Sep 112019

The Spirit of the Gift

Video, 22 minutes, 2019

In 1999, the Dutch artist Jan Dibbets gave to the National Gallery of Albania a collection of artworks. The collection included works by world famous artists, such as Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Mike Kelley, Sol LeWitt, Daniel Buren, Damien Hirst, and Sarah Lucas. These works were transported from the Netherlands by road to Tirana, probably ‘hitchhiking’ with a convoy of the Red Cross.

In 2019, twenty years later, these works were on view in the exhibition “Beste Wishes for 1999”, curated by Arnisa Zeqo. Invited to take part in a performance program for this show, we drove from Amsterdam to Tirana, retracing the same journey the artworks made, and looked for a gift in every country we passed through. This ranges from opera glasses that Witte got from his mother in law, to a fountain given to a German prince, and blood being donated in Slovenia. The end of our journey was the exhibition, the collection being the final gift that we filmed.

As a response to our journey and resulting film Mees van Hulzen, philosopher at University of Leipzig who researches ‘Politics of the Gift’, wrote a short text that presents some philosophical and sociological questions in regard to giving: what is the difference between something which is received as a gift, and something which is bought? In what way does an object change when it is given? And in what ways can a gift change the one who receives it?

Apr 032019

Seven Adresses

Seven-channel video installation, 2019

On seven television screen we see recordings made in seven different houses. Predominantly, we see images of contemporary still-lifes: the remnants of a take away meal, or old toys stuffed away in the attic. These images each tell us something about the person that inhabits the house; a portrait of someone arises by looking at their possessions. Together, the seven screens also provide a view of our times, a perspective on how we live our daily lives. Sometimes the inhabitants also appear in the films when they re-enact a dream or a memory in front of the camera.

This work originated as a commission by BAK, Basis voor Aktuele Kunst, Utrecht, and Centraal Museum, on the occasion of the performance What is the City but the People? from an idea by artist Jeremy Deller.

Photos: Gert Jan van Rooij

Dec 262016

Looking Back

Two-channel video installation, 28 min,  2016

Looking Back is a two-channel video installation that takes observation as its subject. One screen, a large 4:3 projection, shows portraits of people in a pubic space, who are filmed without being aware of the camera. It is clear that they are looking at something, but we don’t see what they are looking at. By removing the object of the gaze, the video tries to capture the act of looking itself. The selection of the people we see is wide, we see faces of people from all ages, different backgrounds and from many walks of life. All these faces are constituted by the same elements: two eyes, a nose, a mouth. But although every face shares this basic framework, there are few things as different as two faces.

The second screen, a television mounted on the wall, shows the origin of the soundtrack that dominates the installation: the hands of a percussionist playing timpani. The music is recorded in one take, and adds a layer of performativity to the installation that is reminiscent of the way silent movies used to be accompanied by a musician. The music gives a direction to the interpretation of the film, but is also clearly a separate element, and in the end the relationship between the soundtrack and the film remains ambiguous. At times, the blink of an eye coincides with a  hit on a drum. Or the slow change of direction of a pair of eyes follows a drum roll evoking a feeling of anticipation. But at other moments, the music seems to follow its own course and logic independently from the film. 

Looking Back has its roots in the performance How can we know the dancer from the dance? which took place for six months in the train station of Utrecht in 2016. This performance was a daily choreography in the train station, based on the behaviour, postures and gestures that people exhibit in such places. So for this performative work, the artists observed people, created a work based on these observations, the people observed the work, and at the same time observed themselves. It is this specific gaze, this moment of stillness and concentration in the constant flux of a public transport hub that triggered the creation of Looking Back.

