Va Artist-in-Residence

Paulien Oltheten

Based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Va Artist-in-Residence
March/May 2018

Va Lecture
“Talk with Paulien Oltheten”
Friday, May 4, 2018, 18:00
Aknoon Gallery, Isfahan, Iran

My primary workplace is public space, humankind and behavior are my subjects. Using photography and video I accentuate particular (often repetitive) patterns and acts, frequently annotating them with drawings, text or spoken comments.
My prompt for taking a picture is typically a physical observation: how people stand, hang around, stagger, lean, slouch, push and pull in the world around them. Body language or the distance between people can reveal much about what it’s like to be human.

Capturing those moments for many years has led to a still expanding archive of images. By constantly making new connections between old and new findings, across different cultures, I suggest that universal truths can be detected in human behavior over time.

At first glance my photographs may look like snapshots, ‘decisive’ moments. But I am an active and guiding factor, deliberately walking the tightrope between the real and the staged. Across various presentation formats I now shape my works in such a way that there is always a twist, a moment of confusion when people begin to question whether they are watching ‘reality’. I like to confront viewers with this ambiguity and play with the expectations of photographic truth. I enjoy the possibility of creating a world that diffuses this border.


Paulien Oltheten studied at the Rijksakademie, Amsterdam, and in 2013 she was a resident artist at ISCP, New York. In 2017 she is working at Cite des Arts in Paris.

Performances include: Jeu de Paume, Paris (2017), De Buren, Brussels (2016); Fondatione Ratti, Como (2015); KW, Berlin (2015); NCCA Moscow (2015); Helmhaus Zurich (2015); IDFA Documentary film festival Amsterdam (2014); Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (2014); Vera List Centre New York (2013); De Brakkegrond Amsterdam (2011); SMBA Amsterdam (2007)

Exhibitions include: Where do we go from here, Annet Gelink/Ellen de Bruijne gallery, Amsterdam (2017); The measure of our travelling feet, Marres (2016); Paulien Oltheten & Anouk Kruithof, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (2014); Off Walking, MoCP Chicago (2013); Desire Lines, ACCA Melbourne (2013); It’s my imagination you know, gallery Fons Welters Amsterdam (2012); Walk on a line…, Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam (2011); Kitbag questions, Dvir Gallery Tel Aviv (2011); de Volkskrant Beeldende Kunst Prijs, Stedelijk Museum Schiedam (2010); Portscapes, Boijmans van Beuningen Rotterdam (2010); Off the Record, Proposal for Municipal Art Acquisitions, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (2009).