One morning, almost six months ago, I was sitting in an airplane slowly descending towards a heavily overcast Amsterdam. I was slightly distracted with the fact that I forgot to bring waterproof clothes from home, and at the same time my mind was occupied by the unusual nature of my trip. Not only was this my first flight in a long time, due to the lockdowns and consecutive waves of the pandemic, but my final destination was also very special. Just a few days earlier I had received a phone call from Utrecht telling me that, after an extensive three-month process, I had been chosen as the new artistic director of SPRING. When the shapes and contours of Schiphol and its surroundings slowly came into view, I took my first look at this landscape not as visitor, but as someone who would be moving here soon. I was looking at my new home.
If you travel a lot to the same places, you’ll know that some of those places offer their visitors specific sensory experiences. And you can sometimes be mentally transported back to those locations through the same impulse. The smell of rotten oranges always takes me back to Tel Aviv airport, while my first encounter with Venice will always be marked by this unique punch of humidity when I first exited the airplane. There is no particular smell or physical experience I associate with Amsterdam airport. However, there is a unique trademark. When you step into the terminal building, you will be told to “mind your step” numerous times. A friendly and melodic voice delivers the warning. The notion of care for passengers, for me, had a special meaning this time. As it still did whenever I have returned to Amsterdam from my trips over the past six months.
I am slowly landing in my new reality. I am trying to map the local artistic community and understand the Utrecht audience. I’m trying to grasp the genius loci of my new hometown. I’m trying to understand the festival itself - the identity that has to be protected and the elements in it that could be changed.
And with each step of my new daily routines, I keep hearing the sparkly Schiphol Airport voice: “Mind your step”. I arrived at Utrecht with new ideas and plenty of energy to make changes. But I also arrived with a deep respect for what has been established here over the past ten years, and a sense of humility towards the local context which I have yet to grasp and acquaint myself with.
This process is an exciting journey in itself. In this blog, I would like to share some images, thoughts and ideas from my journey with you. And also slowly reveal new topics, concepts and artists I’d like to invite for encounters with the Utrecht audience. I hope this blog will help me articulate my thoughts and discuss the relevant role of SPRING over the next years with the festival community – audiences and artists.
I also hope at this will not be a one-way conversation. With this blog I’d like to encourage you to write to me, or come up to talk to me and share your thoughts about art and society, or Utrecht and its communities. I will be more than happy to hear from you. You can reach me at email@example.com. And it will help me, for sure, to settle better among you.
Picture by Anna van Kooij