Freedom of Expression

Installation view, “Be(com)ing Dutch,” Van Abbemuseu, Eindhoven, 2008

Freedom of Expression

Artist: Lidwien van de Ven

(lives and works in Berlin and Rotterdam)
Freedom of Expression, 2008
Digital video
Brussels, 14/02/2008 (Hirsi Ali), 2008
Digital photograph
Courtesy the artist

Lidwien van de Ven’s work focuses on the well-known political figure of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In this film and photographic work, the action takes place at a press conference in the European Union complex in Brussels where Ayaan Hirsi Ali presents her case for E.U. protection against threats to her life. In the video, Hirsi Ali is surrounded by men in suits, bureaucrats from the E.U., photographers, and finally a French socialist politician and a libertarian philosopher. Each in turn reflects upon her condition, and then she speaks briefly herself. The film ends with a credit-like sequence listing the names of the protagonists followed by the background and consequences of the conference. In the installation at the Van Abbemuseum, on the opposite wall, a single large-scale photograph of Hirsi Ali partially hidden behind other people, stared out at viewers and at her own predicament as played out in the video.

While the work is a seemingly straightforward documentary, it is carefully edited from the original archive material. Short sequences are repeated and subtitles added. The woman at the center of attention is often situated behind or between others. She becomes a representation of herself, perhaps a cipher for claims and agendas. We are asked to look at the photograph and ask what kind of Dutch citizen we see.

For this Museum as Hub presentation at the New Museum, van de Ven has created a reinterpretation of her work at the Van Abbemuseum as an artist-page-insert in this newspaper, reprinting her photo Brussels, 14/02/2008 (Hirsi Ali) as a multiple. For the final weekend of “Be(com)ing Dutch at a Distance,” van de Ven will screen the video Freedom of Expression and organize a related discussion with invited speakers.

Freedom of Expression was specially commissioned by the Van Abbemuseum for the Be(com)ing Dutch project.