Dutch entry 2005

Jeroen de Rijke, Willem de Rooij - Mandarin Ducks, Dutch Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2005. Curator: Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen. Set photography: Thomas Manneke

De Rijke De Rooij
Mandarin Ducks
Dutch entry of the 51nd Venice Biennale

curator: Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen
On behalf of the Mondriaan Foundation

At the 51st International Art Exhibition of the 2005 Venice Biennale, the Dutch Pavilion showcased the major new 16 mm film installation Mandarin Ducks by the artist duo Jeroen de Rijke and Willem de Rooij. De Rijke and De Rooij were invited to represent the Netherlands by Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen, then Director of Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam, who was the curator of the Dutch contribution on behalf of the Mondriaan Foundation.

Since they started to collaborate in 1994, Jeroen de Rijke (1970 – 2006) and Willem de Rooij (b. 1969) have created a select corpus of 16 and 35 mm films as well as slide- and photoworks, objects, texts and printed matter. Their artistic programme entails a detached and critical investigation of the context, rules and conventions governing the presentation and interpretation of images.

Jeroen de Rijke, Willem de Rooij - Mandarin Ducks, Dutch Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2005. Curator: Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen. Set photography: Thomas Manneke

Mandarin Ducks has a duration of 36 minutes and was shown at regular intervals in the Dutch Pavilion. A distinctive feature of the Venice presentation of Mandarin Ducks was the spatial situation in which there was a relation between the light and architecture of the Pavilion, which was designed by Gerrit Rietveld in the Giardini of the Biennale, and the set used in making the film.

Mandarin Ducks could be defined as a ‘black comedy’ in which the artists comment on the neo-liberal climate of Western society at the beginning of the 21st century. In a succession of tableau-like scenes, we follow the twists and turns in the relations of ten individuals gathered in an apartment on a warm Sunday evening. In a stylized and fragmentary story that unfolds via monologues and dialogues charged with repressed hostility or unconcealed jealousy and bitterness, the artists explore the areas of tension between people, in particular those domains where social and political conflicts find their reflection in the personal. As the evening progresses, there are subtle shifts in the balance of power and various indications of personal and social disintegration. The overtly artificial acting, the way the actors are filmed and the non-linear narrative shape a strange kind of distance that makes it impossible for the viewer to surrender to a familiar filmic or theatrical ‘language’. Rather, the viewer is confronted with the codes, conventions and underlying ideology of the ‘formats’ that are liberally interwoven into the film.

The American art magazine Artforum selected Mandarin Ducks as one of ‘The Best of 2005’ while British newspaper The Guardian described it as “one of the most argued-over works of the Biennale”, and as “a turbulent collage of stylistic quotations, art historical, filmic and theatrical allusions.”

Jeroen de Rijke, Willem de Rooij - Mandarin Ducks, Dutch Pavilion, Venice Biennale, 2005. Curator: Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen. Set photography: Thomas Manneke

The exhibition was accompanied by a catalogue containing a visual contribution by the artists, an introduction by Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen and essays by Dario Gamboni and Tom Holert.
Design: Wim Crouwel
Published by Revolver Books, Frankfurt
(English, 84 pp, ISBN: 3-86588-121-1, € 25).

Mandarin Ducks, 2005
Director: Jeroen de Rijke, Willem de Rooij
Cinematography: Benito Strangio
Producer: Rudolf Evenhuis
Production: Designer De Rijke en De Rooij
Costume: Design Ellen Lens
Casting: Hans Kemna
Cast: Cas Enkelaar, Liz Snoyink, Runa Islam, Annemarie Oster, Marcel Osterop

Presentation in Venice
Concept: Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen, Stedelijk Museum / Bureau Amsterdam icw Jeroen de Rijke and Willem de Rooij
Curatorial Assistance: Marente Bloemheuvel, Amsterdam
Public Relations: Beate Barner, Berlijn, Roy Cremers, Amsterdam
Installation: Anything is Possible, Joep Münstermann, Robert Clarijs

Jeroen de Rijke, Willem de Rooij - Mandarin Ducks. Dutch Pavilion, Venice Biennale, 2005. Curator: Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen. Installation view: Jannes Linders

From 16 December 2005 through 12 February 2006 Mandarin Ducks was presented at the Stedelijk Museum CS in Amsterdam in the context of documentation, paintings and objects from the Stedelijk Museum’s collection, chosen by the artists. The presentation provided insight into the complex of artistic and socio-political considerations that played a formative role in the realization of this work. The pieces selected from the collection included Slothouber and Graatsma’s ‘cubist constructions’ from the seventies, Rietveld’s ‘Elling buffet’, a series of lithographs by Schwitters, two Ensor paintings and a television adaptation of the farce ‘Hey, Can I Have My Wife Back’ (‘Hé, mag ik mijn echtgenote terug’) by John Lanting’s Theater van de Lach from 1975, and graphic designs by Wim Crouwel for the presentation in Venice.