Marilyne Grimmer

Souvenir Shop 2023

In her contribution Marilyne Grimmer takes the nearby border with France as her starting point. Nowadays that border is primarily characterized by language. The dialect which used to connect the population on both sides of the border has disappeared.

From an interest in tourism and public space, Grimmer sets up a souvenir shop with inhabitants from both sides of the Belgian border. Because while there are shops along the French-Belgian border that sell tobacco, cigarettes and beer in one country and spirits and mineral water in the other, there are no actual souvenir shops. She wonders what the inhabitants on both sides would expect to find in such a souvenir shop. Do they have personal memories (‘souvenirs’ in French) to share across the border? And how can such memories be shared through an object?

For this purpose Grimmer organises a series of workshops in retirement homes, schools and local associations on both sides of the border. She also meets individual inhabitants of Watou and Houtkerque, the nearest French town. And she goes to the café ‘À la Frontière Belge’, which is run by Flemish Rita who was born in the house and still lives there with her French husband Pierre. Both French and Belgians drop by for a beer or two and you can still hear the local dialect there. Near the café flows the small river ‘Ey Becque’, which constitutes the physical border between the two countries.

During the encounters and workshops, Grimmer and the inhabitants reflect on the symbols that can represent their region. The participants listen to how Flemish and French intermingle and impact each other in blended words. Dialectic expressions are collected, pictures taken and personal archives collected. They discuss the evolution of this border, from the time of customs officers to today, through personal memories and the history of Europe.

Based on all this information, prototypes are made for the production of typical tourist trinkets such as fridge magnets, snow globes and postcards. They find a suitable location in a wooden cabin near the French border that is somewhat reminiscent of the former border guard shacks. Nothing is for sale, it’s a place to contemplate differences, encounters and similarities.

This project was realised in collaboration with the inhabitants of retirement home Saint Augustin in Bergues and WZC Huize Proventier, the pupils and teachers of the elementary school of Watou, the Jacques Prévert school of Godewaersvelde, the elementary school of Berthen, Freinet school De Torteltuin in Poperinge, Martial Waeghemaeker, mayor of Godewaersvelde for the visit and access to the archives of the Border Life Museum (Museum van het Grensleven), Jan en Westhoek Verbeeldt, De Bres in Poperinge, Rita and her customers, Amélie of the town library of Houtkerque, Andrée, Carine, Fred, Isabelle, Hilde and Guido and everyone Marilyne Grimmer met along the way.

1979, FR

Born in Paris, France. Lives and work in Brussels.

Marilyne Grimmer develops projects involving various people (5 to 97 year old so far). She’s interested in collecting intimate stories which often tell a lot about the bigger History.

Her interventions are often very playful: together with the participants, they disguise themselves, transform a memory, etc.

Most of the time, she uses public space as an exhibition space.

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