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'Sprouting dance on a bed of grass and sedum' - Carefull Art puts Utrecht artists on a very special map

"Over the past two-and-a-half years, I have started making choices. Where ten years ago I thought of going into life as a dance teacher, now the question is: do I really want to? What makes me happy, what do I want to share with the people around me?"

For Lotte Willemsma, the first two years of the Corona pandemic were a time of reflection. The regular work in dance fell away, something else took its place: "For me, art and care were the two pillars of my life, but during corona, nature was added. I am much more aware that as human beings we are always moving fast, and that I have always taken nature for granted. Just how nature grows out of the earth, and that we as humans are also nature. Corona was a beautiful period where we were thrown back on ourselves and each other to ask: who are we, what are we going to do?"

Cautious art?

And let that be exactly the theme of Carefull Art, the art event that launched on 10 September at 20 locations in and around the historic city centre of Domstad. In February this year, there was an open call, a call for artists to come forward with new or existing work on the theme of 'carefull art'. Those who think of 'careful art' in this context are not much wrong. As the website puts it, "The Corona pandemic has in recent years introduced the concept of care placed in a different light. In these times of distance, the need for care, contact and connection often becomes painfully apparent. Resulting in more loneliness and depression. Never before have we been so aware of our needs for social contact and closeness."

Hence the work that Lotte Willemsma is presenting with her colleague Malou ter Horst on 17 and 18 September at Het Hof van Cartesius, an artists' sanctuary in the west of the city. It is called 'The Floating Dinner' and you can not only look at it, you can also taste it, says Malou: "I think the sensory experience is important in everything I make."


"It will be a kind of star restaurant from a sensory point of view," adds Lotte: "We want to bring back that sensibility. It's a movement performance with something extra. People are also going to eat something with their hands: what do you hear, what do you feel? What happens, who do you see? There's also all kinds of things floating in that space."

Malou: "It will be a performance where afterwards you think: what happened to me now?"

"We've had Corona and are looking more at ourselves, but we also need something again," says Imke Ruigrok, curator of Carefull Art: "We put that question out in an Open Call, and now you see super-personal stories emerging."

So like that dinner by Lotte Willemsma and Malou ter Horst: "I see artists working in a much more personal way, and also being much more vulnerable. They missed the audience, but they also want more with the audience now. The audience doesn't just have to watch and walk on again, but is also allowed to become performers in their work."

Red Herrings

Those who take that quite literally are Caz Egelie and Jesse Strikwerda. They are shooting a film at the enormous Fort near Vechten, which will be shown during Carefull Art in a gypsy caravan converted into a mini cinema. The project, titled A Bunch Of Red Herrings, features a huge number of co-stars, who were taken from the audience rather by chance: "We took the extras ourselves from the audience that came to watch rehearsals earlier," Caz Egelie explains. "They were allowed to decide whether they wanted to put on a costume and get a role in the story. We also put out calls for people who wanted to participate. All you had to bring was time."

The result was an upbeat day of shooting on the 17-hectare fort surrounding the Waterline Museum, with the entire film eventually being put on in one take. "We allow each other and everyone to do anything we feel the impulse to do. We want to convey that enthusiasm, and not plan everything." Explains Jesse Strikwerda. "In our own artistic practice, separately from each other, we are much more planning and working out exactly what we want to make."


Corona was also a time of reflection for Caz and Jesse: "We worked a lot in our own studio. All the commissions fell away, so there was finally time to work on my own work, and not run from exhibition to exhibition. That was really nice. We had been sharing a studio for a while, and it was there that we came up with these plans. That was a week before Corona started. For us, these are really trips. It's also an exercise in letting go. Stepping out of your practice for a while and just not being so serious about your own work. You need others for that, because on your own you don't get out of your own line of thought.

For Imke Ruigrok, the enthusiasm of the makers is heartwarming: "This city needs all the places to reopen and for the public to also know how to find all the places again."

So that you might end up in the bizarre knight story of Caz and Jesse, hunting for red herrings, or, all the way across town, get this on your menu: "Sprouting dance on a bed of grass and sedum, accompanied by circular movement of the spine."

Good to know Good to know

Carefull Art can be seen at 20 locations in and around Utrecht. Information via this link.


Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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