30' video, 2012-2014

"Vrijouiligers" is a deliberate misspelling of the word "vrijwilligers" which means in Dutch or in Flemish volunteers. Replacing the "wi" in the middle of the word by "oui" evokes the phantom of the french language in this word that originally comes from french "volontair" or from latin "voluntarius". To volonteer is to do something by will, the "oui" in the word stresses that out ironically.  

This video was shot at Atlas in Antwerp where every year about 20,000 immigrants go to inscribe for a Dutch course after their level in the language is tested. I had a plan to inscribe for the course, but this was not possible because I am not an official Belgium citizen, and do not have a residency card from Belgium, but from the Netherlands.  However, the director of Atlas gave me the permission to film the building and what was happening there on one of the last days during the inscriptions'  week. Thus I met some of the people working there and I witnessed the crowds of mixed immigrants coming to learn Dutch, and luckily, my camera was able to record these moments.

The video is often and without previous notice interrupted by my personal notes that vary between general remarks, biographical and imaginative questionings.  While we witness people speaking in Dutch, Arabic, English, Bengali or French, the video is not under-titled. This work was made during a residency at AIR Antwerpen where my aim was to study Dutch from Belgium, and not from the Netherlands. As someone who is trying to obtain a Dutch citizenship, I have to pass an "integration" exam, and proof that I speak Dutch. My ten months old daughter who was with me during my residency in Antwerp went at the same time to a kindergarten in order to learn listening and singing in Dutch. In the video, we feel her presence but we don’t see her.


This video was made with the support of AIR Antwerpen, I was on a residency there for three months in 2012 when I shot this video.