News — 23 Jun 2020

In the Presence of Absence shows a selection of artworks and design projects that challenge the idea of collective knowledge and public consciousness through stories that remain unseen, have been ignored or may be told more often within large public institutions.

Spanning more than 14 rooms, the interdisciplinary exhibition In the Presence of Absence presents a selection of (counter) narratives that challenge fixed ideas about our society and question how history is written. When not addressed by organizations such as schools, libraries, archives, and museums, the absence of these stories forms knowledge gaps within the public debates that shape our collective consciousness and memory.

Anna Dasović, Before the Fall there was no Fall. Episode one; Raw material, 2019, still. Courtesy the artist.

The selected projects include personal, intimate subjects as well as large socio-historical topics. Handwritten letters, for example, address an intangible concept such as elegance in an installation by Evelyn Taocheng Wang. Topics including migration, transition and memory are brought to our attention in the drawings by Sadik Alfraji, among others. Also included in the exhibition are archive materials, script, imagery and spoken word as forms to bring stories and histories to the fore. For example, on the basis of archival material concerning Srebrenica released to her, Anna Dasović critically re-examines the way the Royal Netherlands Army trained soldiers via roleplay to perform an image of themselves and respond to “the other”, whereas Natasja Kensmil’s painting installation adapts the classic archetype image of a prominent marriage in the 17th century into a contemporary critical portrait about power relations and wealth.

The title of the exhibition is inspired by the title of the last book written by the poet Mahmoud Darwish. In the context of this exhibition, “the presence of absence" explores how stories function and resonate within a society.

The selected artists for In the Presence of Absence are:
Sadik Alfraji / Leonardiansyah Allenda / Kristina Benjocki / Kasper Bosmans / Rowena Buur / Anna Dasović / Timo Demollin / Quinsy Gario in collaboration with Mina Ouaouirst / Inas Halabi / Remy Jungerman / Natasja Kensmil / Sarah van Lamsweerde in collaboration with Leroy de Böck and Alicia Hoost / DOMINIQUE (Dominique Latoel) / Wendelien van Oldenborgh / Ahmet Öğüt / Our Polite Society / Pieter Paul Pothoven / Farida Sedoc / Ghita Skali / Evelyn Taocheng Wang / Jennifer Tee / Gilleam Trapenberg / Werker Collective

Farida Sedoc, The Future Ain't What It Used To Be, 2019, collage on paper, 400 cm x 300 cm, screen prints on cotton (each 100 cm x 150 cm, Gentleman’s Agreement, Welcome To Society, The Sun Rises In The East). Photo Tom Janssen.

The exhibition In the Presence of Absence is part of the project "Proposals for Municipal Art Acquisitions", which takes place every two years and invites artists or designers living and working in the Netherlands to respond to an open call, followed by a jury selection and a group exhibition. Part of the work shown is purchased for the museum collection. Unlike other editions, this year's open call was open to all disciplines.

The exhibition will be accompanied by an online publication containing more information about the artists and their works. Contributing essays will address the overarching theme of knowledge production within the art world: how do we know what we know?

Sunday Seminar lectures (soon online) Performance program (soon online)

Britte Sloothaak & Fadwa Naamna

Britte Sloothaak & Fadwa Naamna (on behalf of Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam) Cédric Fauq (curator and writer, Palais de Tokyo)
Monica Szewczyk (director De Appel, Amsterdam)
Prem Krishnamurthy (designer, curator, writer, Wrkshps and (co-) artistic director FRONT International 2021)
Zippora Elders (artistic director Kunstfort bij Vijfhuizen and co-curator sonsbeek21-24)


Müller Van Tol ( Bas van Tol / Malte Hailer)

The Proposals for Municipal Art Acquisitions is a series of biannual exhibitions organised with the financial support of the Municipality of Amsterdam.

Note for editors:
For more information and press images you are welcome to contact the Press Office of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, +31 20 573 26 60 / 56 or