From the summer of 2007 through the summer of 2008 the art project In Overvecht took place in Overvecht, a neighbourhood in Utrecht. Five artists (or artist duos) were invited to live and work for a specific time in one of the high-rise apartments there.
From the inside they responded to ‘the image of the neighbourhood’ – of the architecture and the residents – and they developed projects for and with the residents. In Overvecht (2007-2008) was an initiative of the Adviescommissie voor Beeldende Kunst en Vormgeving (Advisory Board for Art and Design), or ABKV, of the Utrecht municipality in conjunction with Wijkbureau Overvecht and housing corporation Mitros. The concept is by Iris Dik and Sabrina Lindemann.
For the project In Overvecht, the artist-in-residence model was selected. Five artists (or artist duos) were invited to work for a period of four months; an average of about two months was spent living in a ten-story apartment building in the community. Housing corporation Mitros supplied the ‘art-work-place’ in a high-rise that is scheduled to be torn down. The artists replaced each other so that they would have the benefit of each other’s experiences and contacts. As a result the major part of their work was developed while in residence in Overvecht. They met and talked to the residents for their research and presentations, and organised a number of ‘live’ moments with and for them.
The project was inspired by a request made by the Residents Platform a few years back to paint murals on the sides of the buildings, for example a giraffe on the building on Giraffedreef. The ABKV decided on a different approach for various reasons. In the coming years the area will see many changes due to the efforts of the housing corporations and the city planning division. The apartment buildings will be torn down. Access to the neighbourhood and the surrounding nature areas will be vastly improved. That seemed to be a much better opportunity to think about permanent art initiatives.
Physical interventions are important, but as assistant community manager Ida Thoenes has noted, the human proportion in new post-war communities such as Overvecht were often overlooked. What is the image of the community, of both the public space and the residents? And where do cultural exchanges take place? In the preparatory phase people in and around the community were interviewed. The Community Cultural and Recreational Survey held among residents in 2006 was an important source of information. Small and large-scale events and the work processes of the various artists were documented at regular intervals in the different media (newspapers, website, videos, TV). The ABKV decided to use accessible media to tackle the immensity and the anonymity of the neighbourhood in the period of the physical transformation, and to stimulate additional cultural significance: from giraffe to monitor.
The projects shed a different light on the strong points of the post-war neighbourhood. The artists in residence made two films, by Neeltje ten Westenend, with Henriette Waal and by Renée Kool, that premiered at the Nederlands Filmfestival (Dutch Film Festival), a series of photography reports (Linda-Maria Birbeck), a zombie walk organised by Klaas van Gorkum and Iratxe Jaio and the performance Hoog Bezoek (State Visit) in retirement home Zuylenstede by Sjaak Langenberg, with Rosé the Beer.
In September there was final presentation in Utrecht’s Centraal Museum. The presentation was a huge success, and the community requested that a presentation be given in Overvecht in November 2008 to be held in Broedplaats De Vechtclub.
Renée Kool spent her work period developing a film about the early days of Overvecht. She calls the result a ‘virtual monument’. Not just to the post-war community, but also to the legacy of the ‘De Vooruitgang’ (The Progress) of the sixties and the seventies. In the next ten years many typical examples of this style of urban development will be demolished.
For her film Kool combined a number of 2D and 3D techniques that are also used in city planning and (landscape) architecture. The result is neither a feature film nor a documentary, but a film that was completely constructed in the computer. No new film footage was used; all the material was collected from the archives of old residents and the Utrechts Archief.
The pilot of this ‘3D documentary’ was shown in early 2008 at different places in the community, including the public library. There, many inhabitants of Overvecht – both the original residents as well as the younger generation – went ‘time travelling’ with the film Overvecht – zo tussen ’64 and ’76 (Overvecht – somewhere between ’64 and ’76).
The definitive version of this half-hour film premiered in late September 2008 together with Neeltje ten Westenend’s film, Perfect Day, at the Nederlands Filmfestival (Dutch Film Festival). The two films were also shown in Utrecht’s Centraal Museum Studio and in November 2008 they were presented in De Vechtclub, Overvecht.
videoportrait Renée Kool
In the video film Perfect Day (30 minutes), the maker Neeltje Ten Westenend and her collaborator Henriette Waal wanted to explore what it means to live in a high-rise. By asking the questions, “How does it feel to live this high up? What is your connection with the street if you have no perception of street corners, of across the street and next door? Who are your neighbours and what is the interaction with them like?”, they criss-crossed the community, made contact with several residents on several different stories and checked out their view. The different ways residents experienced their view prompted Neeltje ten Westenend to approach the public space from their perspective. Their research on the meaning of living in a high-rise was followed up by a video film. For the film they looked for places and events where the views come together.
