A Tale of A Tub

Sunday, April 14, 2024

2:00 – 5:00 PM

Songs of Flax: Chapter 3: Over the Heckle

Marie Ilse and Liza have a plot of land on the edge of Flevopark in Amsterdam, where they have been cultivating flax since 2021. While becoming intimately interwoven with the production of linen—with its inherent rhythms and cyclicality—they have become interested in work-songs as tools for social organization and for connecting humans with more than humans. Taking as a starting point the essay ‘Rhythms of Labor’ (Pickering, Robertson & Korczynski, 2013) that investigates singing within the British textile industry, they have been developing a research project and tangible body of work that examines and translates work-songs and their functions. Traditionally, work-songs functioned in three distinctive ways: singing supported the rhythm of manual labor, it alleviated the draining reality of hard work and created a sense of collectivity; often, local gossip was introduced into songs, and workers in the early textile industry found community through singing and working together. Often work-songs aided in consciousness-raising practices and became protest songs along the way.

In this workshop series, we will explore the potential of singing at work once again while transforming flax plants into linen fibers. Marie Ilse and Liza will bring their flax harvest from 2023 and specific tools to lead you through the process of rippling, breaking, scutching, and heckling, which traditionally occurred on winter nights after the harvest season had ended.

This third and final chapter explores the soft, combing gestures of heckling flax to separate longer fibers from the coarser ones, the last stage before it can be spun into a yarn. Sitting around a heckling comb used to be a perfect occasion to share stories and gossip, something the Dutch saying ‘to pull someone over the heckle’ hints at. Our heckling work will be supported by a melody composed by Bergur Anderson that invites lyrics and vocal elaboration, collaboratively crafting our own work-song.

Songs of Flax is an initiative by our education curator Lisanne Janssen.


The workshop will be held in English, but there will be French, Dutch, and Icelandic speakers present who will gladly translate for you. Although the labor of turning flax into linen fibers is physically demanding, you are not required to stand all afternoon and are welcome to participate in a less physical manner. The workshop space is on the first floor, which is wheelchair accessible through the main entrance. A gender-neutral restroom on the first floor is accessible by stairs; an elevator is not available.


LIZA PRINS (1992, Delft) is an artist, researcher and writer based in Amsterdam. Her work focuses on feminized and pre-industrial labor, as well as the material and immaterial conditions and tools for social organization that emerge from it. Using collaborative performative methods touching on re-enactment techniques and improvisation, she seeks to re-establish a connection with material histories and social imaginations.\n\nPrins studied Fine Art at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and she has a master’s degree in artistic research from the University of Amsterdam, where her thesis investigated the intersections of feminist, new materialist methodology, and performative practices.\n\nHer work has been shown at Nieuw Dakota in Amsterdam, Hotel Maria Kapel in Hoorn, Kunsthuis SYB in Beetsterzwaag, and The Roger Brown house in Chicago among other places. Her writings have been published in academic and less-academic journals, books and zines, like Metropolis M, Snaky Zine, ANTENNAE and Platform Taak. Together with Marta Pagliuca Pelacani she is hosting the Artistic Research Knitting Club at the University of Amsterdam. She is supported by the Mondriaan Fund.

MARIE ISLE BOURLANGES (1983, Paris) is an interdisciplinary artist based in Amsterdam, whose practice combines tangible, performative and written matter, within collaborative and individual trajectories. With a particular attention to transience and materiality, Bourlanges explores the borders between the personal and the public, and how intimacy can resonate collectively. Through an eco-feminist lens, her work aims at reconsidering and shifting power dynamics [between humans and across species] and explores the ambivalence of care.\n\nBourlanges graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam and was artist in residence at Atelier Holsboer in Paris, 3bisF Contemporary Art Centre (FR) and the European Ceramic Work Centre (NL). She was awarded the Proven Talent grant from the Mondriaan Fund, the artistic research fellowship of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie and have exhibited internationally with institutions such as 3bisF Contemporary Art Centre (FR) with Manifesta biennial #13, Arti & Amicitiae (NL), Looiersgracht 60 (NL), Hotel Maria Kapel (NL), Forma Art gallery (CH), Kunsthalle Lottozero (IT) and Korean Ceramic Biennale. Her artistic essays have been published, among others with Tubelight magazine, Robida magazine, Simulacrum magazine, P///AKT pool, Journal of Interior Architecture Research (EE) and Parking Lot. Since 2012 she has been teaching at the Royal Academy of Arts The Hague and until 2019 at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie (NL).

BERGUR ANDERSON (1988, Reykjavíc) is an artist, composer and sound-maker based in Rotterdam. He works primarily with sound, performance and installation, fabricating the chimerical and fictional qualities of sound into material, time-based and published works.\n\nBergur graduated with a BFA degree from the Fine Arts department of Iceland University of the Arts in 2011, and joined the Masters Artistic Research program at the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague — from which he graduated in 2017. Recent works have been presented at Kling og Bang, Harbinger and Mengi (IS); The Pole, Rib, Peach and project space at7 (NL); De Nor (BE); Kaunas Artist House and Palanga Street Radio (LT). Recent publications include Around the Songster’s Commune, a limited edition cassette with sonic meditations on Medieval troubadour methodologies and societies; Night Time Transmissions, a vinyl record and result of research into the worlds of polyphonic storytelling; and Poems, a self-released artist book made with Katrina Niebergal, where they collected each other’s daily and accidental rhymes, compiled in a double-book of colloquial poetry.\n\nNext to his own practice, Bergur collaborates with artists who seek to expand the notion of sound in their practices — as a composer, recordist, sound designer, mixing engineer and performer for various live and published works.