May Your Wish Come True was an exhibition organized by Adriana González Hulshof and Madelon van Schie. The show presented works by Lidwien van de Ven, Newsha Tavakolian, Antonio Vega Macotela and Tatiana Mesa Paján and addressed human desires seen from different angles. The exhibition took place in a raw, spectacular anti-squat building.
Lidwien van de Ven’s work (The Netherlands, 1963) reveals a strong interest in politics, religion and the power of journalism. During her travels through Europe, the Middle East and Asia the artist captures scenes that refer to the Muslim faith, the conflict between Israel and Palestine or to Geert Wilders’ first lecture about his political, anti-Islamic ideology in Berlin. The subjects of her work thus are strongly related to actualities, to the news. But the way Van de Ven chooses to represent these images is not only documentary. A poetic element is present as well. For May Your Wish Come True two photographs, both printed on newspaper, were presented.
In Ummayad Mosque, Damascus we see a young girl lying on the floor playing. The second principal figure is that of a pensive, somewhat worried looking elder woman. The snapshot-like picture accentuates the randomness and ‘everyday character’ of the situation, yet it makes us wonder. What do we see? Or, what can we actually see? This way Van de Ven points us at what gets lost between reality and image, she makes us aware of the invisible. Or, as she once stated “some aspects just don’t let themselves being photographed”.
Jakarta 19/12/10 shows a scene in the Istiqal Mosque in Jakarta, the biggest mosque in South East Asia. We see women praying, chatting and remodeling their hair before they continue their day. Despite the distance between the artist and the women one could distinguish intimate stories of each of the women. It is this thin line between reality and imagination together with the friction between the seen and the unseen – both typical with respect to the photographic medium – in what Van de Ven is interested. Lidwien van de Ven’s photos and films tend to have a photojournalistic character as she predominantly focuses on locations that are favored by journalists. The titles of her work that often refer to specific dates and places only strengthen this association. However, the rather introvert images of Van de Ven are not the ones you would easily find in the newspaper. In order to evoke, or to give room to, the imaginative aspect of photography she always tries to get beyond the standard, self-explanatory image that we know from the news.
Newsha Tavakolian (Iran, 1981) showed her work for the first time in the Netherlands. Tavakolian deals with universal themes that take place in the Middle East. One of her artistic goals is the elimination of stereotypes by approaching and illuminating them from a different perspective. At the same time, her oeuvre focuses on existing taboos.
Women and their (lack of) rights after the Iranian revolution play a major role in her work. Her photos are at the boundary between documentary and art photography. In May Your Wish Come True Tavakolian represented her unaccomplished infant dream of being a soloist singer. In Listen (2010) Tavakolian creates a link between social and political consciousness and her own childhood. The silent video work is referring to the fact that the voices of women were heard only before de Iranian revolution – that took place in 1979. Ever since, women are prohibited to sing solo; they may only act as background vocalists. In Listen six women soloists were invited into Tavakolian’s studio. They diligently sing their favorite songs while they imagine to be performing for a large audience. Their facial expression shows the emotion, but the sound is missing in the video. For this video Tavakolian made cd covers referring to possible debut albums of these women. When you open the cd sleeves however, the albums appear to be empty.
Antonio Vega Macotela (Mexico, 1980) worked for several years with the inmates at the Santa Martha Actitla prison in Mexico City. He engaged with them to get an understanding of their deepest desires concerning the world outside the prison walls. Macotela set-up a “time exchange project” with prisoners: In exchange for fulfilling the inmate’s wishes, a work of art was simultaneously produced for Vega Macotela. On a certain day, while Vega Macotela was having dinner with inmate Humberto’s family for example, Humberto captured his own heartbeat on paper. These time exchanges resulted in the series Time Divisa (2006 – 2010), which partly were on show during the exhibition. Also the work Murmurs (2011) was on show. A wall installation made by newspapers in which Vega Macotela used a secret language prisoners communicate with.
The oeuvre of Tatiana Mesa Paján (Cuba, 1981) deals with the timeless connections between memories, people and objects. She shapes this idea through performances, and by highlighting objects that are perceived by others as useless but at the same time represent an implicit – and sometimes very intimate – connection with the person in whose life the object formed part. Gabinete de Arqueología was born out of walks in the city. It shows a randomly chosen collection of found objects: slabs of old houses, wall paint and lost items. For Mesa Paján each walk has its own nature, from simply drifting up to the attempt to remake routes of the past, recalling her childhood and other moment of her personal history. To create a remembrance of her city Havanna, Mesa Paján decided to collect some objects that she encountered during her walks through the city. These objects were randomly chosen: tiles of ancient houses, flipped off paint from the walls, lost objects, and so forth. Although she initially only intended to make a memoir of her homeland, Gabinete de Arqueología became an important part of her oeuvre, on which she continues to work. Each of the slides, or pages as she calls them, is provided with the date of the walk and with an order number according to which they are placed in sequence. Thanks to the Jesús Villasante Collection, Belgium, it was possible to show this work in the Netherlands.
All photos are by Gert Jan van Rooij.