CV & shows

OVERCOMING PHOTOGRAPHY – A developmental history


Maarten van der Heijden – Amsterdam – Netherlands

5Fotografen5Tage – Berlin – Schererstraße 9

02.10.2011– 06.10.2011





2005 – 2007


I am a second-generation-Jew born in 1947. I have had previous careers in Baroque Music as a Violone player and in science and clinical practice as a Child Psychologist. After a midlife-crisis I studied from 2005 till 2010 at Gerrit Rietveld Art Academy Amsterdam.



I always knew that I was Jewish, but that fact had hardly any meaning for me. About Judaism and about the war we did not talk in our family. And in terms of faith, we were ‘nothing’. When I was 45 years, I came in - some late - midlife crisis: job gone, wife gone, everything into question. I needed support, love and hope. And then I thought: I can go to the Baghwan, but I’m Jewish, so why not explore what Judaism has to offer me? My search for my Jewish roots began with a course in Jewish Spirituality and ended, by the way of double-bass playing in a klezmer group and attending various Jewish rabbinical courses, with a second- generation support group on the impact of the Holocaust. Finally I made a trip to Auschwitz (and back!) with the Auschwitz Committee. I was speechless and I was beaten quite perplexed: the history of Judaism was both outrageously beautiful (the Jewish mystical and Talmudic traditions) and at the same time unimaginably terrible (the horror of the Holocaust). This was almost unbearable for my tiny shoulders. And I asked myself: what can I do with these vehement and contradictory feelings? My answer was: the only possibility is to express these feelings in VISUAL ART. 

Maarten van der Heijden (2010). Sublime Sublimation of the Shoah?

Thesis, Gerrit Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam.





2008 – 2009


After reading Sol LeWitt’s Sentences on Conceptual Art I started in 2008 the autobiographical art-project 141 BOXES: the unpacking, archiving, documenting, photographing and clearing away of the content of the 141 moving boxes that were in my house. @Maarten141 BOXES became a Digital Interactive Internet Artwork in Progress.



[1] Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach. [. . .] [7] The value of the work of conceptual art is in its unpredicttability. [. . .] [10] The direction of the concept allows the artist complete freedom - nothing is preordained. [. . .] [13] The inner-vision should be followed. [. . .] [16] Irrational thoughts should be followed absolutely and logically. [. . .] [22] The conceptual artist does not need to know what he is doing. [. . .] [23] The conceptual artist would deal with what the artist himself would not expect.


Sol LeWitt (1969). In: S. Héman, J. Poot, &  H. Visser, (red.) (2002). Conceptuele kunst in Nederland en België 1965-1975. Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum & Rotterdam: NAi Uitgevers (p.50-58).



Is it possible to make art about the shoah? The question was asked immediately after the war. Especially after the famous statement of the German philosopher Theodor Adorno that ‘writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric’. But art is not only aesthetics. Art also confronts us with questions. And art can offer consolation. Therefore, Adorno's statement is still meaningful while simultaneously beautiful poetry, great novels and impressive paintings are created with the Shoah as a starting point. [. . .]

As a member of the second generation you do not have the direct experience of persecution and loss, but you do carry all the images of the Shoah with you. One has to do something with it. If you do not, you have two options, either you are insufferably shallow, or you go crazy. Neither are attractive options. 


Rabbi Tamarah Benima (2010). In: New Israelitic Weekly, 23, 19 March 2010 (p.31).





2010 - 2011


From 2010 on, I use in my photo-works the photographs the allied forces took at the liberation of the nazi concentrationcamps in 1945. These photos are so extremely horrific that they virtually disappeared from the public domain . . .



From a personal need to come to terms with the most violent period of the last century: the Holocaust, Maarten has studied and needed to acquire many visual languages. Because, how one packs that horror? His method of giving atrocity another face by using computer generated kaleidoscopic images, beauty and aesthetics, is brave. This ambivalence, both perverse and sublime, has produced relevant images which did not exist before.

In Maarten’s art, in the end the theme is not the Holocaust, but ultimately the incompatibility of horror and aesthetics. 


Ken Zeph, Pieter Kusters, & Manel Esparbé i Gasca (11.07.2010). Final Report,

Gerrit Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam.



There’s someone who has a problem and tries to resolve it by making an object, and the person who looks at it has more or less the same problem and is also going to resolve it a little bit while looking at it. [. . .] The artist has to be – and this is a very Romantic idea – someone who resolves his own problems, speaks more or less about himself, and who, as much as this is possible, is able to resolve the problems of others, is able to pose questions to others.

Christian Boltanski (2009). In: C. Boltanski & H.U. Obrist.

Christian Boltanski / Hans Ulrich Obrist. Köln: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König (p.30).



Contrary to the received idea, we are not saturated with images, but subjected to the lack of certain images, which must be produced to fill in the blanks of the official image of the community.

Nicolas Bourriaud (2005). Postproduction. New York: Lukas & Sternberg (p.52).



Nothing I have seen – in photographs or in real life – ever cut me as sharply, deeply, instantaneously. Indeed, it seem plausible to me to divide my life into two parts, before I saw those photographs (I was twelve) and after ... When I looked at those photographs, something broke. Some limit had been reached, and not only that of horror; I felt irrevocably grieved, wounded, but part of my feelings started to tighten; something went dead; something is still crying.

Susan Sontag (1977). On Photography. London: Penguin Books (p.20).