Conceiving their research into Witte de With’s history as a site-sensitive project, WERE IT AS IF highlights what might otherwise become lost in the history of the institution as well as art’s history in the city of Rotterdam. Paying close attention to the socio-economic and political context in which the institution was created, and departing from the belief that cultural institutions and their legacies are as much made up of stories, ephemeral objects, subtle traces and violent scars, Bik Van der Pol’s process can be likened to a long term forensic investigation that examines, tests and actively exposes that which lies concealed in the folds of history.
Equating seemingly-in-the-fringes-material – leftovers, support structures, plans, notes, stories, and witness reports – to artworks, and so exploring the viability of approaching ‘archival document’ as ‘art’, and ‘art’ as ‘source material’, the artists revive histories preserved in the documentation of exhibitions.
WERE IT AS IF is sparked by an understanding that much remains active yet unnoticed in the layers of the past. To resist memory loss is to avoid falling into the trap of repetition, conservatism or fundamentalism. People’s activities (which make and determine history) must first be consumed and digested to make progression and change possible.