Imagine IC has formulated their vision as:
“Our society is rapidly changing. Existing values and customs are shifting through the physical and virtual mobility of people and ideas. What was once a given is now losing ground in our digitalised, globalised society. Imagine IC aims to provide a new common ground with new heritage that forges new social connections.”
In Panna’s and Akka’s, Imagine IC collaborated with the University of Amsterdam’s anthropologists to archive modern street football culture as a common feature of Amsterdam and Dutch metropolitan life. For despite its omnipresence, Dutch street football culture, including its stars like Edward van Gils, Calvin Blankendal and Bouchra Ait L’hou, seems to be more known abroad than among the general public in Amsterdam and in The Netherlands.
Description of project:
Imagine IC collected street football stories and practices; focussing on the way the culture keeps innovating the game itself (on the streets and on the fields), as well as the social dynamics in and around the game and their 'exportation' into the city and society at large. Imagine IC presents and preserves these stories, in an exhibition and in smaller presentations traveling to library branches all over the city, and ultimately in an archive. Guus Dubbelman, sports photographer, and audio-visual collective Circus Family, were involved to create new productions of sound and images to support the archive and presentation.
At the start of each new project, Imagine IC finds people in their own network that have a personal connection to the topic at hand. Through those people a larger network is created around, in this case, street football. By building up a new network that partially overlaps older networks, the focus can shift per project and Imagine IC’s network continually grows in size and in terms of the people that are reached.
Imagine IC engages in many conversations with their network about street football. Through talking, they collaboratively try to find meaning. The people involved are invited to identify their heritage around a certain topic. Having many conversations is seen as the process of collecting both intangible heritage (often in the form of stories and practices) and material heritage.
Project leader Danielle Kuijten says: “Our connection to visitors, our storytellers, is very personal. It is about listening to them. That is very time consuming, but also very valuable. It is about getting engaged. When you talk about heritage you also talk about voices, about who is speaking.” In this participatory approach, the collection process is central to the project. The key goal is to identify new, modern, urban heritage and to create a collection around that.
Imagine IC’s director says Marlous Willemsen says that ‘the core aim is to create a collection - an ensemble of intangible and tangible items’. Creating a collection is not a linear process; it is dynamic and a continuing process of creating meaning. Conversations are central to this process, but working on an exhibition together is a more creative and hands on activity, which also fosters the thought process about the collection.
To create images and other audio-visual materials for the presentation and archive, photographer Guus Dubbelman and Family Circus were involved. They followed the football- players to collect their materials, but also provided workshops for other young people to start creating their own images.
Mobile phones help Imagine IC capture digital born documents about social phenomena that would otherwise never become part of the collection. Coming together to play a game of football, sharing nice tricks, the fashion and music that are part of the culture, everything is documented and shared through mobile phones. Both the phone practices that are part of the lifestyle, and the contents of the phone are therefore and important part of the collection.
What have they learned?
Willemsen says that in hindsight, Panna’s and Akka’s was the project where for Imagine IC, the role of the artists changed. In Panna’s and Akka’s they first noticed what a great source ‘pocket archives’ are for collecting stories, moments, images. Moments that are immediately captured via mobile phones bring you closer to the actual culture than an artist interpretation could. In Imagine IC’s most recent projects, the project leader asked the participants if they could share materials via their phones and via social media.
Imagine IC sees their practice as participatory, which in definition might not differ much from co-creative work. In the most fundamental sense, working with participatory methods would require you to leave a great deal of the decision making process to the participants. Willemsen says that even though the organization is quite fundamentalist in its ideology to collect, show and archive topics together with participants, there are also clear roles for the participants and the heritage professionals. In Willemsen’s experience, this usually does not lead to disappointments with participants. The team is clear about this from the beginning, and participants recognize the expertise the team has in creating exhibitions.
Imagine IC does not speak about communities in their work. A ‘community’ suggests there being a solid group of people that can be clearly defined. In earlier times, Imagine IC focused on specific communities, but today the organisation seeks to involve fluid and open networks around social practices. Being open to a diversity of perspectives is important in their work, and setting boundaries around a certain group can be very problematic when trying to build up a broad and well informed collection.
Why is it a best practice:
Panna’s and Akka’s is inspiring as a best practice because:
As Liane van der Linden says in her article on the co-production of modern heritage
(Boekman 96, 2013), Imagine IC’s broad definition of co-producers brings into practice the principle of inclusivity. Ancient questions on for who and from who heritage is, are automatically being pushed to the background because of this approach.
The topics that Imagine IC works with are very much intertwined with their working method. Trying to capture modern, urban life in a collection and working with young people with specific real life expertise as curators for this collection, is a very good example of how co-creation (or participatory methods) can enrich heritage practices, on both a practical and a strategic level.
Imagine IC is very aware of the importance of digital born materials for the creation of modern collections, and has developed a collection strategy that includes digital born heritage.
Description of organization:
Imagine IC documents, presents and discusses daily life in the city of today. Imagine IC was launched in 1999 as the “Image Collection Building”; it opted for the name “Imagine Identity and Culture” in 2001. Its objective was to present the identity and culture of migrants and their descendants in the Netherlands, and to make this information available to a broadly based public. Towards this, Imagine IC sought to document life stories in productions of image and sound. Today, storytellers of all backgrounds are now creating visual productions at Imagine IC that describe their lives, their neighbourhood, their city and their country. The organization collects and presents these contemporary stories as future heritage at exhibitions and other events. The formal collection of digital born sound and image items is managed and made accessible in collaboration with the Amsterdam City Archives and the Netherlands Institute of Sound and Vision; the exhibits reach a diverse audience in partnership with the Amsterdam Public Library. Imagine IC is thus updating concept and composition of Dutch heritage, and is also making a sustainable contribution to an inclusive view of the Netherlands’ history, identity and future.
All photos are taken by Imagine IC.
Van der Linden, L., “Hedendaags erfgoed als coproductie” in Boekman 96, published by the Boekman Foundation, p. 64-69, 2013.
Halfman, J., “Een broodje kebab via Instragram” in Boekman 99, published by the Boekman Foundation, p. 52-55, 2014.