press release

From 6 June to 29 August the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam will present the solo exhibition Gert Jan Kocken. Positions. Especially for the exhibition, Kocken made new photo installations that cover the history of the Second World War and the traces the War left in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Schiedam. The historical enormity of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki - 65 years ago - is also featured. Kocken enlarges and dissects the role that photos, cartography and other visual material fulfils at crucial moments in history. In this case, the viewer can walk through the Second World War, as it were.

Gert Jan Kocken (Ravenstein, 1971) makes photographic series and photo - installations in which he reinterprets, in an expressive manner, important moments and turning points in history, and draws them out of their epoch into the spotlights. The role that these images play in our history, both as artworks and as documentary material, is a recurring theme in his undertaking. 2010 marks the 65th anniversary of the War, and the commemorative image that Kocken devotes to this leaves an indelible imprint in one's memory. The exhibition begins with watercolours by Hitler, photographed by Kocken. These works are kept in a steel bureau in the Pentagon. They stimulate the notion that history could have been so different if the maker had confined himself to working on paper.

Kocken collected maps of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Schiedam from the period 1940-45. The course of the war is drawn on urban maps that Kocken has dissected and enlarged. He projected 51 maps of Amsterdam on top of one another. Among these is the notorious 'dot map', generated by civil servants in 1941 on the orders of the occupying forces, on which each dot represents 10 Jews. German maps and those of the resistance slide over one another. Military bases adjoin undefined symbols, the locations of air-raid shelters next to those of exploded or perhaps even unexploded bombs. All the data, layer upon layer, fuse together.

Enola Gay is the name of the American bomber that dropped the first atom bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945; 78,000 people died immediately, and the number of fatalities due to radioactivity eventually rose to 140,000. Colonel and pilot Paul Tibbets had named the plane after his mother Enola Gay Tibbets; the bomb was called Little Boy. The second American atom bomb (Fat Man), which was dropped on Nagasaki on 9 August 1945, killed 27,000 people immediately, and at least 70,000 eventually died as a consequence of the bomb. Six days after the second attack, Japan officially surrendered and the Second World War came to an end. This end is also captured in images. For this, Kocken used more historical photo material, such as the view of the atomic explosions. However, another image has been placed on top of this image, so that the documentary changes into propaganda, as Kocken shows. The signature of Paul Tibbets is spread pontifically across the mushroom cloud. In the decades after the war, he repeatedly signed the photo of the event, as if it was a masterpiece.

Gert Jan Kocken has been nominated for the Dutch DOC Award, which is a much-coveted annual prize for documentary photography - ranging from journalistic photography to conceptual. On 2 June 2010, this prize, worth 20,000 euros, will be awarded to a Dutch photographer for the best documentary project completed in 2009. On this same date, a prize will also be awarded to the best innovative or experimental project.

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Gert Jan Kocken