TONGUES at Treehouse NDSM in Amsterdam

In increasingly multicultural cities, concurrent with today’s influences of technology that dispense with our geographical borders, how do we define our sense of home? Where and how do we find a sense of belonging?

On 14th March, eleven diverse artists came together at Treehouse NDSM in Amsterdam-Noord to reflect on these questions in their newest exhibition, TonguesReflections on our sense of home.

Based on a written text of their choosing, each artist uniquely experiments with the concept of “home” in their own production: from video installation, to paintings, music soundscapes and more, visitors venture through each foretelling of “belonging”, community and identity.

In the compelling installation Polyphone, for instance, Alexandra Freye chose to take 28 old organ pipes (hung from the ceiling) to explore cities as a structural place of social coexistence; a complete ‘organism’ that is exciting and dynamic. However, while this includes the opportunities it also introduces the “challenges of multilingualism and cultural diversity, as well as the willingness and enrichment of listening to other tongues.”

Although the several unique works reference the idea of comfort and belonging as a reference to “home”, they also variously tangent the discomforts and drawbacks of inhabiting an unfamiliar space. Many immigrants and people of international backgrounds can relate to Lorena Rode’s installation, The Rule of Three, where she investigates the tension within herself and her experience with multilingualism. Having spent her childhood in three different countries, her artwork of glass, ceramic and wool reflect the excerpts from books gifted to her by family members and reference the complexity of “belonging” between two mother languages: Spanish and German.

Ilse van Oosten, curator of the exhibition, explains she chose the idea and title of Tongues for the exhibition because she loves, “how speaking different languages can also relate to sort of different identities: With languages, the different narratives, the different stories, the different cultural perceptions that come with it, and how they merge to create very new communities that are more varied.” Especially here in Amsterdam, “the history that Noord has with immigration and this area specifically as an old shipyard with people coming and going – I thought this was a lovely place to talk about that.”

Rika Maja Duevel, in her acrylic painting, Forever Viola, likewise references a ‘chameleon’. With her multicultural background, she interestingly explores her eight selves as figures previously living in eight different places. “The eight figures represent eight places that I have lived which made an impact on my growth.” Anthea Bush takes a different approach in her art, Fortune. She explores our symbiotic and relationship of plants adjusting to a new and overlooked environment, just as we humans do.

Oosten further adds that when visitors come by to the exhibition she hopes they, “think about the way that communities are formed and their own role in it; how it’s always shaped by the narratives that they and you have been told, positive or negative. How they look at people and how that influences their relationship to them” and vice-versa.

The idea of “home” explored among the eleven artists wonderfully diverge or converge at a meeting point when interesting similarities versus differences can be unveiled – although each production is distinctive, a quiet revelation is that all commonly relate to a sense of childhood nostalgia or a past self, which all visitors can too find some part of themselves in.

The exhibition not only celebrates an array of cultures but accumulation of experiences making for a vibrant and intriguing exhibition. Tongues runs until 17th April and is a definite must see. Workshops are additionally ongoing by the participating artists. Anja HERRMANN    15th March 2024

Treehouse NDSM is an arts incubator hosting almost 200 international artists from different disciplines, and a space that showcases the work of underexposed creatives.