Guided tour by Charlott Markus

Reflection on the construction of the self after the guided tour by Charlott Markus, curator and artist Some Things Hidden

By José Hopkins

This past March 4th, Charlott Markus guided us through the exhibition “Some Things Hidden”, a collaborative effort between Framer Framed and Castrum Peregrini. This project was composed by two exhibitions or two chapters of the same story – the year program called “The Female Perspectives” curated by Nina Folkersma.

The first, held within the walls of a former World War II hiding place, Castrum Peregrini, where Alexis Blake, Sara Blokland, Zhana Ianova, Charlott Markus, Shana Moulton, Femmy Otten and Marijn Ottenhof intervened the former atelier of Giséle van Waterschoot van der Gracht – founder of Castrum Peregrini – with performance and in-situ works. This provided new and expanded perspectives what could the hidden and hiding mean in the contemporary world. The second chapter presented a wider list of artists including the latter group and Helene Amouzou, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Bertien van Manen, Cauleen Smith and Batia Suter. This new exhibition was held in Framer Framed, space that currently functions as a white cube gallery. In this sense, the works were reinvented and reframed within a new narrative. The open white space hosted spatial works, video installations and photography that, in contrast with the previous exhibition in Castrum Peregrini, did not looked for a reinvention of the immediate space but to create dialogue with a wider and more public context. These two exhibition complement one another as the hidden or the silenced is a phenomenon that affects the personal and the public sphere, open and closed spaces, the static and the fluid.

In this space Markus guided us through twelve voices of twelve women. Curated by both Folkersma and Markus herself, this exhibition opened a dialogue between the present and the personal and collective past, bridging between bodies, places, identities and symbols as they are, in many ways, interdependent. Also, in Markus’ opinion, the importance of this exhibition is not on what female voices are being shaped and enunciated, but also what they are silencing. In my opinion the work of two artists, Héléne Amouzou and Cauleen Smith explored these issues in a very complete and holistic manner.

Despite a presence, if silenced or forgotten its meaning and relevance are not present by the first look. There is a voice that still remains trapped in the object or space as hidden stories, not necessarily unconscious but unknown, the ghost of Christmas past that still lives, still argues and defines. In many ways, “Some Things Hidden” is forcing us to look closer into the present as an act of remembering. The past is present through traces that we may detect if we look close enough. Amouzou, a self-taught photographer confronts us through a series of photos or her struggle of performing a self-portrait; an impossible job as the self is multi-layered physically, temporally and symbolically.

Her photos are a self-capture that have the partial presence of a body, her body whose absence opens space for other component to shape and perhaps complete it. The partly absent body visually intertwines with details of the room and merges with found objects. The layers and complexities of what she considers a self-representation are depicted by overlapping body and space, present and past, the self and the other. Despite her images are visually balanced, there is a tótum revolútum of personal and collective symbols, meanings, stories, objects, bodies and spaces.

On the other side of the coin, Smith presented a video performance showing a tractor digging what seemed a grave for a building. According to Markus, the artist thought about this piece after hearing a story of town in which white people were destroying and erasing the symbols of the black community so its memory and voice be weakened. Smith explores the power of symbols in the public sphere as voice and presence of a community. Monuments that carry stories and with them, shape us as far as we recognise them, learn them and embody them. Monuments that are sometimes hidden and are necessary to unveil. Monuments that are also victims of fantasy. Just like Smith did not strive to confirm the veracity of the story she heard, many of the symbols we utilize and embody are product of imagination. The meanings they contain may not be authentic, but Smith disaggregates this idea and reflects on the potential of talking and embracing “unauthentic” symbols, and even question if we can talk about authenticity in this sense. In other words, the building that is buried in this performance is the burying of a story, of a myth that regardless of its authenticity, has a structuring effect.

Many other pieces and artists were part of the exhibition and the conversation we had with Charlott Markus. Pieces that where as powerful as the ones mentioned. All of them intersect and confront us with the power and relevance of visual elements as milestones for the personal and collective identity. Object and actions that more than often have some things veiled or, as the title of the exhibition suggests, some things hidden. An unobservable and maybe unknown ethos, but still really present.

This tour was framed within a public program consisting of a wide range of activities most of them hosted in Framer Framed. Two of the most relevant to mention are the screening of the film “Herengracht 401” and the two sided publication “The Female Perspective”. “Herengracht 401” is a documentary produced and directed by Een Van de Jongens focused on the testimonies of current and prior guests that lived in the building presently hosting Castrum Peregrini. This series of testimonies open diverse and frankly enriching perspectives of the history of the institution; voices that are pertinent in relation to existing problematic issues revolving Castrum. Finally, the publication includes two sides, the first is “Women Resistance, Memory Agency” a series of reflective essays, edited by Nina Folkesma, compiling the contribution of almost exclusively female makers, thinkers, artists, writers and scientists. These essays attack from different angles transhistorical issues such as female identity, sexuality, feminism and gender. The other side of “The Female Perspective” consists on series of reflections regarding the 12 artists that participated in the exhibition. We invite you to look into the publication that can be found in both institutions, and other related activities hosted and organized by Castrum Peregrini and Framer Framed.