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An Introduction to The Couch

Kim Tuin

Kim Tuin

Kim Tuin has always been interested in the crossover between nightlife, music and art, a configuration she tested and perfected over time at Trouw, NDSM, as a Night Mayor of Amsterdam, and now as the founding artistic director of Het HEM. 

Published 19 Apr 2023


min read

Dear reader,

I founded Het HEM in 2019 on the belief that art should take an active role in guiding humans through their present – and future.

Het HEM is located in a remote bullet factory on an old defense site on the outskirts of Amsterdam. The building and its history have been of great influence on the way art is made, presented and experienced. The raw space, the pillars, the light, the shooting range in the basement, the view over the water... Even for us as programme makers, our building is often the starting point for new ideas and directions of thought.

In my opinion, art is more and more seen as entertainment for a select few, or as a commodity for those who can afford it. I find it fascinating to see that something so important is not properly valued and deployed. Art should be recognised as the soft value that is essential for our wellbeing.

Art possesses a transformative, mind-shifting power. When we experience art in person, our intuition is stimulated and deeper layers of our consciousness are addressed. This process creates new insights into where you are as a human being in this particular time and space. Going through life in these current times can feel as if you are driving a car with mud on your windshield. We need to get involved with one and other and engage on a deeper level to recognise we are not alone here; we are part of a bigger whole.


The importance of being recognisable and accessible to a wide audience is self-evident. Our planet belongs to all of us - and we all need access to this intuitive layer that connects us living creatures and makes us resonate with our environment.

That said, our aim at Het HEM has therefore always been to provide unbounded art experiences for a wide audience, and to make our venue available to creatives who reflect on our world and the living beings in it. Our core programme is based on storytelling, with the primary goal to give visitors the chance to see the world through another pair of eyes, and create more understanding for other perspectives, other ways of thinking.

We do this by presenting diverse art forms side by side in the context of a larger story and by giving our audience space for their own free interpretation of art. After all, when we say we want art to be accessible to all, we have to acknowledge that everyone’s context is different. Our bodies, identities, background, socio-economic circumstances or cultural environment all shape our vastly different perceptions of the world.

Het HEM has been around now for four years, which included the major upheaval caused by Covid-19. Now we have a new period of reckoning: two years without our building, which will undergo extensive renovations so it can serve us and our community far into the future. This has forced us to ask: Who are we without our impressive building?

Like a hermit crab exchanging its shell, we need something different: bigger, weirder, freer. That’s where The Couch comes in: an online editorial and artistic platform with the goal of empowering the reader by offering an experimental reflection on society through a mix of art forms.

This obviously relates to what Het HEM does, but with The Couch, we want to create an ever-transforming art space where visitors can explore at their own pace and from their own place. We reach out to people who are not able to come to Het HEM physically. And as a team, we’ve become wildly excited to explore how art resonates in a virtual environment. The Couch gives us a chance to give more context to what we are already doing and creates possibilities for things we cannot do in the physical world.


Meanwhile, the idea that we had – that the digital is a free space where anything is possible – has shattered into little pieces. It has no walls, which is great, but it does have frameworks and limitations. Nevertheless, it is a place for endless experimentation and rapid development. This is something we can play with. We gradually discover that Het HEM does not need the building as a starting point for exploration: we have a certain way of thinking and working that expresses itself in a new playing field in a very different, but still unique way.

Within this context too, we love learning by doing, experimenting; we love remarkable stories and marveling at the things that come our way. And we like to stretch the boundaries a bit by doing things that are deliberately controversial, like slowing down the pace or offering easy-going, long lectures in a world with a shrinking attention span. And then take a moment to watch what happens...

The Couch is a new shell for us, our visitors and artists, a place we can call home and where the door will always be open, for everyone anywhere in the world. We think this radical accessibility to art experiences is one of the biggest added values of being present online. Now the process of trying out what works and what doesn't (because little did we know...) begins.

We start slowly with long reads, columns, experimental fiction. Take your time – literally – exploring Het HEM’s building virtually in Brian d’Souza’s artwork Genius Loci, our first art commission for The Couch. Get a feel for the virtual environment designed by Atelier Brenda, where everything is customisable. Dive deep with artists who are eager to share what they’ve learned about the world, and where they think we’re headed. We’re as curious as you are about where this is going. Please take a seat, sink in, and bounce back again.


Kim Tuin, Director

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