The Thief

Installation, dimensions variable, 2019

“The Thief” is an installation in which sculptures that are portraits of friends and local celebreties, function as actors in a story. In this case the story is taken from the newspaper:

On November 22nd, 2016, a 68-year-old woman steals a wallet at a store in Oldenzaal, the Netherlands. While paying for her purchases she takes the wallet that an elderly woman has left at the checkout counter just before her. It appears to be a deliberate theft.

The theft was recorded by a security camera in the store. The police cannot solve the case and in January 2017, the Public Prosecution Service decided to have the security footage aired on the TV crime show Onder de Loep (under the lens) of the local station RTV-Oost, hoping for tips from viewers. Shortly after this broadcast the images also appear on the web site, a spin-off of the controversial web site GeenStijl that is mainly used to publish videos. Both are owned by Telegraaf Media Groep.

On the video gets hundreds of thousands of views, inviting many –generally vicious – comments. The woman’s address soon becomes publicly known and she receives threats at home as well.

On the day of the broadcast the woman calls the police to turn herself in. She commits suicide a day later.

In a statement the Prosecution Service laments the situation, but it does not consider itself accountable for ‘what happens on the internet’. A later response states that the Prosecution Service ‘has had a wake-up call with regard to privacy’ but does not intend to change its current policy regarding the recognizable showing of suspects. After questions from the NOS (Netherlands Broadcasting Service) a response appears on GeenStijl in its characteristically ironic style, more or less stating there is no proven correlation between the broadcasting of the images and the suicide. The relatives of the deceased do not want any contact with the media.

Exhibition overview from Marres, Maastricht. Photos: Gert Jan van Rooij.

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