Camera: Ton Peters
Music: Paul Koek
Sound recording and mix: Tom Nestelaar
Color Grading: Michiel Rummens, Amator


Feb 202015



Phi and Laurine, HD-video, 38 minutes, 2015 installation overview at Projections Art Rotterdam

Phi and Laurine

HD-video, 38 minutes, 2015

The video Phi and Laurine is a portrait of the actors and lovers Phi Nguyen and Laurine Booij. Both are brought into the limelight by the camera from different perspectives and in different roles. The film itself can be seen as an attempt to dissect the protagonists in a figurative sense, as it were, looking for the answer to the question: who are Phi and Laurine? But the film also refers literally to the tradition of the “Anatomy Lesson” in the visual arts: the bodies of Phi and Laurine have been turned inside out, as it were, with imaging techniques – which are used more frequently in the medical world.

Breure & Van Hulzen filmed ‘close up’, the camera follows the actors and the gaze of the viewer penetrates not only the daily life, but even the body of the actors. From staccato transitions to the blending of time; from VHS to High Definition and vice versa: the film is a collage of rapidly alternating images in which the present is mixed associatively with images of the past and with the medical recordings. As the camera zooms in, the line between the inner and outer world gets blurred and in this way a new reality is being created in the portrait of Phi and Laurine.

text: Pietje Tegenbosch

Actors: Laurine Booij, Phi Nguyen

Sound: Thomas Bensdorp
Color correction: Michiel Rummens
Subtitles: Basia Dajnowicz

With special thanks to:

Hans en Marina Booij
Mark Colijn
Ine te Rietstap
De Veenfabriek
Wim T. Schippers
Andrea van Beek

Martin van Vreden
Pietje Tegenbosch

Kleitia Zeqo
Joppe van Hulzen
Deborah Mostache

Mar 242013

The Shores of an Island I Only Skirted

Two-channel video installation, 14 min,  2012

The Shores of an Island I Only Skirted employs a single screen, on each side of which a different video is projected. The video that one saw on first entering the space was shot on Utøya. Fourteen minutes long, it is devoid of any human activity. The camera calmly records the island’s natural environment: the rustling of leaves, the waving of grass, the splashing of small waves onto a stony beach. Only in a few shots showing the whole island from a distance, shrouded in a thick fog, might one recognize it as the place of unprecedented tragedy, a place infected by its past, a “guilty landscape,” to borrow a phrase from the Dutch artist Armando. On the other side of the screen, the imagery is fragmented and the resolution low. Most shots are brief, restless, enigmatic; they seem to have been taken from boats or with an underwater camera. All were found on the Internet. They were shot at different times and places, yet there is a common theme: immigration. The video montage, fourteen minutes long as well, includes, for example, some black-and-white footage of what seems to be an arrival at Ellis Island; an image of refugees hiding in the false ceiling of a cargo space; and – most poignant of all – fragments of a video in which a small boat packed with desperate Africans reaches the shore of a light-splashed beach crowded with European sunbathers.

While the theme of immigrations form an obvious link between the two sets of images – the murderer on Utøya was motivated by his hatred of immigrants – the sound track also plays an essential connecting role. Composed of both self-recorded sounds and found material including quotes from, among others, G. W. Pabst’s 1933 film Don Quixote and a lecture by philosopher Herbert Marcuse, all seemingly selected as randomly as the images pulled from the Internet, the audio does not obviously relate to the images. Yet its simultaneous presence in both videos creates ironic and poignant combinations: For instance, Quixote’s naive companion Sancho Panza wishes for an island “with plenty of good wine” and “plenty of water around it, to keep out the soldiers and thieves alike” just as one sees Utøya in the fog; joyful drums accompany view of both the clubhouse on Utøya and a boatful of immigrants floating on a vast, open sea. This ambiguous interaction between sound and image underlines the dichotomy in our view of the island: It was once a kind of utopia, a place of refuge; after the massacre, it is regarded as a place of horror. Perhaps something similar can be said of Europe itself.

– Saskia van der Kroef, Artforum February 2013


Recorded on Utøya, Norway

Exhibited during a solo exhibition at gallery tegenboschvanvreden Amsterdam and Twente Biennial, Enschede. Shown at the International Filmfestival Rotterdam 2013 and New Horizons Film Festival, Wroclaw, among others.

