In 2020-2021, under the heading Seen/Unseen, the National Collection was viewed from an intersectional-feminist and (gender)queer perspective. Existing, rediscovered archives and new acquisitions were examined with extra attention to the different roles assigned to female, queer and Black bodies and bodies of colour in the sub-archives of the National Collection.
2021: The first year of Collecting Otherwise, on the theme Seen/Unseen, was filled with learnings and tools that we will take into the years that follow, into artistic archival research and advice and additions for Het Nieuwe Instituut's collection policy, Rethinking the Collection, and the ambitions of Disclosing Architecture. We saw Collecting Otherwise and its functioning within and outside the institution as a testing ground for enacting the project's motivations in multiple ways. Last year, we hosted several public gatherings in which we discussed our research trajectories with a committed audience community (whose members became more and more dedicated - attending almost every event), as well as external guest speakers.
"We need to ask, what are the different ways that women create practice? We've been kept out by this patriarchy, so we are inventing different ways of practising. Feminist models challenge the status quo - challenge the ways things get built."
We engaged with our network through tailor-made social media campaigns and intimate 'snail-mail'. Next to these, we also attended and hosted cross-institutional initiatives like the consortium The Critical Visitor and the Women, Design, and Heritage conference by VAi. A big opportunity for Collecting Otherwise was to develop a room, Feminist Design Strategies, in the multi-year exhibition Designing the Social. In collaboration with designer Tabea Nixdorff, large portions of the Collecting Otherwise research around Vrouwen Bouwen Wonen and Stichting Goed Wonen were positioned inside the space. Through genuine exchanges with the Rotterdam-based heritage organisation Dig it Up, we were able to make a pop-up presentation of Feminist Design Strategies in its exhibition Gerse Vrouwen. By collaborating with external and local organisations and within our own institution, we continued to exchange knowledge and provide input for critical views on the archive, positioning queer, post-colonial, crip, and gendered readings of space and the built environment - ultimately underlining the societal importance of the themes that reside in our collection.
For its first iteration, Collecting Otherwise focused its theoretical and practical inquiries on fostering intersectional awareness in the National Collection and future acquisitions. By looking at the archives through specifically feminist, queer, and decolonial lenses, Collecting Otherwise aims to highlight the often minority perspectives that are generally obscured by standard architectural and archival practice. Working with these initiatives and their archives as case studies, Collecting Otherwise hopes to shed light on the objects, systems and processes entangled with intersectional, international and intergenerational notions of feminist and queer spatial practice, and to re-inscribe them into the National Collection and disciplinary history.
Collecting Otherwise departs from old, rediscovered archives and new acquisitions in this iteration. What forms of acquisition should be revisited in the light of an intersectional feminist policy? What mechanisms of collecting have been in place? We aim to invest in research around the building of safer spaces, the organisation around gendered labour relationships, notions of fluidity and bodily freedom in handed-down practice, and the practice-intertwined male gaze. Collecting Otherwise will research the position of the female-bodied, the feminine, femme and fluid in architecture practice.
How can we track the visibility of labour (intersectional, international, intergenerational) in the archived projects? How can we reflect on these activisms and connect the efforts to current struggles for freedom and recognition? How can we reflect on the male architect's gaze (racially) constructing the feminine, non-binary, Othered body? Collecting Otherwise seeks to reflect on the position of the drawing and the agency of the author versus the collective production along with the project Invented from Copies. Collecting Otherwise will reflect too on the position of the feminine in spaces of care and service. These positions trickled down in design assignments, and were historically intertwined with patriarchal ideas of "good living" through the Bauhaus and De 8 movements. How are current efforts to convene and co-house, away from the normative nuclear family model, alternatively a comment on this "good living"?
The specific departure points from Het Nieuwe Instituut's collection are curated together with archivist Hetty Berens. The aim is to continuously define the connection between material and immaterial heritage. In this iteration, we will relate the Vrouwen Bouwen Wonen archive to previous acquisitions and important actors in those processes (Wies van Moorsel). Collecting Otherwise will link Vrouwen Bouwen Wonen and the office Tussen-Ruimte (Lidewij Tummers) to the Dutch histories of women's emancipation, their effort to conceptualise a space beyond patriarchal structures by building alternatives. In this research, Collecting Otherwise connects to Rethinking the Collection's aim to review acquisition policies.
Secondly, the archive of Stichting Goed Wonen depicts interesting developments in the female position in housing, design and planning. There is an evolution in the position of the female designer and user starting from Stichting Goed Wonen's initiation in the afterthought of Bauhaus, De 8, and De Stijl during the post-war mass production of housing, onwards to the 1970s women's liberation movements and the strengthened resolve of feminists to win terrain in architecture and (interior) design. The reflection on the user and (anonymity of the) designer is also inherently class related.
Tracing earlier examples of female presence in the collection, there is the interesting example of the archive of the Dutch National Exhibition of Women's Labour in 1898. This is an archive that specifically shows the "hidden roles" of women in planning, design and architecture. The National Exhibition itself also presented objects and practices from the former colonies. Departing from this archive, we can reflect on the position of women's labour, precarious and hidden labour relationships, spaces of care, and racialised spaces and bodies, and draw parallels with the position of care, hospitality and mulitvocality within Het Nieuwe Instituut, along with alternative paradigms such as feminism, queering and decolonisation.
Intertwined with silence, we will further reflect on the position of racialised female and Othered bodies in colonial archives, such as those of Berlage Eibink and Koen Limperg. Generally, these bodies remain without much description, veiled in inaccurate wordings and a white-centric gaze. _De Keurige Leugens van het Officieel Fatsoen _is a cross between a diary and zine, found in the personal archive of Stichting Goed Wonen affiliate Wim de Boon. It recounts what it means to be queer and Othered in a society in which defying the norms in gender and sexuality was not accepted.
In order to unsettle the Othered body in these objects, we draw on speculative research methods to resurface narratives and redraw the connection between race, gender, sexuality and architecture.