What will the post-Covid-19 world look like? What are the challenges, what opportunities will arise? In March 2020 the Oude Kerk joined forces with Mister Motley, the online magazine that links the visual arts to life. Together they invited 16 artists to respond to questions raised by the Covid-19 crisis. Their contributions, in the form of short films that were presented in an online project called The World After, clearly radiate the combination of insecurity and optimism that characterized the lockdown period. Jointly, the videos paint a telling picture of the unusual spring of 2020.
From 19 September these videos will also be screened at the Oude Kerk. They are not presented as works of art in a traditional exhibition, but as elements of an enduring conversation between the Oude Kerk, the artists and the rest of society. The World After: Conversation Pieces therefore also includes an extensive public programme of performances, screenings, artist talks, concerts, debate evenings and an auction.
Response to the Context
The Oude Kerk presents context-specific projects: as a rule, the church invites artists to create new work that responds to the extraordinary building, its history and its surroundings. As the Oude Kerk was closed during the lockdown period, the starting point and context of this particular project was a world-wide social situation rather than a physical location. The World After: Conversation Pieces is the post-lockdown sequel to The World After. The videos have been installed throughout the church; visitors get to discover this new layer while they are exploring the historic building and its stories.
Gaps in the Programme
What if gaps appear in the programme all of a sudden? How can the church use this phenomenon to make its programme more inclusive? The Oude Kerk has been deliberately leaving gaps in its programme for quite some time now, to ensure that all of the Amsterdam locals can share in the ownership of this place on an equal basis. Due to the Covid-19 crisis, the development of these plans gained momentum. The first step in this ‘deprogramming’ process is a collaboration with local artists: an Open Call encouraged local artists’ community Open Ateliers Nieuwmarkt to create work that responds to The World After. These contributions will be added to the exhibition in the Oude Kerk in November.
About The World After
When the world came to a grinding halt in March 2020, the Oude Kerk together with Mister Motley invited artists to reflect on the situation. Their contributions kept the ideas and the programme of the Oude Kerk alive as long as its doors were closed. The participating artists all came from the networks of the Oude Kerk and Mister Motley; many of them had previously contributed to the church’s programme. The title of the project is taken from an article that historian Yuval Noah Harari wrote for The Financial Times in March. He predicted a dilemma: we can either return to the supposed normal, or face the problems of our world and embrace change and innovation. The Oude Kerk is currently talking with Harari about a possible contribution to the public programme.
The public programme reflects on the shifts we see in today’s society. The Covid-19 crisis unveiled obstacles and made us see and feel that things were not alright. We cannot predict the future, but we can talk about developing a compass for the future on the basis of shared values. A value that originated in the Black Lives Matter movement and subsequently resonated throughout the world is equality. The public programme is based on social values such as these. Mister Motley provides extra depth with a programme of (radio) conversations, essays and interviews. The programme also includes a charity auction.
Although the Covid-19 virus presents as an insurmountable barrier in this age of physical distancing, Oude Kerk director Jacqueline Grandjean says that The World After: Conversation Pieces is an ideal project to help shape the new measures. ‘The project revolves around listening, talking and reflecting; physical distance makes room for more spiritual connection.’
Aimée Zito Lema, Children of the Light, Geo Wyeth, David Helbich, Germaine Kruip, Hans van Houwelingen, Iswanto Hartono, Marc Mulders, Marinus Boezem, Madelon Hooykaas, PolakVanBekkum, Ruchama Noorda, Sarah van Sonsbeeck, Smári Róbertsson, Stéphanie Saadé, Yair Callender.
The World After: Conversation Pieces has been made possible thanks to contributions by the Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst, Mondriaan Fund, Kickstart Cultuurfonds and the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds.