Part of the

In the Presence of Absence proposals for the museum collection

5 Sep 2020 until 31 Jan 2021

Artist Page — 2 Sep 2020

In the Presence of Absence, the bi-annual show of proposals for the museum collection, presents 23 artists (collectives). This artist page includes a text on the work and an artist contribution.

Sightless Seeing #4: Acquisitions (2020) invites the visiting public to experience the artworks and the museum itself through sensory rituals. This performance takes the form of an alternative guided tour of the exhibition In the Presence of Absence, and involves Sarah van Lamsweerde working together with performer and heritage expert Alicia Hoost and actor Leroy de Böck, who are both visually impaired. In Sightless Seeing #4: Acquisitions they bring the surroundings to life through the power of language, the body, and the imagination. As in her previous projects, in Sightless Seeing #4: Acquisitions Van Lamsweerde gets her audience to experience what’s around them in new ways by expressly choosing to address senses other than sight. 

Van Lamsweerde also interrogates our perception of reality in Instant Fiction (2011-present), for which she places surveillance cameras at locations where people gather, such as cafes, festival bars, or hotel lobbies. The situation is placed in a new perspective when the video images appear on screens in the same space as where they are being recorded. Subtitles are added in real time to the live footage on the screen—“It must be hard to admit you need help,” for example—creating a new context in which unsuspecting passersby and visitors become characters in an instant fiction. In her work Van Lamsweerde arranges and choreographs reality, and how we think we understand it.

Illustration by Haitham Haddad after Sarah van Lamsweerde in collaboration with Alicia Hoost and Leroy de Böck’s “Sightless Seeing #4: Acquisitions,” 2020.
Illustration by Haitham Haddad after Sarah van Lamsweerde in collaboration with Alicia Hoost and Leroy de Böck’s “Sightless Seeing #4: Acquisitions,” 2020.

Sarah van Lamsweerde (b. 1971) gained her MA in artistic research and performance from DasArts in Amsterdam. Her work has been exhibited in Amsterdam at De Appel and P////AKT Platform for Contemporary Art, and STUK – House for Dance, Image & Sound in Leuven, Belgium. Van Lamsweerde is a member of the interdisciplinary peer groups Tre Tigri and BAU Platform for Dance and Performance in Amsterdam, IM Company in Paris, and Performing Objects (Enough Room for Space) in Brussels. Author, performer, and heritage expert Alicia Hoost (b. 1995) has written for various platforms on her experiences studying, dating, and going out as a person with a vision impairment. Hoost has also participated in various theater productions and performances. Actor Leroy de Böck (b. 1995) has performed in several productions by AchterdebergProducties and the youth theater company DEGASTEN. He is currently studying French. De Böck and Hoost have been working with Van Lamsweerde since 2016.

Video registration of the performance 'Sightless Seeing #4: Acquisitions', Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 2020, by Sarah van Lamsweerde, Alicia Hoost and Leroy de Böck. With audiodescription.
Sarah van Lamsweerde, “Sightless Seeing (inside A&A),” 2018, performance, FLAM Encounters / Arti et Amicitiae. Photo: Thomas Lenden
Sarah van Lamsweerde, “Sightless Seeing (inside A&A),” 2018, performance, FLAM Encounters / Arti et Amicitiae. Photo: Thomas Lenden

Artist Contribution

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To relieve your eyes of any stress or strain from what you might see here, I propose a little exercise. 

Take off your glasses.
Place one of your hands on one of your eyes. Does the heel of your palm fit into your eye socket?
Feel the weight of your head. Lean your head into your hand. Drop your head slowly forward.  Feel the weight of your eyeballs.

Slowly move your hand away from your face but imagine your eyeball is still attached to your hand … The tendons and nerves that connect it to the eye-socket are stretching, the eyeball is heavy in your hand. 

Okay, when you’re ready bring your hand back to your eye-socket, lift your head and drop your eyeball back into its place. Breathe in and out.


Now release the hand from your eye just enough to focus on the palm. Imagine an imprint of your eye on it. It’s as if your eye has been transferred to your hand.

Look at the copy of your eye on the palm. Move your hand away slowly, and turn the palm outwards – there’s no need to follow it anymore, you can just close your real eyes entirely. Let the new eye on the palm look at your screen, or around the room.

Then with that new eye try to catch sight of an object. Move your hand towards it, exploring it with the tips of your fingers. Now make full contact, relax your hand and dive into what you see, plunge into this object, travel through it.

When you’ve had a good look inside, release the object. Close your fist. 

What do you feel there? 


Drop your hand by your side. Open all your eyes slowly. Observe the difference between your old eyes and your new eye.

Perhaps this experience can serve you at a later stage.


Eye Exercise (fragment from performance)
Sightless Seeing #4: Acquisitions (2020)
Text: Sarah van Lamsweerde
Voice: Esther Mugambi

Costume design: Janneke Raaphorst
Hosts: Esther Mugambi and Stephanie Pan
Production assistant: Alina Ozerova