Quinsy Gario - Bart Groenendaal - Stefan Ruitenbeek
15 April - 03 June 2012
|© Stefan Ruitenbeek|
Ancient Amateurs, 2012, film still.
QUINSY GARIO - BART GROENENDAAL - STEFAN RUITENBEEK
15 April - 3 June 2012
Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam presents two exhibitions and an essay.
Independently of each other they scrutinize aspects of Dutch culture
and confront cultural classifications and their seeming certainties.
The video The Paradox of Being Taken Seriously by Bart Groenendaal was
filmed during therapy sessions with traumatised refugees who have either
been granted, or are awaiting, asylum in the Netherlands. Learning
about Dutch culture is part of their supervised trauma recovery therapy.
As the film unfolds, it gradually reveals the workings of a subtle
power game between the Dutch therapists and their African patients and
the emergence, with no evident provocation, of a growing uncertainty
regarding the therapists’ unquestioning assumptions about certainties
concerning their own country. The therapists are subtly compelled to
look beyond national boundaries.
In his essay in SMBA Newsletter nr. 127, cultural theorist and theatre
maker Quinsy Gario examines a Dutch classic: Wim Verstappen and Pim de
la Parra’s 1971 erotic blockbuster ‘Blue Movie’, famous primarily for
its emphasis on free sex and explicit scenes. Blue Movie marks a key
moment in the Netherlands’ increasing perception of itself as a sexually
open and tolerant nation; an image that emerged in the 1970s. During
this time, decolonisation also became final, when Suriname achieved
independence in 1975. Subsequently, many Dutch nationals of Suriname
descent migrated to the low countries, coinciding with the peak of the
influx of labour migrants, referred to at the time as ‘guest workers’.
Gario analyses Blue Movie against this background and, through a detour
among post-colonial theory and research, raises a number of criticisms
of the much-acclaimed Dutch self-image.
In the film Ancient Amateurs Stefan Ruitenbeek utilizes his artistic
freedom to create art in the domain of porn. The work is set in the
heart of the Dutch porn industry, which also financed the project.
Ruitenbeek’s approach was to take the archetypal theme of birth and
death as his starting point. Under Ruitenbeek’s direction, the actors
and actresses then concentrated their efforts on bringing this unusual
narrative to life on-screen. By doing so, the film allows us to see the
context of the set where the actors, interested on-lookers, friends and
acquaintances hang out, and the protagonists, including producer Kim
Holland, are interviewed. There is no moral.
But Ruitenbeek’s project had quite an effect. Through the haze of porn
images and chaos on the set, we see how the people involved in the film,
including the artist, seize upon this curious exercise in an attempt to
escape cultural classifications. Which makes the realism of Ancient
Amateurs all the grittier.
Created independently of each other, Ruitenbeek and Groenendaal’s
exhibitions and the essay by Gario, share common ground. The step from
‘Blue Movie’ to Kim Holland is not so big and fits within a historic
trajectory of claiming cultural freedom. By the same token, the position
of the actors in Ruitenbeek’s film is not dissimilar to those of the
asylum seekers in the Groenendaal video. Gario articulates such
paradoxes in his essay. As a whole, it tests our capacity for tolerance.
Do we accept Groenendaal’s self image? Can we stomach Gario’s critique
of Dutch national cultural heritage? And, despite porn’s vast online
presence, what do we think of a work by Ruitenbeek on the cusp of porn
In Project ‘1975’, Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam seeks to find other
value systems in art. The current presentation by Gario, Groenendaal
and Ruitenbeek is a pause for introspection within this programme. This
time, attention turns to the Netherlands. Project ‘1975’ will shortly
travel outside national boundaries with the exhibition ‘Hollandaise’ by
Senegalese curator Koyo Kouoh and an SMBA exchange exhibition in
collaboration with the Nubuke Foundation in Accra (Ghana).
The exhibition of Gario, Groenendaal and Ruitenbeek is accompanied by
SMBA Newsletter nr. 127 with an introduction by curator Jelle Bouwhuis, a
contribution by cultural theorist Annelies Bijvelds on the work of
Ruitenbeek and art theorist Joram Kraaijeveld on the work of
Groenendaal. Quinsy Gario is Project ‘1975’ guest contributor.