Willem de Rooij (1969, Beverwijk, the Netherlands) lives and works in Berlin. The artist investigates the production, contextualisation, circulation and interpretation of images through a variety of media including film and installation. Appropriations and collaborations – even including other artists’ works in his own – are fundamental to his artistic method, and his projects stimulate new research in art history and ethnography. De Rooij has been Professor of Fine Art at the Städelschule, Frankfurt since 2006, and visiting advisor at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten, Amsterdam since 2015. In 2016, he co-founded BPA // Berlin program for artists. De Rooij’s numerous solo exhibitions have taken place at venues including: Portikus Frankfurt, 2021; Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2017; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, 2016; The Jewish Museum, New York, 2014; and (with Jeroen de Rijke) the Dutch pavilion, Venice Biennale, 2005. His work has been included in numerous group shows and he is a recipient of a 2014 Vincent Award Nomination, Vincent van Gogh Biennial Award for Contemporary Art in Europe, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, 2004 Hugo Boss Prize Nomination, Guggenheim Museum, New York and 1996 Prix de Rome among other honours.
Pierre Verger in Suriname
Willem de Rooij’s contribution is centered around the work of French photographer Pierre Verger. Originally trained as a photo-journalist, Verger became increasingly interested in cultures of the African diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean. The practice of religious rites eventually became the focus of his life’s work. De Rooij’s installation shows a selection of 257 photographs that Verger made in Suriname during a trip in 1948. An accompanying publication presents the complete suite of photographs he made in Suriname. By making aspects of Verger’s archive accessible, De Rooij inevitably touches upon the colonial relation between Suriname and the Netherlands. The display device alternately shows viewers Verger’s images, and their own reflections. Through this mechanism of mirroring, the work evokes that history, particularly colonial history, is unavoidably a common concern.