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Letters from the Associate Citizen Stijn Philippe about Johannes Bellinkx's performances in Amsterdam

A feedback on experience!


Johannes Bellinkx at the Over het IJ festival in Amsterdam

with 'Continuum'

As an Associated Citizen from IN SITU, I attended the “Over het IJ” festival in Amsterdam with Hugo Bergs from C-Tackt, as part of the (UN)COMMON SPACES project.

The programme featured a discussion with artist Johannes Bellinkx about his new installation Continuum, which made its début at the festival.  

I decided to do some research into Continuum to prepare. Here is what I found:

The work of Johannes Bellinkx balances performance, live cinema, visual art and sound art. He tries to design experiences that make a philosophical, political or cultural insight tangible. Once you step inside, you leave behind reality as you know it and let yourself be carried off into another dimension. When moving, you look at the space, which is in constant motion. This experience of light, sound and movement speaks to all the senses and erases the difference between what you see, hear and feel. The distinction between what you see, hear and feel disappears. Continuum is a physical experience in which you become aware that everything is one continuous movement. A movement that is much larger than our humanness, which begins and ends far beyond our parameters, or perhaps never started and with this never ends.

I was very interested to see this display and let myself be ‘immersed’. We start off by hearing an announcement that says any audience members who feel claustrophobic should stand in the installation rather than sit. You should know that I do have a slight form of claustrophobia. So I’ll just stand up, I think to myself. But as we went inside, Hugo says to me, for the best experience you really should sit down. Okay, I’ll sit down then… my thoughts are already racing around my head. Then there’s another announcement once you’re inside, under this creepy poncho and a mask right in front of your face, explaining that you can leave the installation if it gets too much… someone will come along and help you.  Doesn’t sound too reassuring. But now that my stress is at a healthy level, the display can begin.

As the description suggests, you are swept into this space and, slowly but surely, into another dimension, where the sound effects and the constantly changing imagery you see are very important.

My stress is gradually abating; I enjoy what is going on around me, from where I am sitting ‘inside’… after some time, it feels like being back in the womb again. Cosy, protected, sheltered, in a sort of cocoon… I feel totally relaxed.

My mother, who I had a very strong bond with, suddenly died two years ago at the age of 85. Fortunately, in her last days, I was able to deliver on my final promise to her.  

Now that I’m back with my mother in her womb, I feel wonderful. Suddenly the light eases, and my mother and I journey together – into the darkness to mysterious distant places. I want to come… take me with you. The performance then concludes a short while later.  

Although I’ve done my best, it’s very hard to put what I experienced into words. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to share this experience with Johannes immediately afterwards. Thank you, Johannes. I can’t believe what your installation did to me. People who are brought along with your performance experience some incredible moments in a rather unique atmosphere. You reach the most profound parts of the psyche of your audience, or rather your passengers.  

I take my hat off to you! A terrific experience.

Philippe Stijn, 20/07/2021

with 'Running Landscapes' 

At the “Over het IJ” festival in Amsterdam that I attended as an Associated Citizen from the IN SITU project (UN)COMMON SPACES, I had the opportunity to witness and take part in 'Running Landscapes', a performance by artist Johannes Bellinkx.

When you talk about art in the public space, this performance was an example of how you can be ‘brought into’ the public space and how that space determines how you experience the performance.

We joined a group of about 50 participants. The only instruction: follow the lines on the ground. When you come across circles, stop and stand still. If there is a T in the circle, this determines the direction you should look in. 

The tour starts in the unique surroundings of the old shipyards along the river IJ in Amsterdam-Noord. A blend of old industrial buildings and modern high-rises, with wide open spaces in between, bearing witness to a not-so-distant past when these shipyards would be bustling with activity.

We leave through a narrow alley between the rising apartment buildings, before arriving at a square, opposite the ferry landing that connects the city to Amsterdam–Noord (across the IJ).

This is the first place we stop. We line up with the other participants, right in front of the ferry landing. Ferries full of people come and go… we are confronted by passengers departing and arriving. Equally, these passengers are confronted with a group of people all looking and standing in the same direction. All the individuals ‘merge’ into one whole. We stand there for a while, a spontaneous interaction and ‘mixing’ of passengers and participants creates a rather unique atmosphere.

We continue on our journey. Our next stop is a vast area with industrial buildings in the background. Suddenly we hear some music; it turns out to be coming from a passer-by walking diagonally in front of us, carrying a loudspeaker and wearing a guitar over his shoulder. This ‘coincidence’ is a welcome change… a little later, a pizza delivery rider from the other direction cycles past, also playing music out loud. As soon as it goes quiet for a while, you then hear music again; a jogger playing music suddenly runs between the rows we have formed. It is becoming clear that these ‘coincidences’ are not coincidences at all… the passers-by appear to be actors, dancers who bring more of their colleagues in and bring a beautiful choreography along with it.

‘Genuine passers-by’ are brought into this performance. We follow the actors through streets, past other people, until we reach this huge old shipyard, where we look across the sloping plane towards the waters of the river IJ and follow the next part of the choreography. We end the tour on the other sides of a bridge where we are ‘crossed’ by actors and passers-by. 

The views, the atmosphere, the music, the dancing and the passers-by all provide a unique experience of this environment, which played host to a highly successful performance. Johannes has once again played on the senses and experiences of his willing audience as well as bystanders perfectly.


Philippe Stijn