Critic’s Guide: Amsterdam

For the 6th Amsterdam Art Weekend, our picks of the best shows and events across the Dutch capital


Lara Almarcegui

Lara Almarcegui, Mineral Rights, Tveitvangen, 2015, slide installation on video. Courtesy: Manifesta Foundation, Amsterdam

‘Terrestrial Records’
Manifesta Foundation
24 November 2017 – 25 May 2018

The Manifesta Foundation’s canal house offices offer a ‘non-white-cube’ setting for ‘Terrestrial Records’, a group show curated by Ellen de Bruijne Projects which features work by a set of artists marked by their interests in toxicity and the politics and mapping of space. Spanish-born artist Lara Almarcegui is known for her pulverizing installations in which monumental piles of strewn rubble capture the space of the wasteland: sites caught between demolition and regeneration. Maria Pask’s projects are driven by a deep interest in theatrical dynamics and research into local community life, foregrounding collective power at a time in which civil society finds itself besieged. And I’m looking forward to how ‘Terrestrial Records’ works with the ‘research-based installations’ of Falke Pisano who so often turns to the politics of time-setting, the relations between colonial violence and apparently objective measurement (very much the subject of her recent work Wonder-What-Time-It-Is performed at FIAC in Paris): what happens when we begin to articulate an escape from our dominant regimes of time?


Erik van Lieshout

Erik van Lieshout, production photograph of film shooting at Kochi Muziris Biennale, Fort Kochi, March 2017, mixed media on wall. Photograph: A. Somakumaran

Erik van Lieshout, ‘G.O.A.T’
Annet Gelink Gallery
28 October – 23 December 2017

Consider the goat – in Erik van Lieshout’s surely strange, elaborate show at Annet Gelink Gallery, a multimedia installation begins with a reflection on the cultural politics of the animal, incorporating a new film produced during the Dutch artist’s four-month stay at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale – arriving last year to an empty space armed only with a video camera. Here, the gallery is reworked to take on the appearance of the biennale building as it became at the end of Van Lieshout’s residency, while the exhibition’s title references the animal’s sacral significance in India as well as playing on the acronym ‘Greatest of all Time’ and the notion of ‘scapegoat’: the artist caught between biennale politics and the dictates of state authorities. Van Lieshout is an artist concerned with the politics of value, whether familial or religious, and his blurring of documentary and staged action also extends to the chaotic viewing environments he is so fond of building around his screenings – these witty, manic constructions, often formed out of ramshackle old carpet and labyrinthine, taped-up walls create spaces of purposeful discomfort for visitors.


Evelyn Taocheng Wang

Evelyn Taocheng Wang, sketch (design 1), 2017, ink and watercolour on paper. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Fons Welters, Amsterdam; photograph: G.J. van Rooij

Evelyn Taocheng Wang, ‘Four Season of Women Tragedy’
Galerie Fons Welters
24 November 2017 – 6 January 2018

Chinese artist Evelyn Taocheng Wang’s show at Galerie Fons Welters pulls in new drawings, paintings, and sculpture into an argument that probes the roles of identity creation and fashion. ‘Four Season of Women Tragedy’ starts with the artist’s own wardrobe, particularly the clothes of the French label Agnès B. Here, Taocheng Wang builds on the idolization of European sophistication and luxury from a female Asian perspective. Clothes hanging on wooden frames made by the artist feed into a set of photographs, and ink and rice paper collages. Her previous works also emerged from a deep interest in what constitutes Europeaness and the politics of the body, while always rooted in an autobiographical register – as Amy Sherlock earlier described in frieze, the notion that ‘the body is culturally relative – that what it signifies shifts according to time and place.’


Carlos Motta, Zizi from The Crossing, 2017, video still. Courtesy: the artist; Instituto de Visión, Bogotá, Mor Charpentier Galerie, Paris; Galeria Filomena Soares, Lisbon, and P.P.O.W Gallery, New York

Carlos Motta, Zizi from The Crossing, 2017, video still. Courtesy: the artist; Instituto de Visión, Bogotá, Mor Charpentier Galerie, Paris; Galeria Filomena Soares, Lisbon, and P.P.O.W Gallery, New York

Carlos Motta, ‘The Crossing’
Stedelijk Museum
16 September 2017 – 21 January 2018

The New York-based, Colombian artist’s installation at the Stedelijk constitutes a poignant pause for reflection on histories of colonialism and exodus, at a time when a resurgent European neo-fascism exercises ever-greater threats against ideas of hospitality. It consists of a set of intimate video portraits of LGBTQI refugees, talking about the journeys that have taken them from their homelands – Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Morocco and Pakistan – to the Netherlands, and the abuse they have faced while seeking asylum: these stories of dangerous crossings, and the particular violence of refugee policies and gender politics are relayed direct to camera. Motta worked with the campaigning organization Secret Gardens which supports the lives of LGBTQI refugees, recording his interviews earlier this year. Meanwhile, cutting through these accounts, ‘The Crossing’ also interrupts the space with historic objects from the collections of the Rijksmuseum, Tropenmuseum, and Amsterdam Museum. These are laid out in glass cabinets: photos and ceramics which record the various arrivals to the Netherlands across a longer historical span. Motta’s visual essays, steeped in queer histories, work to ‘create counter narratives that recognize suppressed histories, communities and identities’ – a much-needed reconsideration of what documentary can be, when mainstream representation and debate around LGBTQI lives remain so impoverished.


