions that have been collected these last weeks, makes us dive back into our work in Maastricht. Of course we have no food with us, not even a snack. The apartment is really hot as we don’t have curtains to block the sun in the living room. We open all the doors but the draft shots them again and again. We notice that someone bought a door holder. Makes us think that they most probably encountered the same situation.
We decide to go for a walk. We want to find the famous golf club, all the girls mention. What we find is a bit different, it is rather the local sport yard, with a tennis club behind the neighbourhood and the fields. It is the end of the afternoon but the heat did not go down. We feel like we are dragging ourselves in the street, both hungry and slightly dizzy. The whole vibe makes us feel like we are on a vacation complex but there is no one around, it is empty. Everything is slow, “frozen”, and we move through this landscape like tired zombies.
We eventually make it to the shopping centrum. It is more lively than the streets and the AC is appreciated. Nevertheless we still carry this weariness. We try to eat something but nothing satisfies us until we finally get two croissants from Jumbo, an icecream for Alice and a Granita (a glass of ice with syrup) for Olivia. We sit down on one of the benches from the corridor and life starts to come back into us. Olivia is very happy with her drink. She was doubting to get an ice cream before instead but she made the right decision as Alice is pretty disappointed by her choice. The Stracciatella she chose has a very strange taste.
We sit there for at least half an hour enjoying the shopping center vibe. Somehow we both feel relaxed there as we both in our different lives in different countries did the same during our teenage time. Alice associates shopping centres with suburb life, it somehow always comes together. She always believed that they play an important role in these types of places.
Time to move on. We go back to the desert outside. We pass the ibiza solarium (another important suburb spot).
We try to find something open but everything is closed. Alice tells about her growing up neighborhood where at least there were few kebab shops and a tobacco/gambling/bar place that were always open. We wonder where are the places to come together here. We can’t believe that there are none. We don’t want to make a statement about this, but a neighborhood without a local cafe, bar, bakery, something, would be very difficult to call a neighborhood as it has no place to come together. This is why often the shopping centre becomes the meeting point in these types of places. There are shops on the main squares, but they are most of the time closed as they have a specific function (social bank) at specific opening times. Difficult to be spontaneous here.
In the evening, we enjoy to eat our dinner in the corridor of the building, as it is our only outside space, following the tip of Biljana and Marina (thanks for the lovely table Marina)
The night is still hot, but we find a way to create a draft system by opening the windows of all the rooms and keeping them open with our shoes.
DAY 57 (Alice and Olivia)
Today we have a lot to do. We start by going to the city center to print the invitation to our housewarming party next week and to buy a very precious object for us which we will use a lot as a means to connect us to our neighbours: a printer. We come back home for lunch and we have two guests coming, Jackie and Marcella. Marcella is working for the city hall in the cultural department. We both come from a culture (France and Hungary) where lunch is pretty important so people are always pleasantly surprised by what we offer and the set up we make for it. They often think we make this effort for them, which is true, but what they don’t know is that we do the same for only ourselves.
During the lunch we talk about many things, but most specifically about the difficulty to collaborate between departments, in this case at the local government. The 4 of us believes that these types of collaborations (when the social department works with culture for example) could solve a lot of things easier. We find ourselves dreaming about preparing a little intervention, using our Moha method as a team bounding strategy in the local government. We also talk about Andre Rieu. He was mentioned to us in the notes of Lisanne and Zsofi. Olivia never heard of him. Alice tells her that he is a famous conductor and violinist more from the commercial side. In the morning, when we were walking around looking for a printer we saw his posters everywhere.
In the lunch following the fantasy of Zsofi and Lisanne, we suggest that he should play when the buildings of Pottenberg collapse. We think we all share a fantasy with the other girls where we see all these buildings collapse all at once, like one big theatre play with all of us as neighbours around it, collectively mourning this moment. The suggestion of Andre fits this very well. To our surprise Jackie and Marcella take this proposition very seriously. They think it is a great idea and are already thinking about what steps should be taken to make this happen.
We stay a bit longer with Jackie with whom we do a care talk (a conversation format we developed about care). The same phenomenon happens to us as it did to the other girls. We find Jackie very inspiring. She had a very eventful life which unfolds in front of us throughout our questions. It is pleasurable to discuss art and our work with her as she values and understands process and participation in a similar way to us. It is not always given that you can have that with your artistic partners.
It’s so hot that Alice has to take a cold shower before we go on preparing our 200 invitation letters.
