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Near Focus #3

Pipilotti Rist

Solo exhibition

8 August – 6 September 2020
Vleeshal (Map)

Curator: Julia Mullié

Near Focus #3 | Pipilotti Rist

Near Focus

Convinced that 'looking back' and 'seeing again' can help sharpen our vision of the future, Vleeshal showed works from its unique collection during the summer of 2020. Vleeshal has a long-standing partnership with the Antwerp museum M HKA, where Vleeshal’s collection is conserved and displayed. With Near Focus we reflected on this collaboration with exhibitions by Jimmie Durham, Lili Dujourie and Pipilotti Rist. The works came from both our own collection and that of M HKA, and the exhibitions each engaged with the history and current programme of Vleeshal in their own way.

Over time, the meaning of artworks constantly changes, partly because the context in which they find themselves varies as well. Works that you have already seen before can unfold new meanings and encourage personal reflection. The title of this exhibition series, Near Focus, refers to the discovery of the Galilean Telescope in 1608, the predecessor of the telescope and binoculars we know today. It was invented by Hans Lipperhey in Middelburg. The Galilean Telescope had a worldwide impact because it made it possible to study things in detail that were previously invisible.

The term ‘near focus’ indicates the minimum distance at which an optical aid (such as binoculars) can be in focus. This is an especially important quality for nature enthusiasts who want to get as close to their object of study as possible. In order to reduce the distance to the works of art and stimulate reflection, Vleeshal invited different people to reflect on the works in Near Focus from various perspectives.

Pipilotti Rist

Pipilotti Rist has played a major role in the development of video art ever since she became active as an artist in the mid-1980s. With bright, saturated colours, arresting soundtracks and hallucinatory effects, her video installations are as compelling and seductive as the music videos that began to conquer the world at the same time. The visual language of pop culture and mass media is just as important to Rist’s work as the legacy of the previous generation of video artists such as Nam June Paik and Bruce Nauman. More whimsical than those of its predecessors, Rist’s camera takes viewers on an intimate, sensory journey in which there is room for personal experiences.

Shortly before going to art school, Elizabeth Charlotte Rist adopted the first name Pipilotti, a combination of the nickname of her childhood, Lotti, and that of Pippi Longstocking, the heroine of the Swedish children’s book series. Rist’s identification with this young adventurer – a playful yet fiercely bold and independent girl who possesses superhuman strength – points to several characteristics of her work, such as an apparent light-footedness and unconventional approach to female subjectivity.

Work in the Vleeshal collection


In the context of the collection exhibitions Near Focus Vleeshal offered different lenses through which the artworks can be viewed. All perspectives were commissioned and printed in the exhibition booklet.


Leontine Coelewij



In 1995, curators Leontine Coelewij and Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen created the high-profile exhibition Wild Walls at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. This focused on the work of young artists, many of whom used new media. The title Wild Walls refers to the ‘wild walls’ of a film set, movable walls used to change a setting. Pipilotti Rist showed a large video installation entitled Search WOLKEN/SUCH Clouds. Coelewij was also part of the purchasing committee of Vleeshal / Stichting Beeldende Kunst Middelburg that year, with which she purchased a variation on this work by Pipilotti Rist entitled Grossmut begatte mich. For Near Focus, she wrote a text based on memories she recalled with Van Nieuwenhuyzen.

Text is only available in Dutch.


Martijn Nieuwenhuyzen


Since 1991, Van Nieuwenhuyzen has been taking photos of artists in their studios, during openings and at exhibitions. He shares these via his Instagram account @acuratorscamera. He took these photos of Pipilotti Rist in Zurich and Amsterdam during the preparation and opening of Wild Walls.

  • Untitled | Martijn Nieuwenhuyzen
  • Untitled | Martijn Nieuwenhuyzen

A Heart Shaped Javelin

Afra Eisma


A Heart Shaped Javelin | Afra Eisma

Since she graduated from the KABK in The Hague, artist Afra Eisma has been creating colourful and playful works with a strong autobiographical character. In 2019, Vleeshal invited her to participate in Rooms of Now, a project for which Vleeshal asked Middelburg residents to open up their homes for an artistic intervention. Eisma - a great admirer of Pipilotti Rist - often uses labour-intensive techniques and works with textiles, ceramics and more unconventional materials such as plastic, artificial hair, clothing and all kinds of utensils. Like Pipilotti Rist, Afra Eisma immerses the viewer in a decidedly personal world of texture, tactility, lust for life and energy. For the exhibition booklet Eisma made a B/W contribution.


Vleeshal is a unique center for contemporary art, not only because of its atypical exhibition space and exciting programming, but also because it has a collection. In the 1990s, under the impetus of then director Lex ter Braak, an ambitious collection of contemporary visual art was begun. This collection was intended for a newly envisioned museum in Middelburg, designed by Aldo and Hannie van Eyck. In 1995 it became clear that, unfortunately, there was insufficient political support for this museum. The impetus of collection building had therefore lost its possible context and visibility and encumbered Vleeshal. The collection had become a storage cost and management issue.

In 2005, the collection was given on a long-term loan to M HKA in Antwerp. M HKA was chosen because of the close historical ties between Middelburg and Antwerp, the museum's collection profile, and the fact that M HKA's director, Bart De Baere, was a member of the committee that purchased artworks for the yet-to-be-built museum in Middelburg in the 1990s.

The collection consists of two parts. One part includes national and local art from the BKR arrangement (the Dutch abbreviation BKR stands for Beeldende Kunstenaars Regeling, an arrangement, which from 1949 to 1987 provided artists with a temporary income in exchange for works of art or other artistic quid pro quo). The other part consists of artworks by international contemporary artists (including Jimmie Durham, Nedko Solakov, Suchan Kinoshita, Cameron Jamie, Pipilotti Rist, and Job Koelewijn).

There has been no active acquisition policy for years. The collection is expanded here and there with sporadic purchases and donations from artists who are part of the Vleeshal program.

From time to time Vleeshal invites guest curators to organize exhibitions in the Vleeshal or to develop other projects. By doing so, we aim to welcome new perspectives and contribute to talent development.

Vleeshal would like to thank M HKA for making Near Focus: Pipilotti Rist possible.

    This project was made possible by the generous support of the Mondriaan Fund, and the municipality of Middelburg.