Bik Van der Pol
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WERE IT AS IF
What is hidden, forgotten, cast away, or overlooked in the day-to-day operations of a cultural institution? How can one make tangible the container of knowledge of the factual succession of exhibitions and publications?

Conceiving their research into Witte de With’s history as a site-sensitive project, WERE IT AS IF highlights what might otherwise become lost in the history of the institution as well as art’s history in the city of Rotterdam. Paying close attention to the socio-economic and political context in which the institution was created, and departing from the belief that cultural institutions and their legacies are as much made up of stories, ephemeral objects, subtle traces and violent scars, Bik Van der Pol’s process can be likened to a long term forensic investigation that examines, tests and actively exposes that which lies concealed in the folds of history.

Equating seemingly-in-the-fringes-material – leftovers, support structures, plans, notes, stories, and witness reports – to artworks, and so exploring the viability of approaching ‘archival document’ as ‘art’, and ‘art’ as ‘source material’, the artists revive histories preserved in the documentation of exhibitions.
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WERE IT AS IF
Bik Van der Pol extend the investigation beyond the white walls of the institute itself, turning to the cities’ forgotten or disappeared crevices, which have stood as departure points for artists working at Witte de With, such as Perron Nul (Platform Zero), a former methadone distribution center and safe haven for drug-users near Rotterdam train station, as well as the closed down ‘tippelzone’ (streetwalking area) at the Keileweg, where the divergent worlds of sex workers, protesting citizens, and artist initiatives – including Kaus Australis and Kunst & Complex – clashed repeatedly. Recent political turmoil, urban developments, stories and (sometimes un)realized artistic and social projects are brought to light as they come together as multiple voices in the exhibition space. The many voices, among them deputy director Paul van Gennip, fulfill the role of parrhesiast, which, together with archival research, and the development of the cloud (the institute's logo), formed the basis for four scripts, performing as soundpieces in the exhibition spaces.

WERE IT AS IF is sparked by an understanding that much remains active yet unnoticed in the layers of the past. To resist memory loss is to avoid falling into the trap of repetition, conservatism or fundamentalism. People’s activities (which make and determine history) must first be consumed and digested to make progression and change possible.
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