Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven

The Antwerp Hundreds

Portraits of a city's people, today

To mark the release of our Warriors edition, we've teamed up with This is Antwerp to bring you 100 Antwerp Warriors, a 100-strong selection of local movers and shakers setting the tone for the neighbourhood of tomorrow. From design and architecture to contemporary art and politics, these are the creatives shaping the narrative of the future.

Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven

Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven

Multi-media artist

Can you describe what you do? Where you are based, the neighbourhood you live in, your daily routine, the people you work with, the scene you feel the closest to?

I am a multi-media artist. Since the mid-seventies, I’ve explored the relation between art, science, politics and social issues. I have two ateliers in Borgerhout, one in the house where I live, the other around the corner. That’s where I develop the ideas that come up in the home studio where I have my library, computers and an archive. At least one day a week, Saar Geerts assists on administrational and practical levels. For build-up and instalment, I get help from Danny Devos and Samyra Moumouh. I feel closest to the music scene in Antwerp, to people who work in different worlds at the same time. From 1981 until 1991, we ran Club Moral, an experimental place for extreme art and music in Borgerhout. The people, all over the world, who relate to that mindset still are those that we frequent the most.

How do you perceive Antwerp? In your view, what kind of city is it? Its people, its cultural landscape, its vibe? How does it compare to other, similarly-sized cities?

Antwerp is a free city, you don’t have to be part of a specific scene to feel the attachement to the lively vibe. I always knew the city as a nest of private initiatives, that come and go. Local politicians focus on the harbour, leaving culture to itself, allowing for many different ideas and projects to emerge. Some aspects of the city could be compared to those of New York, Shanghai, Sao Paolo, Oostende, Liège. A bit shallow, a sexy withdrawn arrogance offering possibilities in time and space for creative, innovative minds, with an underground that covers an everlasting flux and reflux of the old and the new. In general, with a generosity towards the unknown and the not done.

How would you say has Antwerp contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?

Being 65, and having worked here as an artist for almost 50 years, I can say that in a way I partly made the city what it is and looks like today.
 Being backed by an everlasting stream of young creativity, you feel sustained by the thought they live and sleep under the same roof as you do. The city just keeps on breeding and attracting people I like and can honour, which is a comforting feeling.

Local politicians focus on the harbour, leaving culture to itself, allowing for many different ideas and projects to emerge.

On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city?

Good nightclubs where you can dance during the week. And grand cafés, or more original venues, where you can read newspapers and magazines with a coffee or a tea in the afternoon. Cosy big breakfast cafés where you can meet friends.

To you, what is the best way to spend a weekend in Antwerp? If you had to take out-of-towners to one place that truly symbolises the city, what would it be?

I would take them to the Plantin Moretus Museum, where you can tell people that the first newspaper ever was printed in Antwerp.

A local legend, neighbourhood anecdote or urban myth?

The “Schoenmakerskapel” at the Schoenmarkt, built in the 14th century by the shoemakers guild, later became the chapel for prostitutes and is now a place in town where you’ll always find people praying. In this oasis of rest and beauty, in the middle of the city’s hustle and bustle, you can light a candle with a secret thank you, a hope or a wish. I love it.

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Photography Miles Fischler