Julika Rudelius

Mental Clichés

“Could you please photograph something multicultural for us, Mevrouw Rudelius? Just to show that we all get on really famously with each other here?” Julika Rudelius lives in the Netherlands, where the multicultural society is not a utopia but everyday reality. Yet the coexistence between the ethnic groups has not always been smooth. Julika Rudelius has never joined in with the “we’re all so happy here” campaigns. The issue of racism cropped up when, during a project on group behavior, she happened to notice how many different nationalities she had assembled in her pictures.

Her photographs document the tension between togetherness and distance most subtly. For these pictures are by no means “documents” in the sense of authentic representations of social reality in the Netherlands. The pictures are faked. And Rudelius has carefully inserted little mistakes into her arrangements. The minute you study the photographs carefully you will find them: the two Moroccan women wear jellaba that are somewhat too short, their headscarves do not come from North but from South Africa; above all, Muslim women would never publicly turn their face straight to a camera. How far can one go with collages? Two black figures lean against a Nissen hut, they wear jeans and look like stevedores, stand huddled, hiding something: a typical scene, drug dealers. But appearances deceive. Many of the key stimuli cover up a crucial detail: one white hand signals that something is wrong here.

Julika Rudelius’ pictures play with a perceptual mechanism: before we can grasp all the details, our brains already start assigning a meaning to what we have perceived – assuming that it concurs with the key stimuli stored in our brains. This act of visual economy is crucial to human survival: how would we otherwise find our way in our ever more complex environment? However, sometimes the mental clichés block access to the world around us and then we see a person only as a race rather than as an individual.

Biographical information

1968

born in Cologne

1993/94

studied visual communication at the Hochschule der bildenden Künste, Hamburg

1995/95

studied photography at the Gerrit Rietveld Akademie, Amsterdam

1999–2001

residencies at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten, Amsterdam.

1999

grant from Robert Bosch Stiftung, Stuttgart

2000

grant from KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines), Amsterdam

2003

BijlmAir residency and grant from Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam and Artothek Zuidaoost

lives and works in Amsterdam