Common Objects Workshops
Common Objects workshops were created in collaboration with De Voorkamer, and align with its aim to create a cultural meeting space that promotes inclusion and integration by stimulating and facilitating creative interactions within its community.
The workshops were initiated during the recent lockdown as a way to create new ways to meet each other through exchanging people's personal objects and sharing their stories. Through these, we experienced how objects become an active part of our lives, shape and change us, collect our memories and feelings and connect us with other people, places and moments in time.
Since we were unable to host groups in the space of Devoorkamer, Common Objects workshops created flexible offline-online interactions between participants that started with a physical exchange of objects, which were then explored in online group interactions, and communicated between participants in one on one walks emote conversations. Each object that was brought into the project is different but they all hold meaning. Some travelled to Utrecht from distant countries, some are local, some are a reminder of someone significant, some are used on a daily basis and some have not been touched or thought of for a while. In the project, objects became a way for us to get to know each other and become part of a shared story.
Sound of Me
With movement, you can make me sound beautiful. I bring people together and therefore I travelled to different places. This way I can create new memories each time I go to places or when people and places visit me. I make sure loves ones are enjoying my sound, even though they might be far. My sound is so touching that people don’t want to let go of me. They write their name on my back so I can be theirs. But I will always come back to the one where I want to play. And that is Jolijn and her sister.
After Jolijn told her story to me, she motivated me in a way that I want to play my own instrument again. Which I haven’t touched for a while. Ik ga nog veel mensen blij maken met mijn muziek.
He Comes With Baggage
This object has travelled from The Netherlands to Curaçao and back. Eldon’s father Edsel was visiting the Netherlands with a friend in 2002. In Amsterdam, he bought a gift for his wife Roos-Marie. She used the object daily until 2012. In it carrying her work supplies, protecting it with its thick leather surface. Eldon thought from the first day that the leather bag was beautiful and asked his mother if he could have it after his high-school graduation. She was hesitant and initially didn’t want to hand it over, but before Eldon left to study medicine in the Netherlands she gave the bag as a gift. Eldon used it for a bit, but soon after receiving the bag it already broke. His mother got it fixed at a repair shop just in time for Eldon to bring it for his journey to the Netherlands. He moved to Utrecht and together with the leather bag of his mother he visited quite some lectures before it broke again.
Eldon realised that the bag had served his mother for 10 years and that it didn’t have the energy left to serve a new owner. He decided to let the bag rest and stored it carefully in his student flat. The first day Eldon saw the bag it called him because of its beauty. Today Eldon keeps the bag as an object that connects him to his mother. He plans to give the object back but only at the moment, he arrives back to Curaçao, to stay, to start his life as a general practitioner and most importantly to live together with his family again. Eldon and the bag will be reunited again with Roos-Marie.
The bag travelled through the exchange in this project to our house in Utrecht. It spent its days in a hectic environment. In the middle of us moving - Packing boxes, emptying closets and dusting and mopping our house. It travelled from the bottom of the Singel to the bottom of Zuilen. It reminded me of my own leather bag and the journeys it took and how that bag connected me to someone special too. How these bags seem to carry as many memories as that they did carry stuff.
Ana’s object is a wooden bird. It’s small, smooth, and actually has no wings. Ana thinks it does have wings, but maybe the bird’s fast movement keeps its wings tight to its body. She told me about the bird being made in Slovenia by a craftsman and bought for her by her boyfriend’s mother. She remembers her having a beautiful butter knife in her house made very similarly, maybe by the same maker. This knife and the description of it in the house stuck to my head – I could really feel the smoothness.
Since she got the bird, Ana has been moving around with it. First, for a student exchange in Bosnia, and then to Utrecht, where she hopes to stay still for a bit. Wherever she went – the bird found its new place in her home. It collected memories of encounters – sometimes unnecessary memories that changed its naïve nature, which Ana prefers to leave aside. But, unfortunately, whether we like it or not – our memories stick around, making our world more complex than we wish. I had a good time holding the bird in my temporary room. I don’t have many things with me, because like Ana and her bird I moved around quite a lot lately, especially not new things because I am aware of having to bring everything I have back to my home soon. So having the bird near me was refreshing, something new to hold, look and think of, before I move again.
