Dutch Pavilion at 57th Venice Biennale
Cinema Olanda is a collaborative project by artist Wendelien van Oldenborgh and curator Lucy Cotter for the Dutch Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale, which embraces the occasion of national representation as an opportunity to reflect on the Netherlands’ (inter)national image vis-à-vis the current rapid transformations in Dutch society. The exhibition presents Van Oldenborgh’s filmic engagement with (actively) forgotten aspects of modern Dutch history in a site-specific installation for the Dutch Pavilion, sharing current transformations in Dutch society with an international audience.
Taking its conceptual starting point from Gerrit Rietveld’s pavilion as a Modernist projection of The Netherlands, the exhibition reconsiders what lies beyond its aesthetic and ideological frame, both at the time of its design in 1953 and in the present. Designed during the Postwar Reconstruction, when architecture was key to forging a new national image, the pavilion projects a progressive image of openness and transparency. On entering the pavilion, the viewer is confronted by Van Oldenborgh’s site-specific architectural installation, which both houses and aesthetically resounds with her three new ‘films’. These works reveal an alternative narrative to the Netherlands’ self-image as a tolerant nation, namely its reality today as a complex and rapidly transforming social, cultural and political space.
Van Oldenborgh uses film as a medium and form of social production, and her oeuvre revolves around bringing contemporary situations and under-examined events from recent history together in unexpected constellations. She creates her work through live (public) film shoots, set in ideologically charged architectural location, in which script is generated collectively by polyphonic conversations between individuals with a personal or professional relationship to the work’s lines of enquiry. Working in a range of cultural contexts, her films aim at a critical understanding and potential transformation of conditions for cultural production at this present moment.
The title film, Cinema Olanda (2017, 15 mins) marks a bold new filmic step in the artist’s oeuvre by being shot in one uncut take in an attempt to connect several individuals, an architectural location, and past and current events in a momentary filmic reality. Situated in urban planner Lotte Stam-Beese’s acclaimed Pendrecht district in Rotterdam, the film seeks out alternative voices behind Dutch postwar society, reimagining itself as a uniform modern State. Evoking the social and racial complexity of the 50’s as an overlooked element in Dutch history, references range from Dutch Caribbean revolutionary Otto Huiswoud, a key figure in race, class and anti-imperial issues worldwide, to the 1950’s Indo-rock music associated with post-Independence immigration from Indonesia.
Made in two parts that mirror each other in form and content, Prologue: Squat/Anti-Squat (2016, each 17 mins), engages with Team Ten architect Aldo van Eyck’s building Tripolis, and revisits a Dutch-Caribbean squatting action from the 1970’s, juxtaposing it with two recent squatting episodes. The film brings together individuals from different generations with backgrounds in activism and architecture, including the squatters of the 70’s and those of today, whose fragmentary conversations offer a glimpse into rapidly changing and static conceptions of solidarity in Dutch society. Currently used as an ‘anti-squat’ (a term and practice originated in Holland) facility Van Eyck’s empty building offers a provocative and visually arresting backdrop to the concerns and visions of young activist groups like the University of Colour, who set out to decolonize contemporary Dutch society.
The third ‘film’ is made up of two prints, Footnotes to Cinema Olanda #1 and #3 (2017), from a wider series in which Van Oldenborgh uses lenticular prints as a form of moving image. Conceived as a condensed filmic experience, the prints consist of layered images from the film shoot of Cinema Olanda that capture moments of production that are not contained in the film. Inviting the viewer to co-produce the filmic image through their own movements, they offer a dynamic viewing experience.
Cotter’s curatorial departure point for the exhibition was to engage with Gerrit Rietveld’s Dutch Pavilion as a national representation in its own right. The exhibition forms part of Van Oldenborgh and Cotter’s wider Cinema Olanda collaborative project that seeks to contribute towards the development of a new national self-image by bringing art, film and architecture in dynamic relationship with questions of social imagery and agency. An extensive parallel program in the Netherlands shares the exhibition’s questions with a national audience.
Commissioner Mondriaan Fund
The Mondriaan Fund, a publicly financed foundation for visual arts and cultural heritage, is responsible for the organization and financing of the Dutch entry to the Venice Biennale. For the 57th edition the Mondriaan Fund again issued an open call to curators, who were asked to produce a plan together with one or more artists in keeping with a state event. Cinema Olanda was selected from 68 proposals with a unanimous jury vote. The jury was made up of Lorenzo Benedetti (curator of, among other presentations, the Dutch pavilion at the 2013 Venice Biennale), Nathalie Hartjes (Director of Showroom MAMA), Aernout Mik (artist, whose resume includes presentations at the Dutch pavilion in 1997 and 2007) and Mirjam Westen (Curator of Contemporary Art at Museum Arnhem). The jury was chaired by the Director of the Mondriaan Fund, Birgit Donker. According to the jury, Cinema Olanda connects intimately with the zeitgeist and shares unique and important narratives.
Its largest manifestation is Cinema Olanda: Platform (17 June-20 August) at Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam – in which groups and individuals who have informed and inspired Cinema Olanda have been invited to guest-curate a series of public events and to use the institution as a further site of production for existing projects, which are presented alongside film installations by Van Oldenborgh in an adaptable exhibition scenography. Further presentations take place at the EYE Film Museum, Amsterdam (13 June) and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (30 June).
An additional live event will take place in the pavilion on 23 June with contributions by invited guests (Avery Gordon, Sarat Maharaj and Gloria Wekker).
Two publications will coincide with the opening of Cinema Olanda at the Venice Biennale. The official exhibition catalogue, Cinema Olanda:Wendelien van Oldenborgh, edited by Lucy Cotter and published by Hatje Cantz /Mondriaan Fund is a portfolio of images of the filmic works and exhibition accompanied by a series of essays by leading writers in the fields of art, film, architecture, social anthropology and critical race studies. A special supplement of the Dutch news magazine De Groene Amsterdammer on Cinema Olanda will coincide with the exhibition opening, in keeping with the artist and curator’s wish to extend the exhibition’s underlying questions to a wider Dutch public.
Cinema Olanda is partnered by Society of Arts/Akademie van Kunsten, Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA), University of Amsterdam, Wilfried Lentz Rotterdam and Nuova Icona, Venice. The project has the additional support of CBK Rotterdam, BPD and city of Rotterdam.