Iris Honderdos (film, photography, installations) and Arno Peeters (multimedia and sound) are ‘community based’ artists and they have a worldwide experience in this field.
Since 2003 they live and work together and collaborated on projects in the Czech Republic with former miners and their wives, in the Ukraine during the Orange Revolution and worked extensively in North-Vietnam with HIV infected women and female ex-drug users. More recent projects took them to Bulgaria, Norway, Peru and Finland.
In their method of working they cannot know upfront what they will create, since they need to home in on the emotions of the community they want to work with. After a process of research and meditation on a subject, sketching and modeling, the actual work on the art itself can begin. It results mostly in an installation, accompanied by sound or video and is presented to the audience during a performance or concert; it is a gift to the community.
Their approach proved to be very suitable for addressing complex or sensitive issues within local communities. Therefore they have been contracted by several NGOs. They have worked for the Medical Committee Netherlands Vietnam, for Cordaid in Sierra Leone, the Royal Tropical Institute in Meghalaya and Uganda and for The Institute of Development Studies in Kenya.
Elämänlanka means ‘Thread of life’ in Finnish and is an installation made with clients from the Open Prison in Mänttä-Vilppula.
Each tree represents the life of one client. The red lines are their lifelines and the steel collars mark important moments in their lives, from which metal wires run up. On the left side of the rope you see the moments with bad memories, on the right side of the rope the positive and pleasant ones. It starts with birth on the lowest band and ends with the moment here and now, at the top of the tree.
A sign with a QR-code gives you a podcast in which the clients tell their stories and experiences during the process.
This artwork was realised during a two-month stay at the Serlachius Residency. A documentary is in the making and will be finished late 2022, but meanwhile you can read our Residency Report
Canchabamba, a small rural community high up in the Peruvian Andes (3200m) is home to a few dozen inhabitants and to "I.E 86453 Juan Velasco Alvarado", a large school with over 240 students ranging, from 6 to 18 years of age. It is one of the few areas accessible by car, but many of the students have to walk for hours to reach it.
We have stayed for 4 weeks in the village and created an installation with the students, consisting of 138 'purus': it's the Quechua word for a small gourd or calabash. It has been used for over ages as a container for coca juice and medicine or magic potion. The students have decorated them and they contain letters by the students to their future self, accompanied by a secret note from their parents. They can take their own puru out of the installation once they leave school and choose whether to break the seal and read the messages or wait for another moment. The idea is that the empty space can than be filled with a new puru from a student that is just starting out in school.
A Limes was a fortified frontier of the Roman Empire, stretching all the way from Rome as far as Britain; with over 500 kilometers, it could monitor and hinder any invaders or raiders before they reached the "civilized" interior.
As part of the theater performance 'GRENS' by Nieuw Utrechts Toneel, Iris Honderdos got inspired by the Limes, the largest archaeological monument in the Netherlands. She visited several people who literally live on the Limes nowadays, talked to them about what brought them here and collected stories about objects that play an important role in their lives. We can only guess at the personal stories behind the excavated objects from Roman times, but we can preserve and share the stories of the objects that are now - in the present - on the Limes.
As a contemporary archaeologist, Iris has 'excavated' the objects and their stories and exhibits them in a specially designed table. You can sit at the table and by scanning the QR code with your mobile phone, bring the stories of the objects to life. Arno Peeters created soundscapes to accompany these stories and it is worth listening with headphones. The installation has been on display at Castellum Hoge Woerd and at the the city Hall in Utrecht.
This film was made for the 20-year anniversary of Teatro di Nascosto ("Hidden Theater"), between November 23 and 25, 2018. The actors of Teatro di Nascosto came from several Middle East and Western countries to celebrate their anniversary in Volterra, Italy. We’ve asked the actors to bring some soil or sand from the place where they live and tell us about their relationship with land.
The whole production was created during the festival and presented on the final evening.
