The goal of Culture ID is to give you a real impression of the cultural situation and opportunities of young professionals active in the arts and cultural field in different countries of the broader Europe. By asking at the young graduated from a cultural studies a similar set of questions The Artist and The Others invites them to share the real cultural situation in their city or country. Culture ID maps the differences and similarities between cultural professionals in different countries. Strength collaboration and network through the different participants of the broader Europe. Offers a sincere way to collect knowledge and offer them to a wider public telling the cultural situation from the eye of the interviewer.
This month we went to meet a hunter for places of thought, Marlies Vermeulen (27) that decided to live in the city of Liège after studied Industrial Design Kortrijk in Belgium she continued her education in Interior Architecture in Ghent, where she participated on a Erasmus project at the University of Creative Arts in the United Kingdom. For her master she came to Liège and she also started to work part time in an architectural office and next to it Marlies started up her own practice, be an hunter for places of thought, which is now her main occupation.
What does it mean to be an hunter for places of though?
I pursue the awareness of places of thought. Using the language of drawing as hunting technique I collect these experiences and feelings to find a way to apply them within any creation of physical places.
How do you define yourself?
I am going to answer this question, as I would like to define myself. I like to see myself as someone sensitive and fragile to the environment/space in which I am. I would like to absorb all the input and the different parameters that an environment gives to me. You know, lately somebody said to me, you don’t define yourself, it is the environment and the people around you that define you. I thought that was beautiful.
What does ‘culture’ mean to you?
I don’t think culture is something you can separate from life. It is life. Maybe the judgement on life is culture? I don’t know, I never think about it like that.
What kind of added value culture gives you?
If culture in this question means going to the theatre or to the opera, well it opens up your mind. It makes you be aware of things that otherwise you would not think of. But I am not sure about the distinction between culture in those environments and the one we live every day. During my studies and now in Liège, I was lucky to feel small differences in ways of living. Kortrijk, Ghent, Canterbury and Liège it is not that different, but are those little habits that change, small changes in our points of views. This is what touches me in the different ways of living.
Being a cultural professional is…. trying to live and work very consciously with and within several ways of living.
What is the role of culture in your country?
As I said culture for me is life, so if I describe the culture I have to talk about the different ways of living. In Belgium there is the Dutch, Flemish part and the French speaking part: Wallonia. So during time two different ways of living have been created within this already very small country. As a Flemish girl living in Wallonia, for me it feels like a honour to experience both. It is an odd but enriching feeling to participate at both cultures. It is a pity that all the Belgian governments cannot make the most of this diversity, because it is unique.
Can you sketch the cultural scene in your city?
As I live for several years in Liège now, it was, and sometimes is quite hard to meet the right people. The thing in Liège is that there are so many different people living together, on a rather peaceful and respectful way, so sometimes it is hard to meet ‘your people’. But once you met, things can go very fast. What I noticed for instance in Maastricht, is that the cultural scene is very present and visual. In Liège, although it is bigger, you don’t have that so much. You need to look twice before you see things clearly.
How did you end up in this city? Why did you choose to work in this city?
I think everybody that I met asked me that question, but there is not really an answer. I just arrived here after my time in the UK. I did my last year and I find some friends, job,.. so I decided to stay. It was only afterwards that I saw more potential in the city, it’s potential to grow and its geographical situation to the Euregion.
How is it for you to work in this cultural scene?
For me, it is just what I need now. I can act as myself, there is not much social pressure. And the city still leaves some place for spaces without finery. That part can be tough, but it can be so beautiful at the same time. This paradox is not only in my professional life very inspirational but also in my private life. And again, once you speak French, Dutch and English this Euregion can expand your life to even more cultures.
How can you define the position of the cultural professional in your city?
I think that Liège and Wallonia is doing a great effort to stimulate young creative talent. But it can always be better and more. Although the difficult times, still in a city like Liège a lot is possible.
How do you see the future for yourself as a cultural professional in Liege, are there any opportunities here? And why?
I think my future is in the Euregion, from which Liège covers a big part. So in that way I think a lots of opportunities can be created. I also think, well at least for me, that it is important to feel good before you can start to create. So you need to find your place. I, for now and hopefully for the years that are following, found my place in Liège. I mean it is such a great playground with few rules to take in mind. To me it is the ideal place to start any kind of creative practice.
Are there initiatives in your country that help cultural professionals/artists at the beginning of their career?
Yes, all sorts of initiatives are put in place, not only in Liège, but in Wallonia. Such as Clust’art but also Challenge. They help you starting up, structuring, meeting people,… Everything you thought you needed and even more. It has been very helpful to me, and also in the future I will be followed by those organisations.
Did you do residency/internship/studies outside of your country? If yes, what differences did you see?
I worked a little bit at the UCA UK and I travelled a bit around doing volunteering work. It is always a good thing to travel, it is the easiest way to get to know yourself and what do you want.
What tips can you give to other young cultural professionals?
As I am a young cultural professional, it is a bit strange to give them advise. But anyway, maybe just one thing that makes me struggle sometimes: Just do things, even without knowing all the consequences, if it feels right, it is probably the right thing to do.