29 Oct 2015

Premiere of a new film installation by the Dutch artist Riet Wijnen 

Entrance fee to the Stedelijk Museum + €2.50
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Teijin Auditorium
29 Oct 2015, 7 pm until 8.30 pm
Main language
Eglish and Dutch

The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam is proud to present the new film installation Conversation Three: It Looks Like Nothing on Earth (2015) by Riet Wijnen. The installation is the first part of a new cycle of work, entitled Sixteen Conversations on Abstraction. The second part of the cycle, Conversation One: A Preface opens at Ellen de Bruijne PROJECTS on Saturday, October 31, 2015.


Sixteen Conversations on Abstraction consists of sixteen imaginary conversations, sixteen accompanying works, and one sculpture. The first installments will be presented in different locations starting from the autumn of 2015. The conversations and works form a conceptual space in which the term “abstraction” will be examined. Each time, a particular subject related to this concept is examined in conversations with specific people in imaginary settings. The sculpture serves as a diagram showing the connections between these different conversations.


Conversation Three: It Looks Like Nothing on Earth comprises a script and a film presented as a double projection. In it, the visible and invisible, the (im)possibility of perception, and the abstract representation of reality are central.

The script is a fictional interview with physicist Chen-Ning Yang. Yang and his companion, Tsung-Dao Lee, won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1957 for their research on the law of parity, which entailed an important discovery about elementary particles. Until 1956, physicists had assumed that all laws of physics were symmetrical (i.e., that the same forces applied to left and right particles). However, Yang and Lee discovered that physical processes which are governed by weak nuclear power differ from this mirror image—a quality that was given the name “parity violation.” The law of symmetry was proven to be invalid. The two physicists also came up with an explanation: the mirror world. In this universe, which exists in parallel to our own universe, the missing particle would be present. This mirror world, however, is a theoretical, invisible world—including planets, stars, and people—and is impossible to make contact with.

The imaginary interview with Chen-Ning Yang takes place in the setting of a museum gallery. Gerrit Rietveld’s Red and Blue Chair is exhibited there, a perfect example of the abstract art movement De Stijl. Remarkably, the Red and Blue Chair does not entirely meet the formal vocabulary of De Stijl, which was limited to the primary colors (red, yellow, and blue) and the three primary values (black, white, and gray), and avoided symmetry. In fact, the chair is symmetrical from all points of view, except for from the side. During the interview, it becomes clear that abstract art and physics are less far removed from each other than one might expect, which touches upon the violation of parity, where the mirror world and the Rietveld chair are entwined.

In the film questions and answers – in sound and image – from the imaginary interview alternate with a video recording of x-rays of the Redn and Blue Chair. Projected onto two sides of a wall, the film shows different visible and invisible layers through which our image of reality is created. The script, which has been self-published by the artist as part of the work, is available separately during the screening of the film.


Riet Wijnen primarily works with photographs, photocopies, video, and text. In her work, Wijnen researches links between abstraction, observation, language, and structure. This is usually done via the reconstruction of a story, the past, or a subject that was first deconstructed during an intensive examination, in order to ultimately reveal the different layers that comprise it. In 2015, this research was first gathered together in a new cycle of works, entitled Sixteen Conversations on Abstraction. In addition, Wijnen publishes books and journals, such as Marlow Moss (2013) and the reprint and translation of Abstraction Création: Art non-figuratif (2014). She is also working on The Registry of Pseudonyms, a constantly growing collection of pseudonyms (www.registryofpseudonyms.com), which is both an examination of the term and its history. These books and the website function independently, but are an important source and framework for Wijnen’s practice.


Riet Wijnen
1988, Venray lives and works in Amsterdam (NL)
Conversation Three: It Looks Like Nothing on Earth
Video installation, script, HD-files, sound, black and white

Voice actor: Lee M. Ross
Recording studio: INCasting
Sound editing: Derek van Beelen
Original recordings x-ray images: Lex Reitsma
Translatior: Jan Hootsmans
Editor: Janine Armin
Production: Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

The presentation of Conversation Three: It Looks Like Nothing on Earth is curated by the Stedelijk Museum Research Department Margriet Schavemaker (Curator/Head of Research & Publications) and Public Program Department Britte Sloothaak (Assistant-Curator), the research and development of Sixteen Conversations on Abstraction was made possible through the generous support of the Mondriaan Fonds, Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst and the Stichting Niemeijer Fonds.