A lot has changed in the world since the corona crisis. This is also the case at Escher in The Palace. After weeks of keeping our doors closed, we are finally open to the public again. However, this is different than usual. Our colleagues are happy to tell you about these new times in the museum and their own function in our Co-worker Monday.
Museum educator Brechtje Burger
What exactly do you do at Escher in The Palace?
I am a museum educator. Which means I give lessons about Escher and his art, mainly at primary and secondary schools. I also give workshops in our special Escher Atelier. The lessons consist of a tour and a self-study segment. We offer a number of different lessons that the schoolteachers can choose from. Based on a theme, we go through the museum to get inspired, after which we produce a work of art ourselves. This can be a linoleum cut or tessellation, and occasionally we produce metamorphoses. We think it is important for it to be an interactive tour. Children are challenged to look and discover for themselves. Thus enabling them to research the artworks themselves and create something. Giving them plenty of freedom. I am not there breathing down their necks. We give them the space to discover the art and form their own opinions about it.
What is your favourite Escher work of art?
I think Snakes (1969) is a very special print. It is Escher’s last work and knowing that makes you look at it differently. In any case, Escher’s work is always suffused with craftsmanship and a love of creation. The print is in three colours, meaning he would have needed one block per colour. He had to print these blocks such that they overlapped perfectly. That takes a lot of patience and concentration. The woodcut follows the line of his quest for infinity. Here, however, he takes a new step—the rings start small and get bigger but shrink outwards again. A kind of chainmail is created. And Escher would not be Escher if he did not add a touch of the living to this abstract network, namely the snakes. That is typical Escher.
You are working together with educators from The National Theatre on a new lesson for secondary school students. Can you tell us what you are doing with this development team?
We are creating a theatrical museum lesson for the first two year groups of secondary education. Normally our tours are already interactive, as lively as possible. There is always room for your own input. It already bore very little resemblance to your average museum tour. Collaborating with The National Theatre enables us to add new elements, such as storytelling and audio. Thus creating a unique lesson, with new interaction, working methods and questions.
It actually brings two worlds together. The National Theatre (Het Nationale Theater) has a lot of experience when it comes to creating theatre lessons, with students being addressed and inspired in a way that differs from that of our regular museum lessons. So that’s a great resource. We as museum teachers know a lot about M.C. Escher and these two worlds are now being brought together.
What do you think makes this project so special?
I feel that this has never, or almost never, been done. Nor is it particularly easy. It’s actually a bit like speaking two different languages, so you have to look carefully where those two worlds bolster each other. I think that we are developing something new and idiosyncratic, amalgamating theatre and visual art in a natural way. We are striving to give young people an experience they won’t forget easily.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Regarding this project with The National Theatre, I enjoy discovering that there are many more ways to design a museum lesson, which is very inspiring. It has given me new ideas that I can experiment with during my regular museum lessons. Moreover, I really enjoy the students’ amazement during my lessons. Most people are familiar with Escher’s work. I often hear students say ‘oh I saw that hanging at my orthodontist’s’. We make it possible for them to properly discover his work, allowing them to see things they didn’t see before. I find that very special. The students also discover that the museum is not boring, but a place where lots of things are possible and permissible.