Easing Strangers

Easing Strangers offers a way of seeing into the life of a family from Leeuwarden. As the viewer engages with the set of 18 moving images a narrative builds, that is a document of a general way of life acted out in a domestic environment, in this case an artist's family, living amongst house and studio. Small details, often overlooked, were projected large in the Waagplein, Leeuwarden's city centre square as Sinterklaas and Christmas shoppers passed. In consideration of the relationship between individual and collective identity, the work presented to audiences the question, how do you name a place? Our approach was to hone in on the overlooked, the slightest gesture, that what is taken for granted. Situating the images in the public square conflated public assertion and private contemplation to stimulate thinking about locational identity.

The work was commissioned as part of Foundation VHDG's project that explored the relation between physical public space and the space of the internet, and the related themes of identity and interactivity. Specifically, we were asked to elaborate on aspects we associated with the identity of a community, focussing on the questions "Does the village or the city in which we live define our identity or which other - possibly temporary - factors influence our perception? What exactly is the relationship between individual identity and collective identity? Is the city unmistakably characteristic, does a visitor feel like an outsider? Which new elements can be … assimilated … how flexible is the concept of identity? … Where is the boundary between public and private? What is the identity of a community and what effect do the so called new media have on the 'physical' aspects of public life?".

In the publication One Clover and a Bee, Claire Doherty has written "This is not a live broadcast, but rather a series of moving documents selected by the artists. In this sense, Easing Strangers bears a closer resemblance to ‘database filmmaking’ used in Reality TV programmes such as Big Brother. Mackenna and Janssen filter the information they acquire in response to the specifics of the domestic situation in Leeuwarden to compose a very particular narrative. Our capacity to control the mediation of the work is limited to the edges of each image."

Tracy Mackenna & Edwin Janssen: Naming a practice

Claire Doherty

Waagplein, Leeuwarden city square, the Netherlands, 2002

Double screen video projection, 300 x 800 cm, duration 20:00

Exploring the relation between physical public space and the space of the internet, and the related themes of identity and interactivity

Commissioned by Stichting VHDG / Foundation v/h de Gemeente