Dear Mr. Schwitters

Carolien Scholtes

April 21 - June 2
with opening speech by Hans Rooseboom curator of photography at the Rijksmuseum

Carolien Scholtes, Down side up, with yellow bobbin, 2017, printed on archival inkjet paper, 150 x 100 cm, ed. 5, 80 x 54 cm, ed. 5.

Since 2008 Carolien Scholtes makes autonomous photo and video works. She builds setups in her studio, photographing or filming them and destroys them again. In an inimitable way, her work both touches upon and escapes feelings of grief, loss and time. A change in tone that has everything to do with the brain damage that she sustained in 2008 and that turned her world upside down: a caesura in life and work.

Until 2008 Scholtes worked as a scenographer, filmmaker and initiator of multi-disciplinairy projects.

In this exhibition Scholtes shows two photo series, a video work and a series of letters.
 In the letter series Dear Mr. Schwitters Scholtes starts a relationship with the deceased DaDa artist Kurt Schwitters, by discussing his Merzbau: the fantastic abstract installation he built in his house in Hannover on which he worked from 1927 onwards. She resembles her theater work with Schwitters’ use of banal songs in Merzbau. She describes the importance of physical action in art, she discusses the gravity and tilting of images. In addition, she contemplates about the importance of the personal source, of Dada and how artists relate to a violent world. 
The video work Entr’acte der Wissenschaft refers to the famous DaDa film with partly the same title. Scholtes looked for the same lightness and apparent meaninglessness.
It is about time that seems to slip, but which also stands still.

‘The process starts by acting from existing knowledge. From my experience as a scenographer and a director, I know what it takes to create a strong image.

I start with a rough design. I choose the background materials, usually bits of carpet, lino and the like. Then the objects are added. Those have been more or less organized according to their colour and material: elastic, thread, wooden boxes that fit together. I don’t use the objects in a conventional manner, but focus on their associative power. Their significance follows from their interrelationship. I knead the lino and little by little a connection with my chosen theme manifests itself.

I get rid of anything that’s too easily interpreted and therefore downgrades the image, and of anything I find too pretty or aesthetic. But the opposite also happens, when I retain what is beautiful or significant. I constantly create snares and pitfalls for myself. And then I decide to tilt the image – and everything falls into place.

Gravity is losing ground, which creates space. Space between levels of significance, carrying memories of chaos and pain, which ultimately, in the course of the working process, become universal. This is also the moment that the image becomes independent.’


In the first photo series, Dear Mr Schwitters, a slight resemblance with the collages by Schwitters and Merzbau plays a role through the apparent chaos, the found materials and the tilted images.

DaDa finds its origin in mystical movements such as early Christianity, Buddhism and Taoism and in the philosophical ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche and Henri Bergson. In the second photo series, Judas and others, Scholtes makes a connection with this origin. Also in her letters she refers to this complex matter, in which she writes:


Ik zie een man die klanken maakt;

de schoonheid van het niet begrijpen,

of dat je het bijna bevatten kan.

Ja ja


Het enig mogelijke antwoord op de wreedheid en de onverschilligheid van de oorlog.

Ook dat begrijp ik goed.

Ik til de zilveren voorhang op en kijk…..

Daarachter tolt en kantelt de wereld,

geen boven en geen onder, geen gewicht.

Waarom zou het?

Het hangt van schijnbare inconsequenties aan elkaar

en ik voel innerlijke logica.

Ik begrijp je niet, zeggen de mensen.

Ik heb een gat in mijn hoofd ter grootte van een kippenei.

Daar zie je niks van aan de buitenkant maar door dat gat zit ik naar u te koekeloeren. We zwaaien een beetje.

God danst DaDa.


Carolien Scholtes, Upside up or down, with pants, 2017, printed on archival inkjet paper, 150 x 100 cm, ed. 5, 80 x 54 cm, ed. 5.


Carolien Scholtes

Since 2008, the work of Carolien Scholtes has been shown in several exhibitions, at Galerie Witteveen, at Collect Editions, in the Lloyd Hotel and at Frankfurt Museum Night. Scholtes was educated as a painter and scenographer at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie and the Rijksacademie between 1982 and 1989. She was a teacher at the Minerva Academie in Groningen and the Gerrit Rietveld Academie and worked as a performance- and exhibition designer within the niche between art and theatre for multiple theaters, festivals and museums.