The Hague

Part 1. Introit

The flat is located along the Sara Burgerthartweg in Moerwijk, The Hague.

It has 88 house numbers. It is a flat for seniors.

Every day, on the galleries and behind the walls,

the inhabitants engage in a choreography of habits.

Soundscape aan?

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About the project

The project in The Hague is the first part of Concrete Voices. It was made in the spring of 2018 in the context of the Globe-project of the Academy of Performative Arts in Maastricht, when Timo and Naomi were in the third grade of their education. The Globe-project invites students to roam the world for stories. Timo and Naomi found this world in the apartment block along the Sara Burgerhartweg in Moerwijk, The Hague. Here, they could realize a long standing vision to ‘transform an apartment block into a choir’.

In a residency of ten days, Timo and Naomi saw their dream colliding with reality. They rang the bells at the intercom, got turned down, rang more bells, got rejected more. Until some of the dwellers answered the call and set their doors ajar. The first meetings took place. Listening turned into humming … humming into singing. With a recorder in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, Timo and Naomi recorded the individual melodies in the intimacy of the inhabitants’ own living rooms. Later, they edited the different melodies into a virtual choir. In an attempt to reach harmony, the voices sound hesitant at first, genuinely clashing at some points, they seamlessly unite in unison at other points.

Timo and Naomi translated their experiences to the podcast ‘88 in(habit)ants’ and shared it as a collective listening experience in the theatre, where the inhabitants were invited to witness their apartment block as a choir for the first time. Later that year, the podcast won the first prize of the NTR Podcast Prize 2018.

The podcast

Listen to the podcast:

88 in(habit)ants

— an audio play by and with Naomi Steijger, Timo Tembuyser and the inhabitants of the flat along the Sara Burgerhartweg in Moerwijk, The Hague.

“An apartment block in Moerwijk. The inhabitants were invited to play their own music, share a story, ask a question, listen, remain silent, … did they dare to sing? A requiem was born, composed out of the sounds, the voices and the stories of this flat. The flat, transformed into a choir.

The flat — as a symbol for the metropole: so close together, yet so far apart. The choir — as an ode to community, harmony, to the connection we are all looking for in the big city. A requiem — as a resistance to an asocial society.”

'88 woningraten’ woningraten’ was created with the support of Springplank Festival, that invites artists to create their work with/in/for the neighborhood. Thanks to: Ninke Overbeek (coordination Springplank Festival), Maarten Bakker & Irma Kyvon (Studio de Bakkerij Rotterdam), Sara Vesseur (Theater Dakota The Hague) and Merlijn Twaalfhoven (Turn Club).

Performances

as an audio-documentary on the radio
Radiodoc NPO Radio 1 (NL) September 2018
Podgrond Radio 1 (BE) October 2018, March 2020
as a collective listening experience in theaters
Springplank Festival, Studio de Bakkerij Rotterdam May 2018
Springplank Festival, Theater Dakota Den Haag June 2018
Toneelacademie Maastricht May 2018, October 2018
Festival De Mus, Torpedo Theater Amsterdam December 2018
Ogentroost, Podium Bloos Breda January 2019

Pers

“A wonderful idea, a socially engaged scenario and beautiful composition, very good. The ending resulted in several members of the jury getting goose bumps. […] ‘88 in(habit)ants’ might not be perfect; nevertheless the jury honors it with the first prize due to the originality and strength of the concept. […] The makers didn’t only come to get something from the dwellers in the Haguean flat, they also brought something.” — jury of the NTR Podcast Prize, August 2018

The Introit

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Everyone has heard the stories about people in our cities, dying ‘lonely’ in their flats and lying unnoticed for months, or even years after their deaths. The automatic administration continues, obstinately and anonymously. Nobody detects the end of a life: the rent is paid through standing order, the heating keeps running and the post goes on being delivered. Only the stench of the dead body could alarm the closest neighbors, but if nobody feels compelled to react, the smell, too, fades away. Ten years after someone’s death, only a little bit of dust floats alongside the bones, that remind of — The ruin of a body, found way too late, left by everyone and everything and fully decomposed.

Until it is discovered, at last. The people of the housing corporation shake their heads and the whole house is inspected. The youngest boy of the cleaning service gags and scrapes the hairs out of the carpet, while a woman collects items of personal value in a cardboard box. In five hours, a whole life is wiped off the tiles. Just like that, a human life ends in a cardboard box on a shelf in an underground storage room at the Ministry of Finances in The Hague — department “Unattended Legacies”. The box awaits there, for twenty years, in case someone might ever show up to retrieve something. After that, also the box disappears. Just like the body, a life — everything that’s ever been — reduces itself to one dig deep. It disappears underground, alongside the graves without a name, in the cheapest section.

The Introit commemorates those whose deaths were unnoticed in the big city. People, made visible through the way they were found after their deaths and through the stories that appear in the newspapers — “Two more lonely deaths in Bruges (Belgium). Bodies found only weeks after time of death; No movement at the neighbor’s? Warn the police!” (Het Laatste Nieuws, 14 december 2019). The Introit commemorates those who weren’t commemorated: a song, performed by the inhabitants of an apartment block; an apartment block, as a metaphor for the big city — so close together, yet so far apart.

Listen to the introit:

Lacrimosa dies illa Tearful will be that day,
Qua resurget ex favilla on which from the dust of earth will return
Iudicandus homo reus the man, who for judgement must prepare him.
huic ergo parce, Deus Then spare him, O Lord,
Pie jesu Domine: merciful Lord Jesus,
Dona eis Requiem. grant him rest.
Qua resurget ex favilla Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord,
Et lux perpetua luceat eis. and let perpetual light shine upon them.
Exaudi oratione meam Hear my prayer,
Ad te omnis caro veniet. every being shall come to Thee.
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord,
Et lux perpetua luceat eis. and let perpetual light shine upon them.