Elck syn waerom (Each his/her Why) Project proposal Tessel Schmidt
A video work about the art of living seen through the eyes of women named Tessel
(who were at the celebration of the 400th birthday of Dutch poet Maria Tesselschade in 1994)
What do you want to make?
In 1993 my parents read a small article in the newspaper. It was a call to all Tessels to come together and celebrate the 400th-year birthday of the Dutch poet Maria Tesselschade Roemer-Visscher (Amsterdam, 1594 - 1649). I was 12 years old and went with my mother on March 19th 1994 to this celebration on the Muiden castle (a castle and museum in Muiden, Noord-Holland province). Twenty-seven years later I have a list of the names of the 100 Tessel’s present that day. I am going to contact and interview them. How are they doing? What are they doing? Why are they doing what they do? And what can we learn from them?
Maria Tesselschade was also a singer and a glass engraver. She was unique at that time because she dwelt at the Muiden castle where in the first half of the 17th century the famous poets Vondel, Bredero, Constatijn Huygens and PC Hooft would gather, also known under the name the Muiderkring. Her father was a fisherman and on the night he discovered that his wife was pregnant he had a great loss of one of his fishing boats near the Island Texel. He decided to name his daughter Tesselschade (Tessel Loss). I admire Tesselschade Roemer-Visscher for her personal courage, her wayward way of life and her talent in many fields. She was a good singer, musician (luit, violin, klavecimbel), poet and had a good way to express herself in words. As a woman she was way ahead of her time. Her moto was’ Elck sijn waerom” which means ‘Each has his/her why (in life)’.
I want to make a video work consisting of a combination of interviews with Dutch women named Tessel who were at the Tesselday, visuals of glass engravings and audio of the poems and interviews. I want to make a video installation with multiple screens and would also like to use the material to make a single screen version. In this project I want to explore the filming method I developed during my time at the Pzwart (which I call macro landscapes) in combination with images of the women I interview. In this project I will also investigate my research question: How do I bring the documentary narrative together with my 'macro landscapes?
Why do you want to make it?
Tesselschade Roemer-Visscher was far ahead of her time. She surrounded herself with other Dutch poets and was a writer herself. That was unfortunately rare for the time. Mostly in the literature she is associated with female independence of mind and creativity. For me she is a model for contemporary womanhood and is an inspiration for myself as a Dutch female artist trying to develop a practice. All my life I have to explain my name, in particularly to Dutch people. Although the name is nowadays more common, people still make jokes about it because they associate it immediately with the Island Texel. I grab this moment to tell them about Maria Tesselschade. In the Netherlands several streets are names Tesselschadestraat or Tesselschadelaan. Besides that, this project is of relevance for me because I want to unite my deep interest in other people and their stories with my own filming method.
How do you plan to make it?
I will start by researching further the person, life and poems of Maria Tesselschade. What can I learn from her poems? Can I use them in the work? I also want to visit a glass engraver and make images of the process. I have already started to search for Tessels from the list. One Tessel lives in my neighborhood. I will contact her in the next two weeks and will interview her. She will be my testcase. I will interview and film the woman in her natural surroundings. My working method consists of first collecting images and sounds. In the edit I will try out different combinations of the images and sounds. Besides working on the project, I will keep making experiments in the manner of the macro videos I have been making. Experiments with the images I already have on multiple screens. But I also want to experiment with my filming method, the macro landscapes I call them now. I will look for abstract moving images to film, combined with more realistic images.
What is your timetable?
I will use November and December to research the topic. Read the books about Maria Tessel Schade Roemer Visscher and study her poems. I will also shoot in the coming weeks one testcase with one Tessel. In November, December and January I will do experiments with imagemaking, also for my thesis. In December and January I will also reach out to Tessels and make appointments for shooting. I will start by looking on Facebook for the Tessels and also put an advert on the same medium. I was named after Tessel Blok (a welknown Dutch radiojournalist), maybe she can help me to make the search more known. February and March I will collect the images and do the interviews. In May 2022 I will start editing the collected images. Mix and remix the images. Explore how it works when I put the images on multiple screens. I will also start editing the sound of the interviews and try to work on the sound(scape).
Who can help you and how?
I hope to find somebody who makes glass engravings and who is willing to make a works especially for me and my camera. I already reached out to a few woman throught social media. I also want to find somebody who is a master in calligraphy (the art of writing, something Tesselschade did while she stayed at the Muiden Castle). I need somebody to help me with good quality audio. On November 19th a friend and former colleague (Ton Henkens) will look at my recording materials and we will check how I can improve my sound recordings. Besides that, I also want to work in the editing process with a sound designer (Laurens Palsgraaf) and a muscician (Tom Swart).
