Beauty and shadow
Museum MORE | Ruurlo Castle and Dat Bolwerck present a double exhibition of work by photographer Viviane Sassen. Opening this June, Fabulous Monsters unites the two disciplines that characterise Sassen’s oeuvre: fashion photography and independent photographic work. Both exhibitions reveal the remarkably surrealistic quality of Sassen’s photography. Fabulous Monsters explores the conscious and the unconscious, light and shadow. The exhibition at Ruurlo Castle focuses on the conscious, light and eroticism of the psyche.
For this double exhibition, the cultural institutions in Ruurlo and Zutphen had the opportunity to extensively draw from the singular and varied oeuvre that Sassen has amassed over the years. Viviane Sassen’s photographs for international fashion brand campaigns brought her great fame, and her work is exhibited all around the world. The nearly 60 photographs in the two exhibitions are from the photograph series Venus & Mercury (2020), Consequences/Cadavre Exquis (both 2020), Lexicon (2014), Roxane II (2017) and Of Mud and Lotus (2017).
Venus and Mercury was commissioned by the Palace of Versailles. Sassen was granted access to the palace after regular opening hours, and created photographs and collages inspired by exhibits including the correspondence of the French queen Marie Antoinette and fragments of 18th-century sculptures. Dat Bolwerck screens a 20-minute video showing images from Venus and Mercury with a voice-over by the British actress Tilda Swinton, while the video installation In and Out of Fashion – focusing on Sassen’s acclaimed fashion photography – will be screened at the museum in Ruurlo. The series Consequences/Cadavre Exquis consists of ‘body collages’, in which Sassen recomposes photographs of parts of the body to create new, hybrid creations that can be seen to symbolise metamorphosis and transformation.
Sassen’s photographic oeuvre is heavily influenced by the theories of psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961). Jung contended that everyone has a proverbial inner shadow: the hidden true self, the ‘dark side’ of the personality, comprising repressed weaknesses, shortcomings and instincts. Civilised people suppress this dark side, which often negatively impacts spontaneity, creativity, sensitivity and insight. However, artists can also find creative inspiration in this ‘reservoir of darkness’. Jung encourages us to confront the shadow, in order to become more complete and balanced. At both locations, Fabulous Monsters reflects on the human personality, emotions, fears and desires, and on how these can come alive in images – in this case Viviane Sassen’s portrayals of beauty and shadow.
Viviane Sassen (1972) grew up in Zutphen and now works in Amsterdam. She studied Fashion Design at the Hogeschool voor de Kunsten in Utrecht and Photography at Ateliers Arnhem. A retrospective of her fashion photography, In and Out of Fashion, opened at Huis Marseille, Museum for Photography in Amsterdam in 2012, and subsequently travelled to various European cities. Sassen has had numerous successful solo exhibitions and exhibited in group exhibitions all around the globe. She won the Prix de Rome in 2007, and has received countless other awards for her work and publications.
Partners: Stichting Zutphen Literair, Luxor Theater, Stedelijke Musea Zutphen, WOEST OOST, BIJ de Bieb, the Mondriaan Fund.
The exhibition at Dat Bolwerck from 9 June to 17 September 2023.