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. It never leaves your side. Multiple different instruments invite you into multiple different atmospheres. Voices whisper, sing, yell, narrate stories, songs and poems in eight different languages. They want you to know about far away places, your own past and emotions that may feel familiar. Even though they might address you in a language you don’t understand, you could be enlightened by other visitors. Inside this virtual world the user’s knowledge, background and behavior determines the experience. Afterwards you have to discuss with others to determine what you have just experienced.
This vr was built with thousands of unknown personal photographs found on flea markets, online marketplaces and private collections. Personal history that was hiding in boxes and albums. Most pictures were made by anonymous photographers or, as most of them from the 19th century, in local photo studios. 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.
The experience opens and closes in a fog. When you start, a girl with a balloon appears. Touch the balloon with your controller and wait for the fog to disappear. You then can move around by using the joystick on the left hand controller with your thumb (moving up, back and sideways) and – optional, to speed things up – your index finger. You use your right hand controller to turn around. (You can also do this physically by turning your head around.) You can walk into town, the woods, and even swim in the sea. You can not fly or climb rocks. 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 this VR world.
In the woods a
young girl who lived around
1906, expresses her anger at a
shift in attention towards
her newborn sister.
Translation from Dutch:
‘yes let them wonder
let them search places
there are no traces
they won’t find us
I’m mummy’s darling
I’m daddy’s angel
I am their princess
At the beach and in
the sea women seek
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.
Translation Russian voices:
‘I would love to remember you but I am afraid’.
‘We are better off without her!’
‘The woman you are looking for never existed.’
‘I can not trust you to be in my mind’.
‘I don’t remember you, my love.’
‘I am not allowed to remember her. She never existed.’
‘Don’t ask me about her, she was never here.’
‘Hide in my dreams, my darling!’
‘I have to expel you from memory, sweetheart.’
‘I never met her!’
‘Please, do not mention her name!’
‘She was never here!’
‘She does not exist!’
‘I will not remember her!’
A young female dancer
has turned into a statue.
Wenn ich tanze dann tanz ich allein
Dazu brauche ich keinen
Schon gar keinen Typ aus der Stadt
Ich tanze bis morgen
Ich bin frei
Translation from German voice:
When I dance, I dance alone
For that I don’t need anyone else
Especially no guy from the city
I dance until tomorrow
I am free
Between 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
shows social inequality
in the 19th and early
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.
Walzer was created by composer & performer Frieda Gustavs and visual artist & photography collector Leo Erken with technical support by Cris Mollee and Malou Minkjan.
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.
Frieda Gustavs (born in Stralsund, Germany in 1996) is an Amsterdam based music composer/performer and visual artist. She studied at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam and the Musikschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber in Dresden, Germany. She wrote acclaimed music for the Opera Forward Festival, Holland Festival and Gaudeamus Music Week. In 2020 she won the Young Art Support Amsterdam Prize. Frieda investigates visual aspects of music in various interdisciplinary projects but most especially in VR. She was the lead actress in the children’s VR ‘Frieda and the Hidden Animals’ (2016) for which she composed the music and soundscape.
Leo Erken (born in Bemmel, the Netherlands in 1964) is a visual artist working with VR, film and (collecting) photography. He has a past as a photojournalist and documentary filmmaker. He is the founder of nl12, an Amsterdam based media company producing VR, film, photography and other projects on social issues. He teaches at the combined film, photography & digital art department of St Joost School of Art & Design in Breda, The Netherlands.
Cris Mollee (born in Utrecht, the Netherlands in 1999) has been working at nl12 since she was 16 years old. She single handedly built the big gaming computer at the studio that is the centre of all our new media projects. Cris graduated with the highest marks possible at the department ‘Interactive Performance Design’ at HKU Art Academy in Utrecht with an AI project in which her computer designed fashion. Cris also works as a video and light technician/designer at EKKO and others. As a freelancer she works with Light-Up Collective, Uncloud and Creative Coding Utrecht, as well as multiple bands and theatre groups.
Malou Minkjan (born in Badhoevedorp, the Netherlands in 1995) studied Cultural Heritage at the Amsterdam University of the Arts and computer programming at Codam in Amsterdam. She works as a programmer/Unity developer on various XR projects and teaches at the VR Academy of the Amsterdam University of the Arts.
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.
CV Leo Erken
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.