Imaginary landscape near Bakony Hills, Veszprem region. Photo by Arda van Tiggelen Getting your Hands Dirty: a Conversation with Arda van Tiggelen In this conversation, Tandem Cultural Capitals alumni Arda van Tiggelen tells about her visit to Veszprem, Hungary in August 2020, on a Tandem mobility grant. (You can also read previous stories of Arda exploring the many landscapes of Veszprem here). Let's go to the Laczkó Dezső Múzeum! Hi Arda, I heard you travelled to Veszprem in Hungary with the support of a Tandem Mobility Grant? Yes! Due to Covid-19, I had to reschedule and shorten my stay, but thankfully I was able to travel and stay there for two weeks. Before and soon after the borders closed again so I was really lucky! I took the night train from my hometown Amsterdam, it’s a very comfortable ride that takes about 18 hours. I always prefer travelling by train for environmental reasons, this time the Covid-19 situation made it an even more sensible choice, keeping distance is much more feasible in a train than in an airplane. What was the aim of your visit? This visit was vital to continue my collaboration with the Laczkó Dezső Múzeum. Our project Converging Sites is still in the developing phase, and although we have been closely in touch over the past months, it was crucial to visit my collaboration partner to have in-depth conversations, better understand the context in which they operate and develop the project together. Last but not least: I needed some hands-on experience! A second survey site in the woods. Do I need to take that literally? Yes! I actually got my hands dirty! Our project Converging Sites is rooted in local archaeological research in the Veszprem region. As a curator working with contemporary art, I have very little experience with archaeology and heritage research. It’s one of the challenges that comes with interdisciplinary collaboration, I guess (smiles). During my stay, I joined Tamas Petervary in two community archaeology surveys: with a group of volunteers using metal detectors we dug a first trench in a burial mound in a beautiful forest, and we did a preliminal survey of a field near Bakony Hills. A rich experience and fantastic opportunity to learn about the history of the local landscapes through working with these passionate and knowledgeable people, and needless to say also a lot of fun. It enabled me to better understand the perspective of an archaeologist; we joked about Tamas having radar vision, but it’s true – they literally see and experience the landscape from a different viewpoint! I never knew that so much history is hidden in the top layers of the soil, it’s literally right under our noses. And it was also very inspiring to see how they involve local communities. Tools and metal detectors Some finds Roman ring Your project Converging Sites will also involve working with communities, right? Yes, this is something that we have in common: working with local communities is an important aspect of the art projects that my art initiative VHDG initiates in Friesland. Next year, we will involve a Dutch artist in the community archaeology taking place in Veszprem, and the following year, in 2022, we will initiate similar community archaeology projects in Friesland as part of Converging Sites. Community archeaology survey with metal detectors I understood that the Laczkó Dezső Múzeum has an extensive collection of artefacts, does the project also involve working with that? Actually, the finds from the community projects become part of the museum’s collection. With each find, it is carefully documented who has found it or dug it up. This becomes part of the official museum registration and when the object will be displayed in an exhibition, its discoverer is mentioned along with the historical information. A beautiful arrangement that does justice to the pride you feel when you find a remarkable artefact! As for the museum’s collection, I was lucky enough to be shown around in de depot by the team and got a private tour in the current exhibition, and I can very well imagine that we will work with other parts of the collection as well – but that is up to the artist, really. The best tool of all: Gifli the archeodog! Tools Who is the artist that will participate in the project? I made a shortlist of very promising young Dutch visual artists, working with a broad range of media and materials. My next step is to go on studio visits and talk about the project with them, based on that we will select the artist that fits the project best. That will be not an easy job, I assure you! (laughs) What really counts is that they should – like with me, specific archaeological knowledge is not required, the power of this project lies in its cross over character, through this we aim to open up a whole new perspective on the local landscape, both in Veszprem and Friesland. The Gróf Esterházy Károly Múzeum in Papa You are working towards Veszprem ECOC, right? Yes, the ECOC will take place in 2023. I could already see a lot of changes in the town already since my last visit in September 2019, that is very exciting. This time frame allows us the time to develop our working method through the execution of separate pilot projects, culminating in the production of a larger scale artwork in public space during ECOC year. Also, we will publish a multilingual online publication to share our the experiences and best practices with both cultural professionals throughout Europe and a broader audience. However, the project does not only take place in Veszprem-city, but also other locations in the region. During my visit I also stayed in Papa, a small town, and are exploring how we can collaborate the Gróf Esterházy Károly Múzeum that is based there. They gave me a really warm welcome, and we even got some media attention: me and Tamas were interviewed by Papa TV, the local broadcast! Arda and Tamas on PapaTV Do you reckon that the covid-19 situation affects the future of this international collaboration project? Aside from the personal situation of the people involved, in terms of health and also finance, in terms of project management, it’s really the uncertainty that is difficult. Especially when still developing a project, it requires a lot of flexibility to adapt to changing risk assessments, travel restrictions and measures that differ from country to country. The whole notion of planning ahead seems ludicrous at times, we seem to have to adjust it continuously. Shout out to Tandem and to other Dutch funds that are supporting this project, notably the Fonds voor Cultuurparticipatie and LF2028, for being so understanding! We are very grateful for that. For now, I think the most important thing is to keep communicating a lot and, if possible, visit each other – we scheduled Tamas’ next visit to Leeuwarden for November, I really hope he will be able to. But in general, speaking from experience, this type of locally-based, smaller scale (pilot-)projects that we planned will allow for adjustments and are flexible enough to deal with different scenarios. In any case, I am very confident that, come what may, we will be able to find suitable solutions with our combined creativity and resourcefulness.