Fly Till You Die
After graduating from high school at the age of 18, Lotte was given this butterfly figure by her mother, with a note on a little paper stuck behind it. In the note, Lotte's mother wishes her to fly away and do so with a certain playfulness. It was because Lotte has been quite a serious kid, so her mother used this particular word (fladderen) to specify her wish that Lotte becomes more playful. That reminded me of Linda, my girlfriend,
who was also a very serious kid. Lotte found this gift quite cheesy at the time, but when she was moving to Utrecht (a year later?), she found the butterfly again and thought how sweet of her mother it actually was and decided to bring it with her. She now keeps it in her place, where she can see it at all times. She's not necessarily a serious person anymore. She doesn't know if her mother's gift helped that. She had a period where she thought about death a lot. Maybe she realized: 'In a place where there's death, what can be more serious?'
Als ik het doosje open weet ik ongeveer wat het zijn: een instrument, in dit geval 2 stuks, die je ergens bij je mond moet houden. Als je dan aan dat ijzertje (in een hoek van 90°) drukt komt er een geluid uit. Het doet me denken aan hele snelle Indiase muziek. Ik vind vooral de gebruikssporen heel mooi. De donkerblauwe kleur met de goudachtige kopergloed. De bochten voelen fijn om met je duim overheen te gaan. Ik moet denken aan de verroeste vliegende sleutel in Harry Potter 1.
Het zijn mondharpen uit een fabriek in Oostenrijk? Anne heeft ze kegregen van haar vader. Je vader was van jouw leeftijd toen die ze kocht. Wat me vooral is bijgebleven is de mastergroep uit Middelbrug van je vader met optredens, choreografie, muziek en volksvertellingen. Ik zag het helemaal voor me. Of dat deed hij? Want de oprichter en tevens vriend van je vader wordt altijd (onredelijk?) boos als mensen niet kunnen en dan houdt het op? Wie weet doet Anne toch nog een x mee met het hele gezin.
This object came to Goukje when Goukje went on a study excursion to The Czech Republic. The trip was around Eastern. This Egg is a souvenir from a tourist shop. Goukje chose it not necessarily because it was beautiful but because of wanting to bring back a memory from the excursion. It was cheap. The egg is blue – Goukje’s favourite colour.
This object is moving with Goukje and is hanging in different places in different spaces. Handmade or not – we will never know. There is space for imagination. It is a reminder of a nice trip but also of two very close friends that also went along on that excursion. It carries memories from a specific place in Prague. In Covid times it became an object to hold on to. To stay in touch - with people. To be exchanged. To be given away. To be talked about. To come back with a new story. Uneggpected.
Body of Water
Luka and I met in a sunny warm day of February in Utrecht. We walked for a little bit and sat down next to the water, near the bridge in Lombok. We also had coffee we bought in a coffee place that has an Indonesian name (Luka told me), Kopi Susu, which strangely eventually connected with Luka’s object.
Luka’s object is a pretty little silver sugar spoon, the kind you find in second-hand shops as he did. Luka’s spoon, however, isn’t just a random piece of history he found. It has a beautiful relief of a harbour scenery on it and an etching with the writing ZUIDERZEE WERKEN. Luka’s grandfather was part of a very big and important project in the Netherlands, which was in charge of turning a big piece of the sea into land. Luka’s father was born in a village that was built for the workers of the project, where the spoon was made, or at least it stands for it – a symbol, I think of pride.
I really wonder if at a big industrial project like this they set up a small working station for the making of these spoons. It is actually nice to imagine they did. For Luka, this spoon stands for his realization of his parents as people with history, and not just people who play the roles of his mother and father. On the other hand, since he and his father do not speak a lot about things, he does not know much. But our conversation led to us speaking about our origins, Indonesia and its history with the Netherlands, Israel and its continuous conflicts, all in all quite a heavy load for such a light small sugar spoon.
The Meaning of Belonging
My father really enjoyed birdwatching. He was the one that gave me the binoculars. I don’t think I use them as much as he did. Through the years they have become more of a treasure than something I actually use. In my day to day, they are one more object patiently sitting in one of the cupboards at home. Sometimes, if there is rattling in the park next to my studio apartment, I use them to spy on it. I strongly connect them with nature, I suppose that is because I link them to birdwatching. I remember very well the first time that I recognized some birds by myself; we were on a family trip to Friesland, and I was using these same binoculars.
Oh, I am named after a bird: Merel is a bird. I had never really given much thought to how meaningful they are to me. Do things become more meaningful with time by themselves? Or do they become more meaningful because as time passes they belong a bit more to who we are? They are a very historical piece, they were made in Eastern Germany. They must have been held by so many hands, looked through different coloured eyes. What has my father seen through them? I wonder. Because of their attachment to him, they have an invisible and persistent role in my life. Through them, I can travel far. Landscapes of Ghana, birds in Nepal, the discovery of a small river in the north of Spain. Or more simply, birdwatching in Friesland, seeing two kids battle over who will jump from the slide first. I think both of us had expectations that didn’t materialize; we looked for things that were far away, when in the end what we wanted was closer to home than we imagined. At the end of the day, looking through them in my studio apartment already lets me discover new stories. By the way, have you looked through them yet?