After 7 years living in Leidsche Rijn , a fast-growing neighbourhood in the west of Utrecht, Iris started wondering about all the new neighbours that had come to live there in the recent years. Especially in the spring of 2017, when the very last patches of open space close to her own house in De Kersenboomgaard, (‘The Cherry Orchard’) were being filled with new housing.
One thing she noticed was that one of the first things people do when they move into their new house is to put something on the windows to prevent passers-by from looking inside; sometimes blinds, but mostly semi-transparent plastic sheets in all kinds of patterns. Sometimes, the only thing visible from outside was a green leaf of a plant, leaning against the window.
This reminded her of the origin of this place. Where this extension of the city is now, there once were mostly greenhouses, and now again, new plants were growing behind glass windows. An interesting connection. She decided to use the plants as a metaphor for the new neighbors.
She started to ring doors and invite people to tell their stories, but than from a plants’ perspective: ‘is there one plant that is special to you and what is it the plant has witnessed in your life and that of your family’, followed by a very special question: ‘can your plant come and stay over with me for a few weeks?’
A lot of inhabitants were willing to cooperate and got their stories recorded. Their plants would move house again, but this time only a few blocks away from their owners.
For this, Iris had a greenhouse built amidst the old cherry trees which form the heart of De Kersenboomgaard. To comfort the green overnight guests, she covered the windows of the greenhouse with a collage of semi-transparent sheets with all kind of patterns like the ones at home, put a photo of their caretakers in front of each plant and a small speaker close above them, so the plant could enjoy the voice of his caretaker and wouldn’t feel alone.
Arno Peeters made a soundscape accompanying the stories which played from all corners of the green house and 11 small speakers close above the plants. Visitors would have to sit down in comfy chairs and put their ears close to the plant to be able to hear the story.
CreDogma features 8 consecutive discs of a 147 year old pine, inscribed with the worries and wishes of 8 local inhabitants.
The work is partly inspired by writer Jens Bjørneboe who stated that being 'unfree' is easier than being free. The image of his typewriter hammering away at the dogmas that plagued the Norwegian society of his time is in there.
In the plinth a 5.1 surround soundscape is playing with voices of 8 local inhabitants speaking out on issues that they feel need to be addressed in current times.
For Love Matters Africa we helped to launch the Love Matters Music Awards: the first music awards in Kenya dedicated to providing young people the chance to produce songs on themes related to pleasure and sexuality.
Working in partnership with the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), as well as East African record label Penya, the project brought together online activities and offline realities, culminating in a live multimedia final: 'Matters of Love: The Show', performed in Nairobi on December 5th.
"During the course of the project, participants from the Penya’s Sauti Academy in Nairobi were coached by international visual artist Iris Honderdos and music producer Arno Peeters (who also made the script for the show), alongside experts on gender and sexuality from IDS and Love Matters."
Artproject in cooperation with the inhabitants of Rosen, an almost dreary peasant village in rural Bulgaria, close to the Romanian border.
Like with many villages across rural Europe, urbanization and globalization is having its effect: only old people stay behind and the village withers away. Funeral announcements on displays, trees and houses bare witness to that.
We made a big board with portraits of (nearly) all the people living in Rosen. It serves as a contrast to the decay and is to celebrate that "Rosen is alive".
Eead the Travelogue
Additionally, you can also watch 'Nature of Rosen', a portrait of Rosen's smallest inhabitants
Koudum is a small town in Friesland, in north of The Netherlands. It has only 2700 inhabitants. Each year, the local Sculpture Centre organizes an Art Route trough the town, which is a popular local attraction. A great variety of sculptures are on display in the town square, the park and in gardens of the locals.
We were asked to think of a way to involve the inhabitants with the Art Route and with art in general.
(Full item here. 7'48" Frysian only)
As the second part of the twin-project “Visualizing Development With Identity”, the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) asked us to visualize the identity of the Benet people, living on the slopes of Mount Elgon in Uganda.
Over the course of 4 weeks we created a presentation linking their cultural roots to the pressures of their current situation.