We go buy a few elements to the house also from the list the girls made. We feel the kitchen needs some upgrade as it is looking a bit sad and not cosy. We buy an extra carpet to cover the holes on the ground. We buy party lights to hang and some fake flowers which is always handy when you want to cheer up something. It is exciting to work on this house with a group of people, everyone leaving their own traces behind what makes them feel home, cosy and relaxed. It is a work of art on its own.
On our way back from the shopping mall we accidentally meet Adi. Adi is a social worker and local hero. He is the one who set up the different social banks on the square. He also collects from 11 bakker the leftover breads from the day and distributes it in the neighbourhood. He tells us that it is not only for people who don't have money, it is for everyone. Actually this is how we first start to talk, because he just sees us passing and asks if we want some bread. We introduce ourselves to him and invite him to our housewarming party. Alice asks if it is possible to buy a bike from his fietsbank he says he is lending it to people, specially to kids who have no bikes. Nevertheless he insists on saving 2 bikes for us.
In the evening we go out. Actually we wanted to walk into the city, to feel the suburb in our body just like Zsofi did, but it's too hot and we can not wait to sit in the cold air of the bus. We go to the center to have dinner and find a place that we review in our mind with a 7.5 from 10. So not too bad but not amazing however we do enjoy our alcohol free cocktails there.
Again inspired by the girls, we go to watch the ‘Everything everywhere all at once’ in the cinema. Marina took Biljana to see this movie last time. These two days feels like we are following the steps of them (also Zsofi and Lisanne), reliving their experiences, imagining them being like us, right here but in another time. This movie could not be more fitting to this feeling as the main character travels through different universes where she experiences parallel lives she could have had. We all feel a bit this already separately on our own. Like me (Olivia) when I was here for the first time furnishing the apartment and I was alone with my son Bowie in the house just after he hit my eye with a lego and I remember I was washing the dishes with half eyes closed thinking Im a single mother who just moved here to start again a new life and this apartment was given to me and I don't feel home yet but I will have to figure it out for my son. Marina also shared similar feelings and emotions towards these different potentials and imaginations of our different lifes we could have. What if I live here? What if I was born here? How would I be then? What would I do? What would my life look like? What would it have been in the 70’s? What would it be if I am the 85 years old Ria living here for 55 years in this apartment?... Watching this movie definitely was a good choice.
In the night there is a big storm. We try to keep the windows just a tiny bit open so we can breathe but the water comes in so we have to close everything. We are in a sauna with no air. We regret not having followed our thoughts to buy a ventilator when we bought the printer.
DAY 58 (Alice and Olivia)
We wake up earlier so that we can drop all of our invitations. We want to have time also to prepare for our talk with Malika but we notice that the toilet is stuck and of course we don't have a suction cup (onstopper in dutch)
Which normally we would not be freaked out about but we are having a guest soon and you never know. We quickly run outside to drop the letters and go to our beloved shopping mall. We are surprised how difficult it is to find such a handy object. Neither Action or albert heijn or blokker or jumbo have it. Olivia says maybe we can borrow one from the neighbour. Alice says ok but then we say it is for the sink, but then we both give up on this idea. Fortunately as a last option we check at herma and they just have it.
Home Alice does the dirty work and it works and we are ready for Malika. Malika is the team leader of Woon punt who makes this apartment available for us. She is an inspiring person and we have a very nice talk. When we ask her what skills she needs to do the work she does, she says it's almost like you become the mother of your employees. Like you listen to them, you put your ego aside. You have to be firm sometimes but you have to care for them. Interesting how this motherly care also came up in our conversation with Jackie. She herself is not a mother but she said she feels this quality appearing in her life now through her work and in different aspects in her private life. Could motherly care exceed the boundaries of family relations and become a quality to acquire also on the workfloor between the employer and the employees? A question that came to our mind.
Malika also shares that what is still difficult for her in this job is when she is confronted with the poverty and difficult situations of children and she can not change it. She tells us about the school just on the other side in which 70 % of the children come to school without breakfast. She asks how it is possible in the Netherlands today. Adi comes up with an idea to arrange breakfast at school. We have the feeling we will hear a lot more about Adi.
We make an appointment with Carmel to meet as we have never met and also to wash our laundry at her place. She takes us to the community garden she initiated and she takes care of with people from the neighborhood.
They also built a playground just beside the garden. She tells us that one mother often comes with her 2 kids. While they are playing in the playground, she takes care of the garden. This is her only time for herself. Being there makes us realise that somehow there are places to come together in this neighbourhood but they are all initiated by individuals or groups of neighbours. Is this what happens when you realise that if you don’t step up to make things happen, nothing is going to be done?
We leave with the feeling that we start to get a better grasp of this neighborhood and we feel like although we only were here for 2 days, there is a little sense of belonging.