This video installation is situated in the Netherlands of the 17th century and connects two different subjects: domestic violence nowadays and the development of the middle-class in this “Golden Age.”
For this project, Mathilde ter Heijne starts out from copper engravings by the now largely forgotten female Dutch artist Geertruyd Roghman (1602–1657) and paintings by her contemporary Jan Vermeer (1632–1675). Both artists show women practicing handicrafts in their works, but still present two contrasting realities of life: Roghman shows women who are compelled to work for their living, while in Vermeer’s work the women devote themselves to craftwork as a typical feminine “leisure activity.” It’s very likely that the paintings by Vermeer show an invented or idealized reality.
Reconstructions of the interior of the house of Vermeer are available online and were used by the craftsman Daah Hensens to make a small-scale model of two of its rooms. In those two rooms (the studio and the kitchen) the video is shot. The video material is accompanied by dialogues of improvised interactive theater: A form of theater based on the “Theater of the Oppressed,” developed by Augusto Boal in the 1950s and 60s, implying that the disadvantaged would be able to change their situation by rehearsing on stage.
The Republic of the United Netherlands has always been considered as the bastion of the bourgeoisie. In no other European country in the 17th century did merchants and regents from bourgeois backgrounds acquire so much wealth, political and social status. Excluded from gaining wealth or status in this time were women, who had a weak social position and were not considered full persons. Men were responsible for the women, women were dependent on them, and the law allowed men to “correct” women violently. The 17th century Netherlands certainly was not “the golden age” for women. On the contrary, it was the beginning of a new severely patriarchal society in which we still live today.
This project has been shown at
Any Day Now, Kunsthalle Nürnberg, 2010
Fuck Patriarchy!, Viafarini, Milano, 2004
Kunstverein, Hannover, 2004