Hiwa K

Hiwa K, Diagonal, 2009, film still. Courtesy: the artist and De Appel, Amsterdam

Hiwa K, ‘To remember, sometimes you need different archaeological tools’
De Appel
7 October – 16 December 2017

At De Appel, Hiwa K turns new collaborative works and recent projects over to the task of unpacking the nature of violence. The work of the Kurdish Iraqi conceptual artist, now based in Berlin, is distinguished by a deep interest in oral histories, framing western conceptions of the Middle East, and an intense symbolism. Hiwa K places a fictive character, K – a recent arrival to the Netherlands who is set upon violently one winter night and left for dead – at the heart of this exhibition. In Pin-down (2017), Hiwa K challenges philosopher and taxi driver Bakir Ali to a philosophical and physical wrestling session, while in Misunderstanding (2017) the artist attempts to track down K’s assailants.


Oscar Santillan

Oscar Santillan, press image from ‘Asterism’, 2017. Courtesy: the artist and Martin van Zomeren, Amsterdam

Oscar Santillan, ‘Asterism’
Martin van Zomeren
24 November 2017 – 13 January 2018

The many paths between real and imagined landscapes fill the work of Ecuador-born Oscar Santillan, who now splits his time between the Netherlands and the country of his birth. At Martin van Zomeren, the artist looks beyond the binary restrictions of Western philosophy, and the blurring of fact and fiction – these concerns return repeatedly across the artist’s previous works: a case in point being his 2015 installation Afterword which connected up the life of Friedrich Nietzsche and his malfunctioning typewriter through pencil drawings and compilations of corrections and errors, while more recently Solaris (noon) (2017) reverses the idea that a landscape is something to be gazed at – taking off from Stanislaw Lem’s ‘self-conscious sea’ and astronomical observations made in the Atacama desert, the landscape is flipped into a self-aware subject with a capacity for reflection.



Ibrahim El-Salah, By His Will, We Teach Birds How to Fly No. 13, 1969, pen ink and wash on paper, 38 x 56 cm. Courtesy: Prince Claus Fund Gallery, Amsterdam

‘Three Crossings: El-Salahi, Hammons, Brouwn’
Prince Claus Fund Gallery, De Waalse Kerk, EENWERK
22 November 2017 – 2 March 2018; – 6 January 2018; – 18 February 2018

‘Three Crossings’ is an opportunity to encounter the work of three pioneering artists – Ibrahim El-Salahi, David Hammons and Stanley Brouwn – in various locations across the city. El-Salahi, the Sudanese artist now based in Oxford, UK, renowned as ‘the father of African Modernism’ – a key member of the 1960s Khartoum School in which calligraphic motion and Arabic language was broken down to give birth to new forms – is here showing black-and-white ink and paper works: the idea of the show is to delve into the genre of the ‘artist’s book’, picking up complexities of language and hybridity along the way. And so we will also see the reclusive Hammons’s Holy Bible: Old Testament (2002) in which a 1997 copy of The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp by Arturo Schwartz is rebound as holy text. And then there’s Brouwn’s 1960 series ‘This Way Brouwn’ in which the artist approached passersby to draw directions; the elusive conceptual artist sadly passed away earlier this year and the city which he moved to in 1957 has a special resonance here (in 1960, Brouwn famously declared all of Amsterdam’s shoe shops to be one of his artworks). Three remarkable artists tied together by diasporic identities and articulating alternative paths away from the voraciousness of the market.


Grace Schwindt, Homecoming in the other world, 2016, mixed media. Photograph: Enrique Tourino Marcen

Grace Schwindt, Homecoming in the other world, 2016, mixed media. Photograph: Enrique Tourino Marcen

Other events not to miss this week:

• There’s a once-a-year chance with the RijsakademieOPEN this weekend to enter the studios of artists from the Rijsakademie van beeldende kunsten residency programme, who will present the results of their year’s work: resident artists this year include Monira Al Qadiri and Xinyi Cheng.

• At EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam Art Weekend will be devoted to a series of screenings and exhibitions, including a focus on filmmakers Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Cao Guimarães and a performance-lecture by artist Rabih Mroué on Friday 24 November at 9pm. Mroué has been a seminal figure for Lebanon’s art scene, and here he deploys modes of fiction and analysis to respond to real-world politics, beginning with his own country’s history.

• I caught Grace Schwindt’s intimate ‘Tiffany Vase’ show at London’s Gallery Lejeune last week, in which a small backroom is crammed with delicate porcelains in a state of curious collapse, after the half-memory of a family heirloom. Be sure to make the artist’s talk at Rozenstraat – a rose is a rose is a rose – at 3pm on Saturday 25 November. A discussion about the relationship between sculpture and performance will be followed by a screening of Schwindt’s excellent film Only a Free Individual Can Create a Free Society (2014).

Amsterdam Art Weekend runs from  23 – 26 November 2017.

Visit On View for more current and soon-to-open shows in Amsterdam.

Main image: Otto Berchem, Ich Will Gute Arbeit Leisten - Aber Kein Gewehr Tragen (detail) (I Want to Make Good Work - But Not Wear a Gun), 2017, gouache and pencil on Hahnemuhle cotton, 30 x 39 cm. Courtesy: Ellen de Bruijne Projects, Amsterdam

En Liang Khong is assistant digital editor at frieze. His writing on politics and art has been published in Prospect, Financial Times, Times Literary Supplement, Los Angeles Review of Books, The New Statesman, The Daily Telegraph and The New Inquiry. Follow him on Twitter: @en_khong

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