Belslijntje or the re-imagination of a memorial site. The analogue home video as artistic strategy

During four years, in order to obtain a PhD in the Arts at RITCS/VUB, experimental filmmaker Maurits Wouters has been researching the subject of fading collective memories in relation to the aesthetics of analog film. Wouters started his research with a collection of home videos made by the derelict  community around 'Het Bels Lijntje'; the popular name of the Tilburg - Turnhout train line, constructed in 1865 and shut down in 1973. The family history of Maurits Wouters is closely linked to 'Het Bels Lijntje'. 

A Personal Trajectory

'From the start of my artistic PhD, I have been interested in analog home video. I associate it with my childhood and family history and in this way, I see this research as an investigation of my roots. Furthermore, I wanted to work with a specific collection of home videos; namely the tapes that document the life around 'Het Bels Lijntje, a lost railway track between Tilburg and Turnhout. This material brought me closer to my family history', says Wouters.

'From the start I have been preoccupied with different questions. First of all I wanted to know how people used analog home video to literally "ìmagine" 'Het Bels Lijntje. In 1995, analog video got replaced by it`s digital variant and because of this analog video became a memory in itself. What is the influence of this deprecated medium on the filmed images? How do we look at these analog videos in our digital times and what impact does it have on the experience of watching? My interest in analog home video is intricately linked to the questions I ask myself about my own profession as a filmmaker; how can I as a young maker of films, use this medium in an artistic way? '

'Analog home video doesn't exist as such. It is more an amalgam of different carriers of memory in which it's not the cultural practice of filming that forms the fundament.  It is the video tape itself, as carrier, which becomes important', Wouters clarifies. 'On top of that the videos are of inferior quality which is also an important characteristic. When a video gets copied, a part of itscontent gets lost. Such a tape wasn't made to be copied, read and shared; one only wants to cherish the memory. Upon inquiry, the owners of these tapes admitted that they had hardly been looked at. They are only an object of remembrance, rather than a historical document. Often people kept their tapes in boxes that looked like the leather cover of a book. In this way, VHS seemed the next link within the tradition of storytelling even though that tradition was already finding it's end point at that time. It seems like the value lies primarily in the act of filming itself, more than in the transferral. This act of filming prevails on the final visible result. '

Two experimental films- The Road Back and The Movement of Phill Niblock- form the result of Wouters`research process. In these films the imagination of nature and landscape play an important role in supporting memory.

About Maurits Wouters

Maurits Wouters is filmmaker and visual artist. In 2009 he graduat-ed from RITCS as a film director, going on to complete his education at the University of Antwerp with a Master in Film and Theatre Studies. Since 2013 he has been working on a PhD in the Arts, with the support of the FWO (Fund for Scientific Research). Wouters' work examines the limit between film, photography, visual art and installation. His films have been presented, at the Internationall Short Film Festival in Leuven, Experimental Media in New York and FID Marseille, among others and archived by Argos Arts Brussels and Anthology Film Archive New York