Exhibition - Being at Home
13-21 March 2018
Wyckerbrugstraat 10

Curators:  Hendrik Simons
                  Mike Moonen
Artists:      Dina Dressen
                  Simone Schuffelen
                  Han Ramaeckers
                  Jiri Loozen
                  Guy Houben
                  AnneLinde De Jong
                  Henri Simons
                  Rudy Beerens
                  Anke Huntjens
                  Kaspar De Jong   
                  Mike Moonen
                  Hendrik Simons

“Experience does not necessarily lead to understanding, even though it is perfectly true that there is no understanding without experience.” - Frigga Haug (1987).

Culture is the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular group of people, society or city. Culture is constructed out of stories we tell eachother and these stories propagate the assumptions and beliefs throughout the entire community. We humans are storying creatures. We use the narrative as a sense-making and identity-constructing tool. We as individuals are in search of stories that we feel attracted to, we look for cultures that identify us, and that harmonizes us with others. But we as a conglomerate of individuals, as a city, have to deal with the story of the dominant culture. Where we can identify with our own story or our own subcultures’ story, the overall and so called stock story of the big ‘institution’ is sometimes a though one to identify with. But that what is my story doesn’t have to be yours and vice versa.

Every city has a story stock, the dominant collection of stories, no exception for Maastricht. For the most part the story stock doesn’t reveal itself as ‘stock’ at all, but rather as random narrations that are not connected in any way. But taken together, these stories do constitute an anthology which means that by gathering and interpreting them we are able to gain powerful and concrete insights into the workings of culture. We tell the stories of Andre Rieu, Tefaf, Preuvenemint. We speak of well dressed madams et mademoiselles , perfectly tapped beer, our beautiful river and the burgundian lifestyle. We tell them that we unite, fraternize and celebrate three days a year during the Vasteloavend . This is our story stock, these are the stories that are told everywhere about our city. In this way, we come to shape our own and others’ identity: through telling and retelling we make the dominant narratives our own, sometimes even in spite of ourselves. Because it is much harder to tell the kind of stories that do the work of interrupting the dominant narratives and by implication the relations of injustice, discrimination and inequality that those narratives sustain. But these counternarratives bring balance and are a necessity for a culture: to learn, to evolve, to grow and to facilitate a feeling of being home for everyone. A culture has to be dynamic and we’ve lost that balance in Maastricht.

A significant amount of people is taking the world for granted as they see it through their own eyes. For those who live and tell this story and for those who occupy hegemonic positions, encountering new stories can be about recognising that their experience is not everyone’s experience. It has to do with making room for the partialness of their own view,

whoever they may be and wherever they may be situated. Normality is difficult to resist and strangeness is discomforting, but there is something emancipatory about opening ourselves up to the possibility of astonishment. If we understand stories, in the way that I have proposed, as potent sense-making, identity-producing mechanisms, we can begin to see how one powerful way of truly encountering one another, seeing one another and making the normalcy of our own particular stories strange is through encountering different stories.

We are here to make the normal strange. We are here to do so because not everybody feels at home in Maastricht because they can not identify themselves with the culture that is dominant. Like many good things, if it is there, it is often more or less invisible - a framework in which we live and of which we are usually not aware. Like happiness, its attainment is no entirely up to us; we can hope to feel at home and we can do what is in our power to feel that way, but ultimately it is an experience that arises from a complex confluence of factors, some of which are out of our control. But are they out of our control? We are looking for ways to transform our culture, our ways of being. And if we want to change the culture we need to shift something about the stories we tell, the opportunities when we tell them, how we make those opportunities and who has the chance to tell their stories: we need to find a way to develop our story stock. We have to make the normal strange.

The telling of marginalised or subjugated stories, the production of counternarratives that interrupt the stock stories in our city may help us to transform. To accomplish this we have to get out there and show that we are here because it is hard for a great amount of people to come in contact with the marginalized groups and to witness these counternarratives because they are simply not aware or try to flee from spaces or ways of being where they do not dominate. But the avenues for such flight will surely become fewer and narrower and the younger generations that have grown up in an environment that has been less likely to nurture the same sjiek en sjoen zeitgeist to the same degree. Which makes that we are now having a momentum in Maastricht where all those different fragmented, isolated islands connect for the first time. These people will tell the counter-narrative and transform the culture of Maastricht. See this as our contribution to the movement

Hendrik Simons

Photos: Guy Houben Photography