By bringing together the project ‘The Magnetic North’, the video work ‘The Idea of Freedom’ and their monumental red and black ink drawings, Sylvie Zijlmans and Hewald Jongenelis (Geertruidenberg 1964; Etten-Leur 1962) have created a theatrical installation about an era in which reality outdoes all fiction.

In 2001, Zijlmans and Jongenelis moved from the busy Jordaan neighbourhood to Amsterdam-Noord. Their new environment found its way into their work in a very natural way. Their conversations with local residents highlighted several social issues. Concerns about changes to their neighbourhood, which is growing in popularity, turn out to be a recurring theme. For ‘The Magnetic North’ these local, yet universally recognisable issues have been translated into several performances, filmed on location in collaboration with the local community. Each of the videos features a different ‘avatar’: a personification of the issue in question. They include The Poet, a.k.a. The Compactor, who brings people and things closer together, and The Conservator, who cannot stand the idea of change. The presence of these mythical characters spurs the people into action and invites us to view existing ideas in a new light.

In ‘The Magnetic North & The Idea of Freedom’, Zijlmans and Jongenelis connect local issues with bigger themes such as the experience of individual liberty and the current refugee crisis. They thus turn every-day life in an expanding city into a metaphor for our time.