Can you describe what you do?
Anne: I’m part of De Imagerie, an audiovisual collective that combines economic activities with artistic work. We are based in Het Bos art centre, which is full of filmmakers, coffee experts, curators, researchers, cooking artists, and much more.
Rob: I am a researcher, connected to the University of Antwerp. And I’m, of course, also part of De Imagerie. In my work, I focus on the representation of colonialism in Belgian cities. I’ve been living in Borgerhout for the past five years, moving primarily between Berchem, Antwerpen Noord and the historic centre.
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?
Anne: I like Brussels very much, but because I’ve been living in Antwerp for such a long period of time, I know the city better. And because I know the city well, I have a clearer idea of how I can contribute and work here.
Rob: Antwerp is a small but heterogeneous city, composed of different neighbourhoods each with their own strong characteristics. There are some places in the city, however, where a lot of different people come together. In Park Spoor Noord, the City Park or at the quais of the river Schelde people with different ages, backgrounds and horizons gather during sunny days. There are a great number of people who like their city, and do what they can to shape it. Initiatives like Ringland and We kopen samen den Oudaan, reflect on alternative ways of city development and succeed in engaging a lot of Antwerp’s residents. Then there are the artistic groups like Time Circus that turn Antwerp into a more interesting, more liveable city. Through temporary cafés, labyrinths or bureaus for city planning, Time circus transforms urban spaces into public meeting places.
What would you say is Antwerp’s main appeal for creatives? What gives the city its edge?
Anne: Antwerp has a between-city-and-village-feeling, making it easy to feel at home and simultaneously continue to discover new exiting places.
Rob: It’s a lively city that provides a lot of input. There are a number of really nice places that welcome your ideas like Het Bos, Bar Paniek or Extra City. It’s central location makes other cities pretty accessible too.
I’d like to see more places for discussion and interaction, where people with different perspectives can meet, more groups that collectively imagine what the city could look like and a city council that responds to their ideas.
How would you say Antwerp contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?
Anne: The people of the city shaped my work. Such as my encounter with Rob. We made the documentary Echangeur together in Kinshasa. Our artistic collaboration and friendship has added a lot of value to me personally as well as professionally.
Rob: The places in the city I value the most are those that have introduced me to people I hold dear and where I’ve had conversations that changed my view. I am very happy to live in a city that houses a place like Het Bos, which has always provided me with a space to work, and brought me together with people I today collaborate very closely with. Last year, Anne and I spent months in one of the rooms at Het Bos, editing Échangeur. Also in Café Stanny, where I’ve worked for a number of years, I’ve met a lot of people, on both sides of the counter, that I care about and that have shaped the way I think.
On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city?
Anne: A more active and diverse use of public space.
Rob: I’d like to see fewer cars in the city center and less giant advertisements on tall buildings. I’d like to see a roof on top of the ring, more places for discussion and interaction, where people with different perspectives can meet, more groups that collectively imagine what the city could look like and a city council that responds to their ideas.
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?
Anne: I would take everyone to Het Bos. With its diverse artistic programme, its fun people, good coffee and extraordinary food, there simply isn’t a better place to be in town.
Rob: You could have Otark‘s breakfast at Het Bos, strong coffee at Kate Kero and dinner at Café Stanny. In between we’ll see.echangeur.be
deimagerie.be Photography by Joke De Wilde