It was a Difficult Day

It was a Difficult Day

At least for me, Marlies Vermeulen, it was. While Guus from the technical department of the Zuyd Hogeschool was fixing the heating, I am, together with Remy Kroese waiting for the invitees to arrive. The purpose of the day is to talk with people from different backgrounds that have expertise in borders and their consequences in border regions. The first research studio, the one at Zuyd University, is well under way and so is the project. 

During the morning session the experts share a map and explain the importance of that map for their own work and practice. I am starstruck I think, so much they know and so easily explained. What will they think of this work in progress that I am about to explain? What am I actually looking for? What do I want to learn from today? 

It is time to present the project Border Encyclopaedia itself. And while I am presenting, I feel that it is hard work. It is difficult to explain what we have been doing in the research studio. I feel that I am losing the invitees’ attention and that it is hard for them to follow. I say to myself: it is normal, it just is hard to clearly explain a project that is in a phase where it is not clear yet what the project is about. 

It is a difficult day. 

Only much later I realise that it was too early to share to project, but at the same time it was also perfect timing. Until the expert meeting, the project was paralysed. I felt a huge responsibility and pressure for what I saw as a ‘first big academic real serious research project’. 

The whole day, and the whole project until that day, was somehow indirectly devoted to convincing the invitees that the project is academically valuable. The focus was on trying to explain (as academic as possible) how the mapping process took place instead on the initial purpose to investigate other ways of representing border experiences. I am applying double standards. I am not trusting my own artistic research practice but losing myself in academic values that do not scale up with the project. 

It is a wake-up call. 

The expert meeting allowed me to let go of the pretended academic expectations and start doing and making, trusting our own method and artistic research practice. Because, at the end, isn’t every well executed research simply good and valuable research, academic or artistic? 

But nevertheless, it was a difficult day.