Relation to previous practice
As a videographer I am always looking for the story and how to choose my shots and decoupage to fit the story the best. Most of my assigned video work is story driven. During the years I developed a specific filming method containing series of small clips, filmed (extreme) close-up, showing colors, textures and movement (see instagram.com/tesselschmidt). I call them now macro landscapes. Most of the clips I use as visuals for music performances. But I would like to find a way to unite these tactile images with telling stories. Is it possible to make an image driven documentary work using my filming method? When do I loose the spectator? How can I immerse non-fiction stories? And can I make a work in which the story and the aesthetics of the images are equal? My main research question for my thesis is therefore: How do I bring the documentary narrative together with my 'macro landscapes'? This research is of relevance for me because I want to unite my deep interest in other people and their stories with my own macro filming method. How do I describe my filming method and what are the ‘rules” for my kind of framing, perspective and camera movement? In the proposed work I want to make a combination of real stories by woman, poetry by Tesselschade, macro images of glass engravings and sound.
Before entering the Piet Zwart Institute I made a work filmed in the carwash. The chosen frame and perspective create a new world within the frame.
I also experimented with filming shadowflicker on my walls at home caused by the blades of a typical Dutch windmill in my garden. I have been working on a treatment in which I tried to unite the images of the shadows with stories of people who suffer from shadowflicker in their homes. I have not finished this work yet.
During my first year at Piet Zwart I bought a macro lens to get even closer to my subjects and made some experiments with it. I made a video work with buttermilk dripping down a surface creating an image that brings the viewer to a secluded place in the snow. With this work I also experimented with sound. I started with adding music, but that made the work too bombastic. I searched for sounds of ice, melting ice and ice floes and edited under the film. That worked out very well. Especially when the video was shown in Eye museum on the big screen.
I also filmed bath foam with my macro lens. I love the structure of the foam and it’s popping and often assembling bubbles. I put my camera in front of a small amount of foam and kept filming to see what happens. In the first video the auto focus was on so the camera starts later on focusing on the curtains. A surprising moment! I wrote a text about this video from the point of view of my camers: Me, the camera In the second video (screenshots) I made a set with very small bubbles who in 30 minutes start sticking together more and more and becoming bigger bubbles. At the end you see the wonderful structure of the bubbles. This work is still in progress.
Last year I was as a videographer involved in a theatre project with refugees who live in my neighborhood. I started to interview them and tried to catch their emotions around the trapped situation they are in without filming their faces directly. I filmed with my macro lens very close to the skin (Samson’s hand) and in the edit experimented with more screens (triptych) in one frame. I used their voices as a voice over. This led to a series of very short clips.
In the summer of 2020 I did a testshoot with fisherman. I filmed the fisherman waiting to catch a fish and catching a fish. I am now working on a proposal for the municipality of Utrecht to get the project commissioned.
Another attempt to express a feeling of a situation (being in lockdown with my son at home) in a video work is Kid. I made close images of my son’s toys (toys that have movement) and mixed the images and original sounds in a triptych projected on cloth diapers hanging the wall. Video Kid1 is what the viewer would see in a exhibition. Video Kid2 is the images that is being projected.
I tried to explore this way of working already a little bit with the clips I made with refugees, especially because I was not allowed to film their faces. The challenge is to look for images that complement the stories and express the emotions from the stories. A few weeks ago I visited refugee Samson at his room in the refugee hoe (AZC). I shot small videos of details in his room and recorded our conversation. Samson also started to read out loud the cards he received during his period in prison (when there was no other place for him to stay). I made 4 edits. The first edit is the voice over of Samson and images of details in his room (still rough edit). The other 3 video's are an edit from what I think is the best shot I made there combined with 3 different soundscapes. I must say that my experience was not so pleasant at the refugee home. I wrote a text about it in Dutch. Her you can find the text: Dear Samson
I decided not to go on with depicting the stories of refugees for my final project because I needed more time to get my intentions right because the topic is very fragile. On my wiki I uploaded some new experiments I shot with Samson at the refugee home were he lives.
So distilling the elements from my previous work into a few words it would be: Neighborhood, macro images, people’s story’s, emotions, new landscapes, importance of the still frame, let it happen inside the frame, expressing a feeling of a situation, triptych, making a set-up with a material.
Relation to a larger context
In this project I can work on telling a story that is close to me and explore my working method. I think that this project can really help me find my own voice and empower me and other women (and men). At the end we are all humans with the same insecurities, problems and guilty pleasures as everybody in the past, the now and the future. 1500/1600 life was not easy, especially when you were a woman. Tesselschade got the oppurtunity to indulge herself in the art of writing and talking about art. In this pandemic of covid times are also not easy. How is everybody coping with this and what can we learn from poetry in the past? To develop a new poetic language for the time we live in.
Morley, S., The Simple Truth: The Monochrome in Modern Art, Reaktion Books, 2020
Rieser, M. & Zapp, A., New media Cinema/Art/Narrative, Palgrave Macmillan, 2002
Books on Tesselschade:
Own archive, collected by my mom around the Tesselday at the Muiderslot castle
Een onwaerdeerlycke vrouw. Brieven en verzen van en aan Maria Tesselschade
Maria Tesselschade Roemer Visschersdr – 1918 (1ste druk)
Smits-Veldt, M.B., Maria Tesselschade: Leven met talent en vriendschap, Walburg Pers, 1994
Websites on Tesselschade: https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tessel_(voornaam)
Docu Het muiltje van Maria Tesselschade: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6j5ZGthakw8