Rear Window 2008

The installation Rear Window was part of the exhibition “Becoming Dutch” at the Van Abbemuseum Eindhoven.

Background
Since I immigrated to Amsterdam in 1998, I’ve been curious about local daily life. I developed a fascination with the 'open curtains' phenomenon, where one can easily observe the private interior of people’s homes from street level. For me, this served as an example for the open-mindedness of the locals. However, this we-have-nothing-to-hide attitude proved to be restricted and limited to what I could actually see when focusing on the displayed interiors. Sometimes I glimpsed small 'idyllic' scenes, that reminded me of music-boxes: sweet, perfectly orchestrated, and mechanical.
I had difficulty accepting that peering into apartments and viewing private rooms was part of the norm. For me, this particular relationship between the private and public spheres distinguished Amsterdam from any other European city.
At some point, I started using a telephoto-lens to peep into some Amsterdam rooms and photograph the scenes I find. On these occasions, I didn’t stand in the street but rather ask acquaintances‘ permission to use their windows to look into their neighbor's apartments. The result is Rear Window photographs, (titled after Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 film), which I printed as silkscreen images on news print paper.

The Installation
A large number of Rear Window photographs in various sizes were spread around the dark space, waiting to be spotted, realized, and contemplated by the drifting visitor. Upon entering, visitors received a small flashlight with which they could discover the installation. Discovering more and more images, turned the initial uneasiness caused by the dark into a playful experience in which visitors became active participants.
Using a silk-screen printing technique, generated a particular aesthetic that created a layer of unresolved tension throughout the viewing experience. An image that seemed sharp from a distance became obscure on a closer look. In the accumulative process of encountering new photographs and realizing their collective nature as 'rear window peeping photographs,' the participants were confronted with the reflexive notion of voyeurism and its relation to the other.
Our capacity to look and to see ourselves through the eyes of others is at the core of our psychological formation. Social sanctions against staring or being nosy reflect deeply rooted cultural taboos that forbid looking too closely. An exception is made when, within the safety of a darkened auditorium and in the company of others, our urge to peep may be indulged and we may temporarily escape and forget who we are as we become involved in searching images in the space.