Information with the virtual reality Walzer


Walzer is a virtual reality experience with several stories circling women’s rights and the first wave of feminism during the late 19th and early 20th century.

As you travel through a virtual photographic landscape, a waltz is your guide. When you move around, the waltz morphs into a variety of moods in eight different languages accompanied by songs and poems.

This vr was built with thousands of unknown personal photographs found on flea markets, online marketplaces and private collections. During the process of collecting and digital restoration, intriguing stories emerged. Narratives developed when we connected pictures with other pictures and combined them with music, words, sounds and 3D technology. Inside this virtual world the user’s knowledge, background and behaviour determines the experience.

This is the first pilot production of an expanding project on women’s rights in virtual reality.


In the woods a young girl
who lived around
1906, expresses her anger at a
shift in attention towards
her new born sister.

At the beach and in
the sea women seek
relaxation and

When you look through the
facades of western cities you see
huge anonymous female

At a fair
women and men
are dreaming of

During the great terror
in the Soviet Union – in the
1930s – millions of women
disappeared and were
erased from history.

A young female dancer
has turned into a statue.

1855 and 1865
women of all classes
wore the crinoline with pride.
For many it was a cage.

Colonisation financed a historic square.
The stones and statues remind us of
cultural appropriation and exploitation.

An international street crowded
with women morphs into early
20th century Amsterdam where
living conditions were so
bad that many children
did not reach adulthood.

A tableau featuring
Amsterdam women
shows social inequality
in the 19th and early
20th century.

Groups of women walk into
the mountains. On top of the rocks two prominent
Dutch feminists arise: Aletta Jacobs (1854-1929),
first wave feminist leader and first female
medical doctor in the Netherlands and
Wilhelmina Drucker (1847-1925) feminist leader,
politician and writer.

At a corner you can see two portraits
of anonymous women by German
born Emma Kirchner (1830-1909).
She was a single mother and the first
female in the Netherlands who made
a living as a photographer using her
full maiden name.

The Dutch society in the late
19th and early 20th century had
strong limits for female friendships.
Institutional and parental control
forced young women to move around
in groups of three. A virtual square
at night in Amsterdam is dedicated to
the prison of social control.

and more…


WALZER was made for/with the Oculus Rift.

The experience opens and closes in a fog. When you start a girl with a balloon appears. Touch the balloon with your right hand controller (do not use the left hand controller) and wait for the fog to disappear. You then can move around by using the joystick on the controller with your thumb (up, back and sideways) and – optional, to speed things up – your index finger. You can walk into town, the woods, and even swim in the sea. The vr experience will show you if you can pass an object or go right through it. Don’t be afraid, just give it a try. It’s impossible to demolish things in the vr world.

Walzer was created by composer & performer Frieda Gustavs (1996) and visual artist & photography collector Leo Erken (1964).

The central waltz in the project was composed by Frieda Gustavs and performed by Catarina Gomez, Pedro Silva, Mafalda C. Oliveira, Daniel Ferreira (saxophones), Khrystyna Kulchynska (cello), Anastasia Zavorina (double bass), Arjan Linker (trombone), Piotr Majoor (trumpet), Nuno Lobo (bassoon), Teresa Costa (bass flute) and Frieda Gustavs (gamelan, glockenspiel, accordion, melódica, guitar, bouzouki, ukulele, cavaquinho, piano and voice).

Voice Girl in the Woods: Ann Kolman.
Russian voices: Nadezhda Titova, Natalia Eremina and Yana Volovich.
English voice: Emily Bannister.
German and Dutch voice: Frieda Gustavs.
German voice: Svea Gustavs
Polish voice: Nina Pokutycka.
Dutch voices: Kristy van Dijk, Ernie Buts and Mies Dijksterhuis.
Japanese and Dutch voice: Kiriko Mechanicus.
Italian voice: Olivia Benali.
Portuguese voice: Inês Lopes.

Technical support: Cris Mollee and Malou Minkjan.


Frieda Gustavs bio

Composer and virtual reality maker Frieda Gustavs (1996) grew up traveling back and forth by train between Amsterdam and Stralsund, the latter being a small town on the shore of the Baltic sea. She studies composition at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam. In 2018 she participated in an Erasmus exchange program and studied at the Musikhochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber Dresden.

