This winter Huis Marseille and the Nederlands Fotomuseum are collaborating in simultaneously presenting The Power Show by the Dutch artist Jacqueline Hassink, including her latest photographic projects which are being shown for the first time in both Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Huis Marseille is exhibiting the series Arab Domains, Haute Couture Fitting Rooms, Paris ,View, Kyoto and BMW Car Girls while the Nederlands Fotomuseum is presenting an installation of Car Girls and her famous earlier series, The Table of Power, in its entirety. Although these projects differ in subject matter and form, they fall under the same theme: Hassink’s investigation into the spaces where power is wielded. Being published in conjunction with the exhibition is The Power Book, Jacqueline Hassink’s first monograph that includes all of the artist’s photographic projects to date.
Jacqueline Hassink (b. Enschede 1966) lives and works in New York. She is interested in the way in which economic power is staged, particularly in environments that confirm power and make its pursuit possible. In various photographic projects she presents the image that companies assume – be it the auto industry or the fashion world – and how they present themselves; for example, through the interiors of their head offices, as Hassink revealed earlier in the Mindscapes series presented in Huis Marseille in 2003, or through the women in the series Car Girls, whose looks are attuned to the aura of the car models they promote at international automobile shows. Similarly, exclusive French couturiers express their identity through the interiors of their private dressing rooms (Haute Couture Fitting Rooms, Paris).
Thematically, Jacqueline Hassink’s photographs concentrate on the concepts of public versus private, or outside as opposed to inside. The boundaries between the public and the private domain are perhaps most clearly revealed in the Arab Domains series, in which she portrays Arab businesswomen through photographs of their conference rooms and personal dining rooms. Whereas the boundaries between public and private are sharply delimited in Arab Domains, they blur into one another in the Japanese gardens of View, Kyoto, however.
Characteristic of Hassink’s methodology is the meticulous system she uses in making, describing and displaying her photographs. For her, the investigation, the interviews and the journey that precede the making of the photograph are just as much a part of the process as is the final product. It is not only the result that counts, but also the concept and the discussion she initiates with her subjects. As a photographer, she tries to make the spaces and portraits as visible and understandable as possible, through light, colour and composition.
The Power Show in Huis Marseille:
Jacqueline Hassink’s Arab Domains (2005-2006) project is a direct follow-up to her much-praised Female Power Stations: Queen Bees (1996-2000). For Queen Bees she portrayed fifteen female top managers by photographing their conference tables at work and dining tables at home. Thanks to the efforts of Ms. Al Kaylani, chair of the Arab International Women’s Forum (AIWF) in London, she was later able to make a sequel to this project in the Arab world.
Because the Arab world comprises many countries with diverse cultures, all of whom share – to a certain extent – the same language and religion, it is difficult for an outsider to fully grasp it. In the corporate world, the position of Arab women is very different from that of women in Western countries like those in North America and Europe as well as Japan, where Hassink took the photos for her Queen Bees series. The most important difference is the fact that an Arab woman can start her own company only if she has the support of all the male members of her family. Thanks to the AIWF’s network, Jacqueline Hassink was able to approach 50 of the most important and successful businesswoman in the Arab world for her project. Ultimately, 36 of these women from 18 different countries (Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen) agreed to cooperate with her.
Between 2005 and 2006, Jacqueline Hassink made eight trips to photograph the conference tables and dining tables of these women. In preparation for the photo session, she sent the women an extensive list of questions (about their education, career path and so forth). For this exhibition, twenty ‘portraits’, presented as diptychs with the conference table to the left and the dining table to the right, have been selected. Wherever she did not receive permission to also photograph the dining room table at home, the right half of the work is a blank sheet of paper. Nationality, job title and company earnings are also part of the work. In this way, Jacqueline Hassink attempts to give a more concrete and positive picture of Arab women than the stereotypes that are generally known in the Western world.
Haute Couture Fitting Rooms, Paris
The Haute Couture Fitting Rooms, Paris (2003-) series is a follow-up to the earlier VIP Fitting Rooms, USA & Japan (2001-2003), both part of the Mindscapes project. For this series, Jacqueline Hassink photographed the special dressing rooms in world-famous fashion houses where the wealthy try on clothes. A normal dressing room is usually nondescript and at best functional. VIP dressing rooms give the client the feeling of being in a room created exclusively for them. The Haute Couture Fitting Rooms, Paris (2003–) series shows the highly exclusive and secluded dressing rooms of Parisian haute couture designers like Chanel, Givenchy, Jean-Louis Scherrer, Emanuel Ungaro and Valentino. The interiors of these private dressing rooms, which are open only to the elite, reflect the image the fashion house wants to project, whereas the often-famous women who visit these dressing rooms are engaged in creating and perfecting their own public personas. This is why the interior of these rooms is such an important, precise matter for couturiers. In the large-scale photographs that Hassink made, large mirrors dominate the rooms, blurring the boundaries between public and private even more.
For the View, Kyoto (2004–2007) series, Jacqueline Hassink photographed the famous gardens and temples of Kyoto – trading economic power centres for religious ones, in fact. In Kyoto, too, she is interested in the specific way in which the private (inside) and public (outside) relate to each other in these gardens and temples. Traditional Japanese temples, shrines and houses do not have glass windows; instead they have sliding walls covered with rice paper. When these walls are open, inside and outside seamlessly flow into one another, thus blurring the borders between private and public. The way in which nature is experienced from indoors is taken into account in the designs of both the gardens and the buildings. Hassink therefore photographed the gardens from deep within the temples, so that the tatami mats and the gardens are depicted in equal measure. In this way she shows how a garden, when viewed from inside a building, resembles an abstract painting of nature – a living artwork that slowly changes as the seasons change. Hassink visited 34 gardens, chose 19 for her project, and, after much difficulty, was allowed to photograph 12 of them. A small selection from this series, including a photograph of Ryoan-ji, the most famous of Japanese gardens, is being presented in Huis Marseille.
BMW Car Girls
The film BMW Car Girls was commissioned in 2004 by BMW to promote their latest BMW 1 series.
For more information on Jacqueline Hassink’s ‘Car Girls’ and ‘The Table of Power’ projects, you can contact the Nederlands Fotomuseum (see below).
The Power Book by Jacqueline Hassink, London (Chris Boot Ltd) 2007, with an essay by Els Barents and Frits Gierstberg, 192 pages, ISBN 10:1-905712-07-3, ISBN 13: 978-1-905712-07-6, www.chrisboot.com