Cinema Olanda

57th International Art Exhibition

La Biennale di Venezia 2017

Cinema Olanda

Parallel Exhibition and Events

The Netherlands, 2017


Cinema Olanda was a collaborative project by artist Wendelien van Oldenborgh and curator Lucy Cotter for the Dutch Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale 2017, which embraced the occasion of national representation as an opportunity to re ect on the Netherlands’ (inter)national image vis-à-vis the current rapid transformations in Dutch society. The project consisted of a solo exhibition by Van Oldenborgh in Venice, as well as a parallel group exhibition and dedicated series of events taking place at several venues in the Netherlands.

The Venice exhibition presented Van Oldenborgh’s filmic engagement with (actively) forgotten aspects of modern Dutch history in a site-specific installation, sharing current transformations in Dutch society with an international audience. Taking its conceptual starting point from Gerrit Rietveld’s pavilion as a Modernist projection of The Netherlands, the exhibition reconsidered what lies beyond its aesthetic and ideological frame, both at the time of its design in 1953 and in the present.

Designed during the Postwar Reconstruction, when architecture was key to forging a new national image, the pavilion projects a progressive image of openness and transparency. On entering the pavilion, the exhibition viewer was confronted by a site-specific architectural installation, which both housed and aesthetically resounded with Van Oldenborgh’s three new ‘films’. These works revealed an alternative narrative to the Netherlands’ self-image as a tolerant nation, namely its reality in the present day as a complex and rapidly transforming social, cultural and political space. 

Conceived in response to a national call for proposals issued by the Dutch commissioning body, the Mondriaan Fund, Cotter's curatorial departure point was to engage with Gerrit Rietveld’s Dutch Pavilion as a national representation in its own right. She proposed to Van Oldenborgh that she create a major new work engaging with the architectural and social vision inherent in the pavilion and its resonance in Dutch society today. Van Oldenborgh uses film as a medium and form of social production, and her oeuvre revolves around bringing contemporary situations and under-examined events from recent history together in unexpected constellations. The final exhibition featured three filmic works: a major specially conceived film entitled Cinema Olanda (2017), a new two-part film entitled Prologue: Squat Anti-Squat (2016) that provides a conceptual prologue to the main film, and a series of experimental lenticular prints, that take their imagery from the title work. Prologue: Squat-Anti-Squat (2016, 2 x 17´), a two-part film, engages with architect Aldo van Eyck’s recently squatted Tripolis building in Amsterdam and a 1970’s Dutch-Caribbean squatting action, evoking transforming conceptions of solidarity. Cinema Olanda (2017, 15´), a major new film conceived for the biennale, seeks out alternative voices behind Dutch postwar society. Shot in one uncut take in urban planner Lotte Stam-Beese’s acclaimed Pendrecht district in Rotterdam, it attempts to connect contemporary and past events, and individuals like revolutionary intellectual Otto Huiswoud, through a momentary filmic reality. Footnotes to Cinema Olanda #1 and #3 (2017), large-scale lenticular images of the film’s production, offer a condensed filmic experience, activating the viewer’s body in space. 

Van Oldenborgh creates her work through live (public) film shoots, set in ideologically charged architectural location, in which script is generated collectively by polyphonic conversations between individuals with a personal or professional relationship to the work’s lines of enquiry. Working in a range of cultural contexts, her films aim at a critical understanding and potential transformation of conditions for cultural production at this present moment. 

The exhibition in Venice was accompanied by a live event in the pavilion on 23 June 2017 with contributions by invited guests, interdisciplinary author Avery Gordon, art theorist Sarat Maharaj and anthropologist Gloria Wekker). Documentation of the event can be viewed here.

Exhibition dates: 13 May–26 November 2017

Location: Giardini, Venice, Italy

See also: 



Cinema Olanda was commissioned by the Mondriaan Fund, a publicly financed foundation for visual arts and cultural heritage. The project was additionally partnered by Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA), University of Amsterdam, Akademie van Kunsten/Society of Arts, Wilfried Lentz, Rotterdam, Nuova Icona, Venice and the City of Rotterdam. 

The Dutch Pavilion exhibition formed part of Van Oldenborgh and Cotter’s wider Cinema Olanda collaborative project, conceived for the Venice Biennale, that sought to contribute towards the development of a new national self-image by bringing art, film and architecture in dynamic relationship with questions of social imaginaries and agency. An extensive parallel program in the Netherlands that shared the exhibition’s questions with a national audience took place at Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, EYE Film Museum, Amsterdam and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. 

Its largest manifestation was Cinema Olanda: Platform (17 June-20 August 2017) at Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam – in which groups and individuals who had informed and inspired Cinema Olanda were invited to guest-curate a series of public events and to use the institution as a further site of production for their existing projects, which were presented alongside film installations by Van Oldenborgh in an adaptable exhibition scenography. The program included the live production of two new editions of artist/poet Quinsy Gario’s talk show ‘Roet in Het Eten’, film screenings, readings and talks curated by the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (Patricia Pisters, Esther Peeren), an in-situ archive-making endeavor for The Black Archives by New Urban Collective (Mitchell Esajas, Jessica de Abreu), decolonial workshops and a performance by Grada Kilomba curated by First Things First (Katayoun Arian, Max de Ploeg, Louise Autar) and a performance by artist and writer Charl Landvreugd. Documentation of all events of the six week live program is available on youtube here.

The exhibition featured four film installations by Van Oldenborgh: The Basis for a Song (2005), Maurits Script (2006), Instruction (2009), and Supposing I love you. And you also love me (2011), which collectively expanded the dialogue opened up in the Venice exhibition to engage with Dutch colonial enterprises in Brazil and Indonesia as well as addressing squatting history in Rotterdam. Cinema Olanda Platform was conceived and co-organized by Wendelien van Oldenborgh and Lucy Cotter, together with Witte de With Director Defne Ayas, and curator Natasha Hoare, as well as the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis. 

The wider Cinema Olanda parallel program included a further one-day event at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (30 June 2017) with a lecture by Lucy Cotter on Cinema Olanda, art and social imaginaries and a screening of Van Oldenborgh's Sound Track Stage (2006-2008), followed by an informal artist’s talk with photographer Ari Versluis and curator/writer David Dibosa. Documentation of these events will be available here soon.

An additional event with film screening and artist's talk took place at the EYE Film Museum, Amsterdam (13 June 2017).


Two publications coincided with the opening of Cinema Olanda at the Venice Biennale. The official exhibition catalogue, Cinema Olanda: Wendelien van Oldenborgh, edited by Lucy Cotter and published by Hatje Cantz /Mondriaan Fund is a portfolio of images of the filmic works and exhibition accompanied by a series of commissioned essays by leading writers in the fields ofart, film, architecture, social anthropology and critical race studies. Contributors: Beatriz Colomina, E.C. Feiss, Gloria Wekker, Egbert Alejandro Martina, Denise Ferreira da Silva, Wayne Modest, Sven Lutticken, Emily Pethick. Foreward by Birgit Donker. Designed by Colophon/David Bennewith.

A press preview of the catalogue is available here 

A special supplement of the Dutch news magazine De Groene Amsterdammer on Cinema Olanda coincided with the exhibition opening, in keeping with the artist's and curator's wish to extend the exhibition’s underlying questions to a wider Dutch public.