Bram Michielsen

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.

Bram Michielsen

Bram Michielsen

Founder, The House of Indie

Can you describe what you do?

I support the global indie game community, a welcoming and diverse scene built around video games equivalent to arthouse movies. I do this through the non-profit collective I co-founded: The House of Indie. Among other things, we organize Belgium’s only game-focused art festival, Screenshake, as well as our monthly meetups, the Indie Game Salons, and a unique international summer school for starting independent game developers, Headstart. The indie game scene can’t really be compared to a whole lot. I suppose the closest you could get to a comparison is punk or grunge, but everyone has cheap computers instead of cheap guitars and they all use pixels instead of power chords. We’re based pretty much everywhere and nowhere. Right now we are a collective-in-residence at Het Bos, but we’re also part of Start It @ KBC, and before this we hung out at Designcenter De Winkelhaak – it fluctuates. We also get around internationally quite a bit.

How do you perceive Antwerp?

I would say in Belgium, Antwerp is like New York, while Ghent is like Los Angeles. Ghent is this flat, wide sprawl. Antwerp is a city with a skyline. A place of arrival and travel, a bustling mess of diversity, cramped into the armpit of a river and growing like moss, soaking up cultural influences from all over. It’s been ruled over and bent backwards, but never broken. It’s the only city in this country I’ve ever been willing to live in.

What would you say is Antwerp’s main appeal for creatives?

It’s central and well-connected, has an amazing artistic history and presence (when it’s not being cramped by the powers-that-be) and seems to attract – or at least foster – just the right mix of insanity and stubbornness.

How would you say Antwerp has contributed to making you who you are today?

I remember watching scenes from Tom Barman’s film Any Way The Wind Blows during my first year in the city. When the film came out and opened with the words ‘a hot day in June’, that’s exactly the state I was in when I watched it in the theater. That surreal overlap of art and reality hit me. The city has managed to weave its way through my work and vice-versa ever since, including in my (aptly-titled) comic book series A Song Called City, which, I feel, is a visual love letter to Antwerp like nothing before, thanks to mine and co-author Rik Willemen’s shared love for Antwerp. This city has always been kind to me, and this is the exact reason we’ve never moved The House of Indie or any of its activities out of the city, in spite of occasional offers. It feels right, here in Antwerp.

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

Green and open spaces, please! Especially up North.

To you, what is the best way to spend a weekend in Antwerp? How would you guide tourists around?

Well, shit. One place? Probably the riverside. Just sit by the edge of the river, look out over the left bank with the humdrum of the city occasionally broken by the cathedral bells.

Local legend, neighbourhood anecdote or urban myth?

I remember going to Caffènation back when they were still situated on Hopland; when I was still a regular comic book author, working on our current project at the time with my co-author Rik Willemen. What really stayed with me was the utter ridiculousness of trying to score a seat in Caffènation on a Saturday. We would arrive at noon, right as they opened, and then hurry to find a decent place to sit, camping in that spot and definitely outstaying our welcome as poor art students, finishing our day’s work coming down from the caffeine rush. If you can track down one of the super rare preview prints of our debut album, you’ll find a big thank you to all the Antwerp coffee places who let us work in (relative) peace.

screenshake.be
Photography Joke De Wilde