spaghetti bij de buurman | spaghetti at the neighbour's
Spaghetti bij de buurman is a fascinated and enriching research about my neighbours. I live in a social housing block within Eindhoven's Burghplan district, an area flagged by the municipality for its social cohesion challenges. When I initiated this project, two years ago, I had already spent three years here and had barely interacted with my neighbours. This paradox struck me as odd – we live in close proximity, yet we remain distant.
This intriguing absence of interaction became the catalyst for Spaghetti bij de buurman. It prompted an exploration of the latent potential that lies within each of us, a potential that yearns for release. In the realm of environmental psychology, this condition is known as 'propinquity' – the innate longing for closeness and connection, vital for fostering community spirit and a sense of protection (Bell et al., 2001). The dichotomy between our natural inclination towards proximity and the widespread urban isolation thus became the focus of this project.
At the same time, nonetheless, I felt compelled to share my infatuation with the mysterious uniqueness of each individual – how much we can perhaps learn from or be inspired by the life stories of others, even strangers. So I decided to knock on all the doors on my block and invite my 56 neighbours, in small groups, to a casual dinner at my place. Almost half of them joined this opportunity to get to know each other, taste my pastas, relish my tiramisu and create new bonds between residents. During the dinner, I took photo portraits of my guests and later, at another moment, I portrayed them in the comfort of their homes – inviting them to share something personal. What brought them here? How do they walk their life? How do they feel about living in this neighborhood, on this very block? What do they care the most about?
It was not easy to face those doors. Some of them opened just for a moment and then closed inexorably. But those that stayed open long enough poured out gold and beauty on me. I feel blessed. May these portraits serve as a gateway to the hidden stories of the anonymous dweller of the social housing citadel – the silent guardian of the priceless treasure of a life still untold.