The Unused Tool of Memories
Esther is naar Uganda geweest en houdt ervan om ‘random objects’ mee te nemen van haar reizen. Deze deegroller heeft ze gekocht, omdat ze veel rolex gegeten heeft. De ciapati’s die erom heen zitten worden gemaakt met deze deegrollers. Esther heeft veel ciapati’s gegeten in Uganda en ze vond ze heel erg lekker. Ze heeft de deegrollers wel in gebruik gezien, maar deze is niet gebruikt in Uganda. Ze heeft hem wel een keer thuis gebruikt om ciapati’s mee te maken.
De deegroller is een herinnering aan haar reis naar Uganda 3,5 jaar geleden. Hij lag in haar kast en bij haar verhuizing kwam ze hem weer tegen. Ze is nu van plan om hem weer te gaan gebruiken. Bijvoorbeeld als vrienden komen eten, dan kan ze ciapati’s maken en de verhalen en herinneringen ophalen aan haar reis naar Uganda.
Esthers object bracht me terug naar mijn eigen reis naar Uganda. Sinds het gesprek met haar denk ik er weer veel aan en komen er herinneringen boven. Het is mooi om te zien hoe dit object verbonden is met een object dat ik in huis heb als souvenir uit Uganda. Nu hoop ik meer herinneringen te maken en minder in de la te liggen. Geef mij de geur van koken en bakken, de zachtheid van het deeg.
When Nostalgia Hits You
The object didn’t have a specific function, it was more about its atmospheric presence, however, sometimes it was used for collecting coins or small objects that need a place at home. It has travelled with Yanki from Turkey to the Netherlands and stayed with him for 7 years. Letting go of this object was a bit painful but at the same time, it brought him a sense of relief.
The encounter with the object evoked in me a nostalgic feeling that reminded me how much I miss going to music events and concerts. Surprisingly enough, the last concert I went to before corona times was of a saxophonist called Shabaka Hutchings with his band the Comet is Coming. Music for me is symbolic for celebrating life and its events, getting together, and a universal tool to connect with people and loved ones.
Fez is another object that evokes this nostalgic feeling and reminds me of my homeland. It is a Moroccan hat that men wear for specific spiritual events but also for celebrations. Salihanoor was very enthusiastic about this object and told me that in turkey men wear it, especially for celebrations. The object gives her a nice feeling and reminds her of happy times back in her motherland. It was very pleasant to hear that we have this in common.
Amazingly, the latter does not stop at this point. Fez initially belongs to Roni; I was delighted to hear that she designed it with the intention to be worn at her friend’s wedding in Israel. This object became for me very symbolic for celebration and getting together the same way Music is.
This story is about the mask, the mask that Negar received from Robert. Negar starts telling the story by saying it is a sad story;
Robert lives above a shopping centre. In the shopping centre there is a shop that sells expensive stuff. For the occasion of a party, Robert bought this mask from the expensive shop, to use when going to the party. Robert thought it would be a nice ice breaker, it would help him get friends and connect to people. At the same time, Robert was hesitant, the mask is rather big, and he was afraid people would think it’s strange or that people would maybe make fun of him. Eventually, he went to the party without the mask, and he didn’t have a good time, he felt uncomfortable there. So the mask stayed at his house, and since then he hasn’t used it.
Robert wants to get rid of the mask, to not see it anymore. So he gave it to Negar, he doesn’t want it back. Salma is wondering if Robert wants to give the mask in order to give away certain insecurities. Negar thinks that it is not so much the case, that it is more about giving away the mask in order to get rid of the bad memory. Now the mask is with Negar. She keeps it in her closet, hidden from her son. Negar hopes to use this mask for a fun occasion, maybe for a party when visiting Venice. In this way, Negar hopes to create positive memories for the mask.
Time and Space Change The Way We Look
When I met Fawzy, he was waiting for me and he was carrying a big bag of stuff. He just came from his parents who live near Maastricht. His mom made him bring all this food with him to his house. We walked to a nice play on the canal and start talking. I got his shoe and now I had to ask him questions. I asked why he chose this shoe. He said it was the first thing I saw. When I asked more questions I understood that this shoe was a climbing shoe. He chose this shoe because he misses climbing. He is missing the sport and he is also missing the people he always climbs with. He still sees this person but less than in the time he could do sports with them. Now he does not sport at all. Corona is a big influence on Fawzy. There are lesser things to do. And its harder to see people. This shoe represents all this. It was a really nice talk. It invited us to ask more to each other than only this one story.
