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Inside the Bark of a Tree

Inside the Bark of a Tree marks the opening of If I Can’t Dance’s library to the public. The library is dedicated to performance art practices, histories and methodologies, and has grown in tandem with the artist commissions, research projects and fields of inquiries since the institution’s inception in 2005. Inside the Bark of a Tree proposes to see the library as a living topos that will continue to grow through textured encounters with its readers; it is a generative site of continuous cross-pollination that prompts moments of attention, of distraction, of discomfort, and of pleasure. The liveliness and materiality of the library is captured in the word’s proto-italic root, *lufro, referring to “the inner bark of trees” and *lubh-ro, meaning “leaf or rind”.

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The Witch and the Siren: Deviant Archival Cosmologies

As Masters student and interns at If I Can’t Dance during the first lock down in March 2020, Naomi Collier Broms and Amalia Calderón were given the task to go through the many book shelves at our Westerdok office in order to create a systematized library out of their holdings. After several months of sifting through, sorting, categorizing, pulling out keywords and entering the books, printed matter, and media of the If I Can’t Dance library into a database, Amalia Calderón and Naomi Collier Broms realized they had both produced extensive personal archives of anonymous fragments gleaned from the material, and destined to feed into their respective creative projects. Amalia had stacks of yellow post-its on which she had jotted down quotes, while Naomi had amassed heaps of photos on her phone of covers and passages to refer back to. Already in the moment of its unpacking, the library was already growing, not through accumulation of new material but through its encounter with its ‘first’ readers. Collier Broms and Calderón’s artist book, The Witch & The Siren: Deviant Archival Cosmologies, is the poetic materialization of this encounter and now figures as one of the If I Can’t Dance library holdings, performatively adding to the material from which it emerged.

The Witch and the Siren: Deviant Archival Cosmologies as part of Inside the Bark of a Tree exhibition (2021). Photo: Temra Pavlovic.


Naomi Collier Broms and Amalia Calderón, The Witch and the Siren: Deviant Archival Cosmologies, Amsterdam (2021). ›››


Naomi Collier Broms and Amalia Calderón talk about their book The Witch & The Siren: Deviant Archival Cosmologies. An excerpt from Radio Emma, ‘Research and Performance’, broadcast 24 June 2021. Hosted by Anik Fournier and Becket MWN, with Naomi Collier Broms and Amalia Calderón, Amelia Groom and M. Ty, and Reza Mirabi. ›››

A Way of Making

Dispersed throughout the bookshelves are the textures, shapes and colours of ceramic works by If I Can’t Dance director Frédérique Bergholtz and an artist Maria Pask. They are permanent fixtures in the library and they are read each time anew according to what sits alongside them as part of the temporary exhibitions on view in that space. The ceramics have been there since the inaugural library exhibition, Inside the Bark of a Tree where some pieces alluded to old scrolls, while others, to bark or leaves gathered during a walk. During that exhibition they were also exhibited alongside the video piece A Way of Making (2014) by Bergholtz and Pask, who have an ongoing artistic practice in ceramics. On more than one occasion they have staged encounters between their ceramic works and performers resulting in video installations. In this piece, which was filmed in the Westerdok offices, Bergholtz and Pask were interested in how the performers’ exchanges with the works would affect their movement and potentially produce a series of images and meaning. The piece is divided into moments, each dedicated to the performers’ successive reading of, and bodily response to, the materiality, shape, weight, behaviors and textures of different ceramic objects.

Frédérique Bergholtz and Maria Pask, A Way of Making, 2014, video.

Reading Table

Here you can find excerpts from the selected material for the exhibition ‘Inside the Bark of a Tree’. Each source is from the If I Can't Dance library and therefore offers a perspective onto what a library can be through the lens of performance and performativity.

İnci Eviner, ‘Acting in the Library’, Offside Effect: Academy as Exhibition, 1st Tbilisi Triennial, Metropolis M Books, Utrecht: Metropolis M Books, 2012. pp. 33-38. ›››

Snejanka Mihaylova. Accoustic Thought, Amsterdam: If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want To Be Part Of Your Revolution, 2015. ›››

Shepherd Steiner, ‘Unpacking (Their) Library’, Working Title, Archive, no 3 Łódź: Muzeum Sztuki, 2009. pp. 32-39. ›››

Bik Van der Pol, Catching Some Air: Library Drawings by Bik Van der Pol, Leeds: Henry Moore Institute, 2002. ›››

Karl Holmqvist, I On A Lion In Zion, Frankfurt: Revolver, 2005. ›››

Lisa Robertson, ‘Disquiet’, Nilling, Bookthug, 2006. pp.56-70. ›››

Mariana Castillo Deball, Interlude: The Reader’s Traces, Maastricht: Jan van Eyck Academie, 2005. ›››

Tao G. Vrhovec Sambolec, Reading Reading, Ljubljana: Zavod Project Atol, 2020. ›››

Sarah Pierce, ‘Monk’s Garden’ Sketches of Universal History Compiled from Several Authors, London: Book Works, 2013. p. 44. ›››

Photo Documentation

Inside the Bark of a Tree (2021), exhibition view. Photo’s: Temra Pavlovic. ›››