'You Know Not What You Ask' is the the title of a live art piece made by Helen Morse Palmer for the Kunst aan de Schinkel exhibition, hosted by the Soledad gallery in Amsterdam. The site-specific exhibition aimed to highlight the inspiring places and hidden stories wrapped up in the history of the Schinkel neighbourhood in South Amsterdam. Twenty international artists were invited to participate in the manifestation, working with the local community to produce art work which encouraged a new perspective of the area. For further details of the exhibition, visit http://kads.nl/corp/?site=40

‘You Know Not What You Ask’, is a visualisation of the quest for an answer. The origins of the Schinkel neighbourhood provide a starting point for the work. During the 15th century, the first building built along the Schinkel canal was a tavern. To attract customers, the landlord hung a signboard outside which read ‘Te Vraghe’ (to ask). Many travellers asked the way to Amsterdam at ‘Te Vraghe’.

‘You Know Not What You Ask’, uses this personal, physical exchange of questions and answers as a way of exploring and celebrating the district as it stands today.

The antithesis of Google, the piece uses questions and answers generated through workshops run by the artist with a cross section of local community groups.

Echoing history, a signboard is once again placed beside the canal, where a question from the community is selected at random and laboriously written out by the artist.

An arduous journey is then made as she crosses the water to bring back an answer – again selected at random - from the opposite bank. No sooner is the answer written beneath the question than a new question is selected to replace the old one, and the process begins again.

Each new question requires a new journey. However, since every question and answer is drawn at random, and has come from a different member of the community, the quest to find the ‘right’ answer is flawed from the start.

Instead, there exists a dialogue of miscommunication that is at times personal, comical, poignant and ridiculous. This desperate scramble for understanding explores the diversity of the district, the nuances of personal interaction and the difficulties of ever fully communicating successfully.

The artist herself speaks only English and is therefore completely ignorant of what she writes!