Jan 252012

Ebedi Dönüş (Eternal Return)

Single-channel video, 34 min, 2010

Coming home a weary Turkish soldier is embraced by his sisters and mother; the scene is accompanied by seventeenth century baroque music. A widow contacts her deceased husband through a television medium. Two lovers violently lash out at each other, parting melodramatically moments after. These are some moments from the movie Ebedi Dönüş (Eternal Return) by Sander Breure & Witte van Hulzen.

Ebedi Dönüş is written and recorded during a residency at Platform Garanti, Istanbul and originated from a research into soap operas on Turkish television. One of the ideas that came about during the research is that soap operas are in fact infinite stories; and endless variation of dramatic moments, without driving at a definitive plot or ending. The three interwoven story lines of Ebedi Dönüş are circular; their beginning and ending are the same. Thus another, closed-circuit kind of infinity is suggested that coincides with the loop in which the video is shown during exhibitions. As a consequence of the circular form the characters are imprisoned in the story, involuntarily repeating the same script over and over.

Fragments of poetry from a poet who spent a large part of his life in prison – Nâzım Hikmet – are interspersed with the script. One of Hikmet’s most famous works is Human Landscapes, in which he strings together the life stories of fellow prisoners in an epic poem. Despite the obvious differences, Hikmet shares with soap operas an commitment to the feelings, dreams and desires that make up the lives of common men. Thus in the movie  Ebedi Dönüş we find high and low-brow culture, art from the past and the present, and elements from Turkish and Dutch culture.

The parts in the movie are played by actor who also play in the soap operas on television. The actors are displaced from their usual context into a barren decor. The decor, referencing minimalism with its square volumes in different grey hues, can also be seen as the abstraction of a regular soap decor. The alienating effect of the displacement bring the movie even closer to theatre – as opposed to cinema – than would already be the case with the primarily dialogue driven plot. Because of this theatrical aspect the movie could just as well be seen as an addition to the artists’ performances as to their videos.

Recorded in Istanbul, Turkey

Selected for the Rotterdam Filmfestival 2010

Made possible with generous support of the Mondrian Fund.

Jan 272012

installation overview

you’ll never walk alone, installation overview

installation overview

you’ll never walk alone, installation overview

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Three-channel videoinstallation, 13 min, 2009

You’ll Never Walk Alone was premiered during the exhibition “The Choice of Jan Fabre”, Gallery Indian Caps, Antwerp. The installation has won the TENT Academy Award ’09, and also the René Coelho Price 2009 (NIMK).

Witte van Hulzen & Sander Breure stayed for three months in Uganda while working on and recording You’ll Never Walk Alone. It is an abstract, poetic narration of young men’s lives in Uganda. None of the people in the movie have any experience as actors.

We see young African men in various scenes that – even when one has never been to Africa – because of the knowledge acquired through media, don’t seem particularly unusual. A lonely cowboy character walking through a shopping mall in Kampala, or some shotgun-armed security guards standing in an empty nightclub don’t appear very strange at first sight. But through the introduction of alienating actions and objects that somehow don’t fit in the context, a feeling of cultural  estrangement is provoked.

This awareness is fomented once it is noticed no actor ever speaks in the movie, although it might take awhile before the absence of language is noticed when watching the impressive visual and sonic compositions. At the end of the story it is not so clear anymore where the story has taken place.

Witte van Hulzen & Sander Breure have worked together for over three years on the production of primarily video work & performances. Remarkable is the way they are able to give each other, and the other people they work with, an equal amount of space. Their attention to this social aspect of their art is also present in the content of their work. In the case of You’ll Never Walk Alone this is seen in the sensitivity with which they treat the complex subject of cultural identity & representation.

text: Andree v/d Kerckhove, for the exhibition Today it’s me, in the Museum of Modern Art Arnhem, 2009

May 022012

Mr. H. M. van der Zandt

Single-channel video, no sound, 2’38”, 2008

Members of the Dutch village band “Drum- en showfanfare Mr. H. M. van der Zandt” are filmed during one of their rehearsals.