paulien oltheten

Paulien Oltheten, It’s nice if two pairs of legs walk in sync for a moment, 2009.

Pauline Oltheten, It’s nice if two pairs of legs walk in sync for a moment, 2009. Courtesy: the artist.


For Portscapes, Oltheten visited Rotterdam’s Maasvlakte on a number of occasions. Due to the enormous scale and the lack of a familiar frame of reference, people in this area take on an entirely different proportion vis-à-vis their surroundings. In her project, she primarily aimed to emphasise the relationship between the people within the surrounding landscape. If during one of her visits, some event or scene caught her attention, she would ask the passers-by to repeat certain actions for her once over. She subsequently made a photographic record of these actions. The ambivalence of ‘is it going well, or not at all’ can be observed particularly well in the films. Watching the films, you get the urge to interfere in what you are seeing, to personally ensure that the supreme moment will indeed take place.

Oltheten has used the photographic images to make five small billboards and one large billboard. The small billboards are collages of all kinds of situations and activities that are typical for the Maasvlakte, such as motocross, spotting birds and ships, kiting, but also include images of people out on a stroll. These visual narratives show how people and their environment join to form a single whole. Sometimes there is a form of duplication: one becomes two. Just like there was first one Maasvlakte and there will soon be two.

From 1 October until the end of December, the photos and videos were on show in and around FutureLand, the Maasvlakte 2 information centre. Earlier, on 14 August 2009, a billboard featuring her work was erected along the A15 motorway.

The public space is the key field of activity of Paulien Oltheten (1982, Nijmegen). Seemingly casually, she uses her photo and video camera to seek out unique moments when people, objects and the public space converge. In this process, she has the ability to zoom in on small and subtle details, which often lends her photographs and film images a strong poetic potential. She adds handwritten notes to these images. The images show how people move and act in the public domain and how the personal relates to the public. Otlheten’s book Street Theory (with Hans Aarsman and Tijs Goldschmidt, NAi Publishers, 2008) brings together some 100 of her photographs, video stills and drawings, which all testify of how we use the public space, move through it, sit in it or stand still in it, how we conduct ourselves in this public space and above all how we relate to other people and objects. Oltheten often adds handwritten notes to her striking images of intriguing situations, which become part of the whole and allow the artist to add a new, narrative layer.


The making of


Paulien Oltheten, ( 1982 Nijmegen )lives and works in Amsterdam. Recent exhibitions and projects are: One moment it’s really beautifull, Fons Welters, Amsterdam, 2009; Radical Autonomy, Centre D’art Contemporaine, Saint Nazare, France; Off the record, Stedelijk Museum in de Stad, Art Amsterdam, Amsterdam; Estafette, FOAM, Amsterdam; ...ze stonden namelijk recht ( curator Thijs Goldscmidt), De Bewaerschole, Burg Heemstede, 2007, Capricious, SMBA, Amsterdam; Findings, Carl Berg Projects, Amsterdam.