The artist’s chance encounter with a document in an attic opened a window onto a previously unexplored history; an account of one night in 1989 where two men, Goran Sergej Pristaš and Ritsaert ten Cate, met. They spent the evening drinking jenever, watching twenty VHS videotapes.
This memory, committed to paper and then forgotten for decades, ultimately led to the creation of a site-specific installation and a physical document of what may, or may not be the truth.
Jimmy Grima discovered the account while studying at DASArts in Amsterdam. It revealed the videotapes belonged to Ritsaert ten Cate, founder of the influential Mickery Theatre (1965-1991), and later, DASArts. The content and location of the tapes was a mystery, but the record of their existence offered an opportunity for Grima to begin an exploration into the intertwining of site, community, knowledge and memory. How do you document and archive theatre, or the performing arts? Who gets to tell the story? And does any one individual hold the keys to what really happened?
“…The Mickery wasn’t a new institution, but it remained the phantom of the new. Ritsaert ten Cate with a bottle of jenever and a bunch of video tapes that we watched until early morning – the short history of the avant-garde theatre in 20 VHS tapes…” – Frakcija: Curating Performing Arts (2010), p34 in the chapter ‘Looking Backwards’ by Goran Sergej Pristaš.
In the hope of finding these 20 VHS videotapes, Jimmy continued to sift through the unofficial, unsorted attic archive. Instead, he discovered the threads and fragments of an untold story swirling around the Mickery Theatre and the Amsterdam art scene of the past. Choosing to reimagine the collection via the testimonies of those who had lived it, an artwork developed. Through a series of conversations and interviews with both major and minor players of this lost time, Jimmy started to fill in the blanks of the archive; throwing light on the shadows, collecting previously undocumented personal narratives, memories, objects and connections. The unauthorised and forbidden tales took their places at the table for the first time.
Would I have rather never opened these boxes? Were they destined to rest, long forgotten in the DAS attic as humidity gradually erased their contents?
Am I evoking ghosts?
Oh Yes. I am evoking ghosts.
And I am very delighted with their presence.
To make the freshly uncovered narrative tangible, Jimmy constructed a physical space to house the material he had collected – a research office – at the very same institution that had concealed its prehistory in its attic.
Open to the public on two days in late June of 2019, and later, by appointment, visitors to this fictional research space were encouraged to move laterally and intimately through the history of experimental theatre in Amsterdam. With the aim of questioning the linearity of official stories, the immersive installation exposed the scribbles, the side notes of the past, bringing new voices forward in the matrix and offering up ghosts in the round. Marginalia, scraps, and gossip sat beside archival documents.
While the 20 videotapes were never discovered, a previously unseen and complex picture emerged.
Jimmy Grima in conversation with Sergej Pristas, Marijke Hoogenboom, Juul Beeren, Corine Snijders, Andrea Božić, T J Etchells, John Meijerink, Jan Zoet, Maria Antoinette Reuter. With the kind assistance of Matar Pershitz, Ruth Borg, Michael Grima and Ira Melkonyan. Artistic advisor Sara Giannini Conversation partner Florian Malzacher photos Thomas Lenden
(72 pages, 10.5 x 18.5 cm)
edited by Isobel DryBurgh
A record for a record.
The process of gaining access to an archive, of searching through a potpourri of memory, and decoding the fragments and connections therein is an act that leaves its own traces.
In this volume, Jimmy Grima collates his process and discoveries as well as excerpts of interviews he conducted in his search for the 20 VHS tapes that Goran Sergej Pristaš and Ritsaert ten Cate watched that night in 1989.
An Introductory Guide to the DASArts Archive is a lasting record from 2020, containing images and descriptions of what lay uncovered in an attic and what was awakened in personal memory. These elements are intertwined with the artist’s reflections on how we store what we think we know; the act of preserving details, names and thoughts for posterity.
What remains very precious about this for me is that it was an intra-community affair. What came out of this research is a lot of filling in the gaps for myself, for the archive and for those who came to visit me.