Bijlmer Years 1989-1997 is a mixed-media art collaboration between Thérèse Zoekende and Patrick Koster consisting videos with sound and photographs in which they bring their shared Bijlmer past to life in a confidential picture story. The basis of the project was largely laid in the nineties of the last century, when they, as Rietveld Art Academy students, came to live in the flat complex Koningshoef in the Amsterdam urban district called Bijlmermeer. In their Bijlmer habitat, frequently the subject of their artistic work, they experienced a significant part of their personal and artistic training.

Their Bijlmer years were found the final years of the old Bijlmer. The downturn had bottomed out. Due to the major crime, drug nuisance and general social problems, it began to seem that the progressive urban design concept of the Bijlmer as an “utopian city” ended up as an illusion: a dystopia. Therefore, the city of Amsterdam decided in July 1992 to start the large-scale project “Renovation Bijlmermeer” that breaks with the original ideas of the architects of the Bijlmer. A few months later came the final blow for the district: the Bijlmer disaster. A Boeing 747 flew on a Sunday evening around dinnertime with a lot of noise over Koningshoef and drilled into the neighboring apartment buildings.

Bijlmer Years 1989-1997 is created from the insider and autobiographical point of view and makes it tangible what it was like to have lived in the old Bijlmer.

KRAAIENNEST PARKING

Thérèse Zoekende collab, video, color, sound, 5:23 min

 

 

Parking garages in the Bijlmermeer were often more than half empty. They all had four to five layers in the size XXL, taking into account the expanding American-style car ownership in a fictional future of two or more cars per household. Due to this gigantic surplus of space, all cars were parked close to the entrances of the various apartment buildings and the rest, about three quarters of the garages, remained empty. This offered wonderful opportunities for numerous indoor activities, such as midnight acceleration tests with revved-up passenger cars.

Kraaiennest Parking, 1997 is a one-shot recording with a Hi8 camera of a bicycle reconnaissance, a trajectory in an apparently excited condition through the indoor part of the Kraaiennest parking garage that was linked to the Koningshoef flat complex. The video starts at the top of the garage and spirals downwards, shaking and sliding deeper and deeper into the monumental structure. When suddenly, out of the blue, an evangelical hymn comes up that is swelling and glorious: the choral prayer of the crowded church of the Pentecostal church rises at the bottom of the Kraaiennest garage to a rippling psalmodic climax.

ALONG THE SKIRTINGS OF A HIDDEN CITY

Thérèse Zoekende collab, video, color, sound, 6:45 min.

 

 

As a revolutionary urban development experiment, the Bijlmer has been the subject of discussion from the start. Those who came to live in this Amsterdam district almost took part in an idealistic urban design, social and societal experiment. People lived in a neighborhood that was completely independent in terms of location and architecture. The E, G and K Neighborhoods were built in the 1960s and 1970s according to the principles of the functional city. The area had a strict separation between the various functions: living, working, recreation and traffic. The Bijlmer has no direct connection with the rest of Amsterdam; it is the only part of the city that does not adhere to the city limits, but is separated from them by the villages of Duivendrecht and Diemen. It was a neighborhood you wouldn’t come to if you didn’t live there.

The EGK neighborhood was characterized by ten-storey high-rise buildings in a hexagonal honeycomb structure and lots of greenery. The ground levels were car-free, spacious in size and almost enclosed all around by the buildings they enclosed like high concrete walls. There was little or no recreation or use of the park in any other way. You were led from one ground level to another via low tunnels under the apartment buildings. At night there was a desolate atmosphere in the neighborhood. Only if you really had no other choice and the shortest route led directly from A to B did you have a reason to be there.

THIS IS THE FLAT I HAVE LIVED IN

Thérèse Zoekende collab, video, color, sound, 34:59 min.

 

 

This is the High-Rise Apartment I have lived in shows the demolition of the Bijlmermeer. In 1992, a few months before the plane crash with the El Al aircraft in October of that year, the municipal decision was taken to demolish part of the classic honeycomb flats. The G-buurt with the Geinwijk and Gerenstein flats, the Ganzenhoef shopping center and the Gliphoeve and Gerenstein garages will be the first to be demolished from 1995. In 1996 the decision was taken to demolish the Koningshoef flat. The lease was terminated by the Nieuw-Amsterdam housing association on 31 July 1998. Kleiburg was the very last original Bijlmer honeycomb flat that was still awaiting demolition or renovation. The renovation was completed in 2016.

This is the High-Rise Apartment I have lived in shows the raw reality of demolition. This time, the dynamics are not in the movement of the camera, because it is stationary at a fixed place for almost the entire recording, at most it is zoomed in and out every now and then on an attention-demanding detail. The real activity this time comes from the monstrous demolition machines, which slowly gnaw the flat, bit by bit. That the flat was demolished brick by brick is done out of respect for the former residents. The demolition took much more time in this way than if it had been done with, for example, explosives or the wrecking ball. Sound plays an important role in this video. It’s the mechanical, monotonous gasping and puffing of the machine that still seems to have trouble crushing the tough flat.

 

THE DRIVING RAIN

Thérèse Zoekende collab, video, color, sound, 6:45 min.

 

 

The Driving Rain, 1997 is a 6:45 minutes long take of the wide view from the living-room of Koningshoef 6, 1104 EB Amsterdam Southeast on a very rainy day.
GROUND LEVEL (Maaiveld)

Thérèse Zoekende collab, video, color, sound, 15:20 min.

 

 

Ground Level was recorded from the living room of Koningshoef 6. The window offered a view of ground level. The lawn was always in good shape thanks to regular mechanical maintenance. Mowing was a familiar scene for residents.

Ground Level (Maaiveld), is a choreography of a mechanical ballet. Systematically as if in a ritual, a dyad of red costumed reapers performs a implementation composed of repetitive mechanical motions. Mow song music with industrial and noise rock elements are the consonant accompaniments to an act that is performed on a grass-green stage in a futuristic Bijlmer scenery.