• CNAP Award  
  • Flash Competition  
  • International Competition


Wendelien van Oldenborgh

Wendelien van Oldenborgh
Wendelien van Oldenborgh uses architecture both as a setting and as an investigative tool to question politics and its history. We remember the formidable sophistication constructions of Two Stones (FID 2020) and Beauty and the Right to the Ugly (FID 2015). The deliberately simple title of his latest film unequivocally underlines the importance of space. And once again, he refuses the schematisation and demagogy of shortcuts, here, it is complexity that is required. As this space, the ” here” that is filmed, is instantaneously multifold: the land and the setting in which we find ourselves; the place we come from, which continues to float within and around us (in short, the musicality of a space); the memory of the place, itself intertwined (layers, visible or not, of the archive formed by a site). Seizing the opportunity of the renovation of the Museum of Modern Art in Arnhem, issues related to the Indo-European community in the Netherlands are revisited, forming a three-threaded tress: a group of young musicians, FRED; a poet, Pelumi Adejumo; and an art historian, Lara Nuberg. Although the Museum’s original building is part of a colonial past, its current vocation is to promote women artists and artists from different cultural backgrounds. Here are the young women who have been called upon to bring this Museum to life, before our very eyes: through sound and words, analysis and poetry, actions and images. To engage with the walls of the building and the allegories that it harbours. A collective work, in which the director draws all the subtleties into a magnificently intelligent dance.
(Jean-Pierre Rehm)

Interview with Wendelien van Oldenborgh

In your artistic practice, you often question the past and present through architecture, as we have seen in Two Stones (FID 2020) and Beauty and the Right to the Ugly (FID 2015). Hier. is filmed in the Museum Arnhem during its renovation – a place of conservation in transition, as you say. How did you discover this place and why did you choose it as a location ?
As I was looking at the history of the Indo-European community in the Netherlands, I found out that the original building of the Arnhem museum was very much connected to our colonial past. The current renovation is bringing the older part of the building back to their original forms. At the same time the museum boasts a progressive policy of collecting female and non-white Dutch art. I thought it worth exploring this during the time of the renovation. The Indo-European presence in the country is a complex story. Today, with active emancipation movements dealing with structural racism and colonial heritage, these complexities are highlighted.

In this place, the female band FRED, the poet Pelumi Adejumo and the historian Lara Nuberg explore themes such as hybridity, transnationality, colonial reminiscences and gender identity. How did you meet them and how did you build a common ground of exchange? Did you have a scenario that guided you in some way?
My initial intention was to make a weaving of three sonic lines, of which one I wanted represented by Kroncong music. I found out that kroncong – maybe like the building – is marked by contradictions. It is seen to be an emancipatory music in the 20s – 30s when Indo-European performers started to popularise this already existing mix form of local and European sounds. The international record companies played a role in the spreading of this musical style, which was for the first time using Malay, the lingua franca of the region during colonial times. After independence, the music marks in the Netherlands a nostalgia to former times. It is perhaps good to mention that the Indo-European group has been subject to both privilege and discrimination during colonial times. When they were not welcome in the new Republic of Indonesia after 1945 and came in large numbers to the Netherlands, many were subject to racism and humiliation, despite the fact they mostly identified mainly with Dutch as their identity.
I worked with the band FRED, because I just think they represent what the Netherlands is: a mixed bunch of people coming from varius ex-colonies and not. I already knew them and loved their energy and musical sensibilities. Lyana Usa, the lead guitarist is from Indonesia, from a much later immigration than the large post-war one, and none of the band is Indo-European. They could however very beautifully improvise on the old kroncong sounds, which they did all relate to.
In the other sonic lines we experience some personal thoughts on Indo-European histories by Lara Nuberg, and the beautifully articulated reflections by Pelumi Adejumo, a poet who writes in Dutch even if her mother language is not. There was no pre-written scenario, but we spoke altogether about these issues online for some months and Pelumi attended some of the band’s rehearsals. For FRED’s own song, which they play at the end, the lyrics were also written for the film.

The camera movements and shots give the feeling of navigating and turning around these figures and in this place, giving at the same time the impression of an impossibility to fully grasp and fix them, as they remain elusive in their mobility and mutability. Could you tell us about your collaboration with Lawrence Lee Kalkman, director of photography? And how was the shooting organised? Did the location and the architecture influence or inspire the type of shots and movements?
We shot all in one day, with the band practicing in the space some hours on the day before. We worked entirely from the architecture, yes. I usually work quite closely with the DOP and also here many decisions came in collaboration with Lawrence Kalkman.

On the walls of the museum in renovation, we see large-format images. Could you tell us more about that and the origin of these images?
One of the large images shows an exhibition in the museum in 2016, of female self portraits. As a coincidence, one of the portraits is by Charley Toorop, a well known painter of whom it is not so well known that she is of Indo-European descent. The other image is a sketch of the pavilion in which Hier. will be shown all summer this year in the International Contemporary Art Exhibition Sonsbeek20->24, in Arnhem (NL). I worked together with the artist Erika Hock who designed this structure, a coil, which I thought very meaningful. For the shoot I projected a picture into it of a 1920s kroncong ensemble, which seems all female, but actually has one man amongst the string instrument players.

Although throughout the film we remain inside this place, without perceiving the outside, during the opening and closing credits we seem to hear the sounds of the street and of passing cars. Why did you make this choice? Does this have anything to do with the title of the film? And what does the title mean for you and why is there a dot?
Hier. was chosen after I finished the edit. I feel it is a film which locates itself very strongly in space and time, even if it refers to some past moments and elsewhere. These past and elsewhere moments always are also here and now.

Interview by Marco Cipollini.

  • CNAP Award  
  • Flash Competition  
  • International Competition

Technical sheet

Netherlands / 2021 / 28’

Original Version : Dutch.
Subtitles : English.
Script : Pelumi Adejumo, Lyana Usa, Josephine Spit, Lara Nuberg, Thirza Hiwat.
Photography : Lawrence Lee Kalkman.
Editing : Wendelien van Oldenborgh.
Music : Lyana Usa, Josephine Spit, Thirza Hiwat.
Sound : Roel Pothoven, Julian (Togar) Abraham, Tyler Friedman.
Casting : Pelumi Adejumo, Lara Nuberg, Lyana Usa, Thirza Hiwat, Josephine Spit.
Production : Wendelien van Oldenborgh.
Filmography : Two Stones, 2020. Cinema Olanda Film, 2017. Prologue: Squat/Anti-Squat, 2016. From Left to Night, 2015. Beauty and the Right to the Ugly, 2014. La Javanaise, 2012. Bete & Deise, 2012. Instruction, 2009. Maurits Film, 2008. Lecture/Audience/Camera, 2008. No False Echoes, 2008. Sound Track Stage, 2006-2008. Maurits Script, 2006.