Her musical being was born and grew up in a choir, in the midst of the voices of people, her dearest instruments. She wrote progressive and lauded music for the Opera Forward Festival, the Holland Festival, Orgelpark Amsterdam, NEON choir for new music and Nieuw Vocaal Amsterdam.

She finds inspiration in ancient polyphony, world music and contemporary artists of every genre. Her main interest lies with interdisciplinary projects, electronic music, choral music; anything that holds voice.

Leo Erken bio

Leo Erken (1964) is a visual artist exploring new ways of story telling. Leo works with film, virtual reality and (collecting) photography

In the past he was a photojournalist working for printed media and a documentary film maker working for television.

He is a lecturer at the combined film-photography department of St. Joost School of Art & Design in Breda, the Netherlands.


2016-2017: production and direction of the virtual reality children’s film ‘Frieda and the Hidden Animals’ with composer Frieda Gustavs.

2015-2016: Directing and producing a series of commissioned films for medical and cultural organisations. ‘Enjoying Life’ on ethics in health care. Films on Alzheimer’s disease. ‘Tulip Seasons’ for the Amsterdam Tulip museum.

2010: Sound Technician, in Japan, for the film documentary ‘Water Children’ by Aliona van der Horst. The film was nominated in 2011 for a ‘Golden Calf’, the highest award in Dutch film.

2005: Directed film documentary, Tulip Gold. Financed by the Stimuleringsfonds Nederlandse Culturele Omroepproducties (Dutch National Broadcasting Fund).

2006: Publication of the book ‘Tulpengoud’ (Tulip Gold) with an exhibition in the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem. Photographs and film combined with 17th century paintings from the museum collection.

2003: Directed film documentary, ‘Eva Besnyö – de keurcollectie’ (the choice collection) for ‘Het Uur van de Wolf’, NPS televisie. Photography Museum Amsterdam. Theaters: Filmmuseum (now Eye), Jewish Historical Museum Amsterdam, Berlinische Galerie Berlin 2012, Jeu de Paume, Paris 2013, Käthe Kollwitz museum Köln, 2018, Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum, Bremen 2019 and Kassák Museum, Budapest, 2020.

Present (since 2015): building a photo collection on amateur and personal photography from the period 1850 – 1960. Collections concentrate on the themes: ‘women’s rights’, ‘war trough the eyes of soldiers’, ‘personal life in the Soviet Union’, ‘the princess as seen by the people (Wilhelmina)’, ‘personal lives in colonial times’ and ‘working life in the Rotterdam and Amsterdam in the 19th century’.
Parts of the collection are shared via social media.

2013: Publication of the Photo Book ‘Улица-Street-Straße, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union 1987-2003, Weiw publishing house Amsterdam/Stralsund. International presentation at the Buchmesse in Leipzig. Dutch presentation at Foam, Photography Museum Amsterdam.

2008, Edit and production of the book ‘Ata Kandó, Photographer’, with Ad van Denderen. Text by Rosan Hollak, design Teun van der Heijden, published by Schilt publishing, Amsterdam.

1996: Winner of the most prestigious prize for Dutch photojournalism: ‘The Silver Camera’ for a series from the warzone in Chechnya.

1994: Chosen as ‘Photojournalist of the Year’ by the organisation ‘The Silver Camera’.

2009 – 2013: Chairman of the GKf, the Dutch professional organization of documentary photographers.

1993 and 1995: Co-founder of the Photographers Platform. Bringing together photographers to discuss social issues.

2016 – present: Lecturer at the combined department Film-Photography at St. Joost School of Art & Design in Breda, the Netherlands.

1988: Graduated at AKI, Academy of Fine Arts, Enschede, The Netherlands.

1996 – Present: owner production company and workspace studio nl12. Producing mostly corporate films for education and healthcare organisations.

1998 – 2000: – International photo documentaries from the Middle East and the USA.

1989 – 2003: Working as a photojournalist in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Publishing all over the world, including: Libération, Die Zeit, Time Magazine, the Independent, de Volkskrant, Vrij Nederland, Trouw and Het Parool.

About the company nl12:

NL12 is a media company based in Amsterdam. NL12 produces virtual reality, film, photography and other media projects. We are also involved in making books, organize events and helping others with their projects. We have a strong commitment to education and co-operate with a new generation of artists.


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