When I got the object nicely rapt in the white fabric I felt that it must be a shoe. I thought it must be a really special shoe. A traditional one for some kind of ritual or so, or one made in a special place on the earth. When I unpacked it. it was a sports shoe. I thought and I was really interested in what made this “normal” special. The story Fawzy told me made so much sense. Normal stuff can become really special or loaded with emotional feelings. This is really cool for me. Sometimes objects can be special because they belong to someone you knew, someone you loved, sometimes objects can be special because they belonged to yourself in times that were easier. Times that were not special one that time but where special looking back.
Celebrate Strong Connections
Rita’s object is a stone. To me, it looked like a very normal stone but for her, it has a lot of meaning. She started her story by telling that she had a very good connection with her grandmother and that the whole family went on a holiday to an island every year. One time they decided to collect stones. But when she found her stone she fell down a very long stair but funny enough she wasn’t hurt at all!
In her hand, she was still holding the stone and they said to each other that it must be a lucky stone. From that holiday on her and her grandmother collected stones every year. Unfortunately, Rita’s grandmother passed away a few years ago. At that time Rita was in Armenia which meant that she was not there with her family. However, she had the last stone she collected with her grandmother with her and it gave her a feeling of connection with her grandmother. After that moment the stone became very symbolic for a feeling of strongness and connection to her grandmother. Rita takes it everywhere she goes. She seemed to be a little embarrassed about the fact that a simple stone became so meaningful, but I think it is a very beautiful story!!
I can definitely relate to the idea that an object can become very symbolic and important. I know the feeling that it might be a bit strange to feel such a strong connection to a simple object. Objects are often connected to people. Something that was given to you by a friend is a family member or even made by them. Stones, shells and other objects from nature are definitely objects that can hold many memories within them as well! I also have a big collection of strange objects that I find very important and that are very hard to put away.
The Vessel That Contains Emptiness
Due to the lack of stuff, this bottle of whiskey was chosen. Although the liquid inside is often enjoyed by its owner, this individual bottle carries no meaning for the drinker. The stuff that used to have meaning was stored in a garage box in Belgium for 7 years, while their owner lived in Ireland. The last year of his stay in Ireland, the garage box was flooded, and none of his stuff survived, including a car, photographs and books of his studies. With this story, the bottle with Irish whiskey becomes a signifier of lack, of emptiness but also of freedom. There is no more stuff to hold on to, but also no luggage to drag around, making the non-owner free to move anywhere.
And moving around he did. He lived in Belgium for more than a decade, and also in Ireland. Jameson was already his favourite whiskey, but Ireland now has a special meaning to him. I have been to Ireland a lot, it was nice to talk about this. I also happen to like whiskey but have been able to restrain myself from drinking it. As for having stuff goes: I do not like owning a lot of stuff, which I have in common with the owner of this bottle of Jameson whiskey likes the people in Ireland, friendly, easy-going. The same happens to people who drink (a moderate amount of) Whiskey. For a short time, he lives in the Netherlands, trying to get to know the people. Jameson is a brand that is over 250 years old, and making whiskey is a craft, which the owner appreciates a lot. The Jameson family whiskey brand survived many crises, including the world wars. In corona times it can be helping to keep this in mind, although there is a global pandemic, there will be whiskey! The empty object will come back with new content. You can drink the memories of the object.
My Substitute Family
I came to life when Salihanur’s Cousin made me. Stich by stitch. I was made in Turkey. Salihanur received the little fox keychain as a present from her sister, who gave it to her to cheer her up. The orange creature made by her cousin is in the company of others. In a glass cabinet in Salihanur’s room, it’s being kept safe while having the company of a turtle and an owl. Those animals comforting Salihanur with their presence. Apart from these tree buddies, there are a lot more handmade keychains in Salihanurs possession. The collection keeps growing and growing.
You felt hesitant to select an item, but in the end, you selected me. You hold on to things, just like you hold on to me. Still, you felt that I was the lucky one to switch locationד. Sometimes I’m a decoration, sometimes good company on the road. A travelling companion, holding memories while you travel from place to place. An object that seems so normal at first sight, but holds emotional value. Then I was wrapped into fabric.
Hello, little fox. When I met you a week ago I looked at all your little details. You where my model when posing for my drawings. You reminded me of my childhood when I used to have little keychain buddies myself. I also have a collection of things people give me as gifts. These are also animals, giving me a sense of comfort as well. Substitutes of family feelings, comfortable kinship. The hands, attention and care present of loved ones through the objects.