The Magnetic North & The Idea of Freedom (Museum Boijmans van Beuningen Rotterdam 24/06 – 24/09/2017)

By bringing together the project ‘The Magnetic North’(2015-2016), the video work ‘The Idea of Freedom’ and their monumental red and black ink drawings, Sylvie Zijlmans and Hewald Jongenelis have created a theatrical installation about an era in which reality outdoes all fiction.
Since Zijlmans and Jongenelis moved from the busy Jordaan neighbourhood to Amsterdam-North, their new environment found its way into their work in a natural way. Their conversations with local residents highlighted several social issues. Concerns about changes to their neighbourhood, which is growing in popularity, turn out to be a recurring theme. In the course of lengthy discussions, they distilled images which position underlying personal thoughts and fears inside a larger actual, urgent and global context. These universally recognisable issues have been translated into 8 performances, filmed on location in collaboration with the local community. Each of the videos features a mythical character, an ‘avatar’, whose presence spurs the people into action. This avatar, wearing an aluminum mask, personifies pressing concerns and hidden conflicts. Given names as the Evictor, the Bouncer and the Squanderer, and with themes as gentrification, appropriation of space and the struggle to find a parking place, the project reflects on themes found in the immediate environment. At the same time it links these themes to greater themes as pollution, overpopulation, migration, the current refugee crisis and the experience of individual liberty. The red and black ink drawings, that cover all cabins and structures in the exhibition, are based on the drawings in notebooks that Zijlmans and Jongenelis kept during the talks and discussions.
With ‘The Magnetic North & The Idea of Freedom’ Zijlmans & Jongenelis turned everyday life in an expanding city into a metaphor for our time.

‘The Magnetic North & The Idea of Freedom’ was made possible with support of: het Mondriaan Fonds, AFK, Het VSB Fonds, Gemeente Amsterdam Noord, Het Prins Bernhard Cultuur Fonds, Stichting NDSM-werf, Nieuw Dakota, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Coöperatie Taak, PK Waterbouw, Provincie Noord-Holland

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03’20” min video (switch on sound)

masked driver & co-driver from ‘Convoy, rally through the North’

video-still De Dichter / The Poet aka The Compactor

video-still De Dichter / The Poet aka The Compactor

video-still De Overloper / The Bouncer

De Gedoger / The Tolerator

drivers & co-drivers from ‘Convoy, rally through the North’

video-still De Verspiller / The Squanderer

Masks of The Poet a.k.a. The Compactor, The shady Illuminator, The Possessor & The Evictor impaled on the South Section of the Fence of Freedom (next to the East Gate) Museum Boijmans van Beuningen Rotterdam

Masks of The Stoker, The Squanderer, The Bouncer & The Conservator impaled on the North Section of the Fence of Freedom (next to the East Gate)

until October 4 2015 in Nieuw Dakota / NDSM-werf
Het Magnetische Noorden / The Magnetic North
videos & other works + live club-nights
a project by Sylvie Zijlmans & Hewald Jongenelis
in collaboration with 100 locals form Amsterdam-North

more 2015 trailers & teasers in ‘The Magnetic North’ archive
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original 2015 trailers & teasers

Sylvie Zijlmans & Hewald Jongenelis / ‘The Idea of Freedom’ / HD video loop/16:9/min 03:10 / 2012
(collection Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam)

De Waker & De Slaper zijn twee witte taps toelopende betonnen torens met bovenop een bronzen luid-klok. Op elke toren staan vertikaal drie woorden, als een ultra kort, driewoordig gedicht: “WAKER – WERKER – PRATER” en “SLAPER – DROMER – ZWIJGER”. De Waker markeert het moment dat de wijk ontwaakt en veel mensen de wijk verlaten om naar hun werk te gaan: de klok van De Waker slaat rond 08:00 uur ʻs ochtends. De Slaper markeert het moment dat iedereen terugkomt: de klok van De Slaper slaat rond 18:00 uur ʻs avonds.
lokatie: Nieuwland, Amersfoort / opdrachtgever: Gemeente Amersfoort / solar powered / klokken geleverd door Koninklijke Eysbouts

Sylvie Zijlmans & Hewald Jongenelis / project for primary school ‘De Vuurtoren’ Scheveningen / 2003

A large trophy cabinet is topped by a man with a flashing head. His head flashes red with shame, pride or exertion or a combination of them all. Who knows? The trophy cabinet, or rather a beautiful cast aluminum trophy shelf, is visible from the street. It is illuminated at night. The installation gives everyone who passes by a glimpse of the achievements of the school’s pupils. Also part of Zijlmans & Jongenelis’ artwork for Christian primary school The Lighthouse is a series of five composite group photographs of children, selected on the basis of different physical characteristics. The same hair style, different skin colours, pose and more were deciding factors for composing the various teams.

A school’s task is to instruct pupils in a number of subjects, but it is also a place for children to meet children and children to meet adults. In that context, various patterns and ‘rules’ become apparent. Who are you in that structure? And how do you maintain your individuality? Identity and competition are important elements. Are you chosen first or last for the team in gym? And which characteristics decide that? Are you popular or not? And what does that depend on? The composite portraits illustrate this side of the school jungle. Zijlmans & Jongenelis photographed all the school’s students and teachers in a standing or kneeling position and from these shots chose the portraits for the montages. Are you in this photo, are you part of the team? And why were you selected? These are questions that immediately call the images to mind. The images are mysterious, because you have to think about what unifies the group. With the photos, Zijlmans & Jongenelis make it clear to everyone that ‘unwritten’ rules exist, but also that these are often ridiculous, relative and malleable. The trophy cabinet is symbolic of the common effort. You win the trophies together, for the honour of the school, of your class, your group. You show everyone out there that you can operate as a team, and do so successfully. And that’s worth telling the world.

Text: Femke Lutgerink (edit)

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