Their oral histories were recorded and weaved into a soundscape with sounds from the forests they once used to live in.
During the presentation, 75 Benet were present, some of them had traveled outside their parishes for the very first time in their lives.
Afterwards, the installation traveled to Kampala, accompanied by 15 Benet, to be presented at the Kampala Art Gallery, later that month.
As the first part of the twin-project “Visualizing Development With Identity”, the Royal Tropical Institute in The Netherlands (KIT) asked Arno and Iris to visualize the identity of the Khasi people, living in the mountainous area of Meghalaya, in the remote North East of India. Over a course of 6-weeks, this resulted in 4 distinctive productions:
And read the raving press reviews the day after...
Armenia is somewhat smaller than The Netherlands with 3.2 million inhabitants and a vast diaspora of 8 million living outside the country. In South-West Yerevan, two very different secondary schools are situated opposite each other on a big square: one is a traditional State School, the other more akin to a Waldorf School.
The students of both schools secretly recorded a message from a relative abroad directed to their parents, using Skype. The messages, in sound and text, were used in an installation with 42 umbrellas. The students presented this work in a dance performance, accompanied by a surround soundscape coming from four speakers on the huge buildings surrounding the square.
Or watch the full documentary (56’25”)
An installation about the opinions from the inhabitants of three villages in Finland about the (than) coming merger into one big municipality called Raseborg.
This merger was a delicate political process since in this area of Finland, the majority is Swedish speaking. Street names had to be changed, and local businesses and municipalities reshuffled.
We interviewed the inhabitants on their views about this forced administrative action and asked them to express them on a triangular piece of fabric. These are brought together in three sails. Each sail contains 48 pieces with writings and drawings on the hope and fear for the possible changes in the future. The sails were suspended in curved metal frames and attached to a centre pole to form a vertical windmill, making the sails ‘chase after each other’ in the wind.
Or watch the full documentary (30'01")
This was the third project for the MCNV. Cao Bang is a rural city in the far north that suffers from large-scale drug abuse due to its location near the Chinese border.
Together with the local Sunflowergroup we created a performance in which the audience learns about the difficult lives of these women and the discrimination they suffer, linking the painful stories to the sources of this grief, in particular drug abuse.
It ends with a positive message, showing what society can do to help them.
A big festival was organized around it, as to attract as many youngsters as possible. Especially young males were 'lured' into the evening program to see the Sunflower performance, followed by a breakdance performance by the local 'Satan Crew'. It was a great success.
Between 2006 and 2009 Iris and Arno have worked extensively in Vietnam in commission of the Medical Committee Netherlands Vietnam (MCNV) with young women who are infected and affected by illegal drugs and HIV/AIDS. They are organized in the Sunflower and Cactus Blossom groups. The latter one is especially for female ex-drug users and sex-workers.
Trying to find a way to use the life-stories of the members of the Cactus Blossom group in Hanoi and to educate young people about the risks, Arno transformed these into rap, aided by female rapper Kim Jo Jo and translator Le Thuy.
Iris shot and edited this video clip.
Unfortunately none of the members are alive today.
The installation is build around one of the oil drums that was used for heating in the tent camp on the central avenue in Kiev, the Khreshchatyk. It serves as a symbol of the young revolution that was in full swing when we worked there.
Inspired by the beautiful golden roofings on the buildings of Kiev, the oil drum is carried by a cupola of metal arcs with woven metal wires, consisting of words in Ukrainian and in Russian.
They are answers to the question: "What is most important for you in the future?"
We posed this question to many different people in the streets of Kiev and the answers show that in fact, everyone (beyond political differences) is longing for the same things.
Visitors of the artwork were asked to complete the installation by writing words on paper about past matters from they would like to leave behind. After, they were asked to crumble the papers and thrown them inside the cupola below the oil drum. They can be seen as the fuel of the revolution. The light in the middle burns like a fire and shines on the words of hope, casting their shadows on the walls around.
Or watch the full documentary: Monument for a Revolution (19’36”)