They recorded everyday occurrences, such as mowing the lawn and pruning trees, as well as annual events like community fairs and plant day. These recurring activities and festive events were recorded at different angles from the tenth floor.
videoportrait Neeltje ten Westenend and Henriette Waal
Photographer Linda-Maria Birbeck goes into communities and subcultures to document the people that, from a social point of view, are not considered very successful. The power of her work lies in the fact that she does not exaggerate or ridicule the ‘different’ life styles of her subjects. In Overvecht she had ample opportunity to work on her different interests: subcultures, family connections, and people interacting with their surroundings. Like a true street photographer she started out by wandering through the community, observing and meeting people, waiting to run into ‘the’ subject that would be more than just recording residents in a particular community.
She was fascinated by the hip-hop culture, a trend that links young people in poor neighbourhoods around the world via TV and the Internet. Pax, Reazun and Kyteman live and work on the tenth floor of a high-rise on the Kasaidreef; she followed the three young hip-hoppers with her camera for a period of time. The end result was a slide show with music by the rappers that was shown in various locations in early 2008.
It piqued her curiosity for other subcultures. In the summer of 2008 she went into the community again to shoot a series of portraits of the permanent residents in relation to the different temporary residents of Overvecht. For her final presentation, Birbeck combined the various reports into three short multimedia presentations with sound.
videoportrait Linda-Maria Birbeck
In his projects Sjaak Langenberg succeeds time and time again to broaden the function and significance of art in public spaces with a startling combination of reality, absurdity and humour.
Would his project be an ode to his love of apartment buildings, or would he choose to comment on the culture of community work in Overvecht? These were the possibilities Langenberg raised in the first project news bulletin that appeared late 2007. But events took another turn. When he actually moved into the apartment with Rosé the Beer in January 2008, they decided not to go into the community like the commission proposed, but to stay indoors. To wind down, to give their imagination the time and space it needed, but most of all to experience the loneliness of the bleak winter months that is a big problem in Overvecht. The slogan of the municipal action plan may have been ‘Participate in Overvecht’, but Langenberg and The Beer initially decided not to participate, but to cocoon in Overvecht Noord instead.
On September 3rd and 4th the performance Hoog Bezoek (State Visit) by the Japanese dancer Sato Endo took place in retirement home Zuylenstede and was very well received. Directed by Sjaak Langenberg and Rosé the Beer, she was lowered past the windows in a window cleaning gondola, dressed as a traditional Geisha. The residents could simply remain indoors.
A three-minute photography report by photographer Joep Lennarts was exhibited in Utrecht’s Centraal Museum and De Vechtclub late 2008.
videoportrait Sjaak Langenberg
Klaas van Gorkum and Iratxe Jaio often use existing formats from film and television to involve visitors and residents in their art projects in a playful way. For In Overvecht they were inspired by zombie films and the ‘zombie walk’ phenomenon those films inspired. They based their idea on Dawn Of The Dead, a classic horror film from 1978. For Van Gorkum and Jaio this film, with its blend of droll horror and subtle social commentary, served as an excellent script for In Overvecht . “In a society where nothing is more idiosyncratic than the real meaning of ‘liveable’, the zombie holds up a mirror to us. He confronts us with our attitudes towards humanity, good citizenship and social involvement”, Van Gorkum and Jaio assert. “Not only is the ‘literary’ figure of the zombie recognizable and accessible, but it also offers interesting perspectives for developing various points of view on life in the community, and the use of public space.”
During the work period Klaas and Iratxe researched a number of themes from the film in workshops. The Overvecht Zombiewalk they subsequently organised on April 19th, 2008, attracted more than fifty participants. The elaborate preparation ritual with makeup artists and fake blood in community centre Transit, the music of marching band Tegenwind and the ‘wrap party’ including a performance by trash rocker El Zombie made the event a festive gathering with an underground edge.
At the end of 2008 Blijf binnen. Sluit ramen en deuren (Stay inside. Shut windows and doors), a compilation of the work material and the video recordings of the Zombiewalk in Overvecht and the Zombiewalk they organised a few months later in a suburb of Bilbao, was exhibited in Utrecht’s Centraal Museum and in De Vechtclub.
videoportrait Klaas van Gorkum and Iratxe Jaio
Boekpresentatie 'Kijken naar Overvecht'
Overvecht zo tussen '64 en '76 bij Casco
In Overvecht 'Making of'
Perfect Day te zien op AFFR
Perfect Day op Utrecht Manifest 2009
5 april: uitzending 2 films over Overvecht
Essays In Overvecht
eindpublicatie: 4 projectkranten
Wij waren in Overvecht (2)
Wij waren in Overvecht
19 april: Overvecht Zombiewalk
Linda-Maria meets Kyteman, Pax & ReaZun!
Intussen in Overvecht
Rebelclowns & nieuwe actievormen!
Renée Kool bij Utrecht Manifest
Kunstprijs Sjaak Langenberg
Cover van Linda-Maria Birbeck