‘Unknown Grounds’ was a two-day performative symposium taking place in Leeuwarden on the 21st and 22nd of November 2019 that aimed to rethink the traditional form of the academic symposium. 25 participants joined a selected group of international researchers, artists and thinkers to explore the notion of 'ground'. Through workshops, performances and guided conversations we immersed ourselves in new forms of collective thinking. 

‘Iepen mienskip’ (open community) was the theme of Leeuwarden-Friesland European Capital of Culture 2018. We felt that 2018's activities only scratched the surface of this concept. What does an ‘open community’ imply? This is why Art initiative VHDG and Frisian historical and literary centre Tresoar commissioned artist Flora Reznik to curate an event that would deepen the inquiry of this theme. The aim was to create a platform for critical thinking in Leeuwarden. Flora decided that she would borrow tools from the performance arts in order to promote an experimental, embodied co-learning experience.

'Ground' functioned as an inquiry field, both literally and in the collective imaginary: it is the material we stand on and at the same time the site of intimate and collective memories, shared or conflicting dreams, exploitation and resistance. ‘Ground’ was fruitful point of departure for a discussion that tackled fundamental forms of our thinking and topics such as landscape, territory, identity and the commons, while also addressing pressing political issues. Both often deal with unexamined dichotomies such as inside/outside, certain/uncertain, practice/thought, politics/art, we/others, which were explored during the event. 


Andrej Radman (Dr. ir. Professor of Architecture TU Delft / HR), Sissel Marie Tonn (Artist & researcher /DK), Ribal (Photographer/PS), Theun Karelse (Artist & Researcher /NL), Masha Ru (Artist & PhD in Mathematics /RU), Bert Looper (Director Tresoar & Historian /NL) and Flora Reznik (Artist & Philosopher /AR)/

Unknown Grounds II is a production by VHDG initiated and curated by Flora Reznik.

Contact: info@unknowngrounds.nl




“It was a special and unique experience! I felt and enjoyed my presence in the audience and was really nice talking to them and participating in various activities, in addition to that, it was a great opportunity to talk about myself as an artist ( photographer ) and also as a stateless asylum seeker and that I don’t belong to any grounds, it was really a good ground to talk about my known and unknown grounds!"



"I enjoyed being part of the performative symposium “Unknown grounds” that addressed a philosophical approach to the agency in relation to unknown territories. The symposium involved various forms of activity from being a reader, lecture listener to an active participant in performances. The performative aspect I valued the most because it brought diverse ways of experience, thinking and expanded the way of communication between the participants. I believe that for art communities or maybe wider this format of symposium is fruitful and perspective. I hope that in the future it would be possible to attend more of these kinds of meetings."


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'"remember my excitement, waiting for the days to come to be able to experience for the first time what it has been described as a 'performative symposium'. As someone who is fascinated with performance art and the possibilities that this medium allows, I was very curious about how will this be applied within a symposium format. The fact that we were sent reading material beforehand in order to 'warm up' and prepare for this event created even more expectations and I felt a rich base where to stand upon for the days to come. I also remember having to deliver some questions related to this text, which was a great way of engaging in a different way already and I felt that by doing this, I was already being part of this event/taken into account. The event was amazing, a great and unforgettable experience! The energy was very vibrant and the program was full of inspiring, stimulating new and innovating content. I feel that this event was an inspiring and motivating space for people to connect and learn from each other, within a very thoughtful and safe environment. During the event I remember realising the potential and richness of combining two worlds which do not usually come together: the academic world and the artistic world. During this symposium I felt very strongly the connections and potential which these two have and felt very curious and motivated to further explore this space of dialogue and exchange... I would love to have more of this kind of spaces / events happening nowadays!"


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“Taking part in Unknown Grounds was a rich and inspiring experience for me. I loved the experimental and engaging play with the format of a symposium, which felt more like a collective knowledge-sharing performance. I loved that there was such a fluid relationship between participants and presenters, and the great care that had gone into making the programme as exciting and engaging as it was. I don't think I could go back to a "regular" academic symposium after having experienced Unknown Grounds. It really embraced it's theme through form, opening up for a different form of "knowing" the subject at hand, through collectivity, feelings, and evocation of sensations that are impossible to learn about from regular academic formats of presentation and knowledge sharing. I think it was truly innovative, artistic and at the same time impeccably arranged and produced! My favorite moment was the drawing exercise about place, which happened in the beautifully curated space with the sand on the floor. We were paired up with a stranger, and had to describe a place from the past to them, and they had to draw this place based on our descriptions. I must admit I cried a little, when I saw her drawing, as the house of my grandparents came to life through this stranger's hand. Such a beautiful, complex and enriching experience, which I am very grateful for having been given by the organizers of Unknown Grounds!"



"In Unknown Grounds we found each other in Friesland, well-known ground for some, unknown for others. We’ve met between artist, architects, farmers, biologists and everyone that feels attracted to the soil beneath out feet, detached from it or growing towards it and with it. Where are we standing today? What is our common ground? What can we learn by using our senses to share experiences on the symbolic and embodied meaning of ground? Moving between different places and times, during Unknown Grounds, I’ve heard familiar and unfamiliar stories of land, landmaking, and land-being. Allowing space for the unknown, the dream, the memory to touch upon the invisible powers that circulate above and under ground navigating into a land of togetherness.​"