'Rehearsals' and 'Almerisa' Bring Unconventional Portraiture to Milwaukee Art Museum

Nov 2, 2016

One of the things that the renovation of the Milwaukee Art Museum created is a new exhibition space for video installation and photography exhibits. Back in September, the first expansive set of video installations went on display to the public.

Created by Dutch artist Rineke Dijkstra, the two video installations were filmed in Russia and focus on young girls perfecting the disciplines of dance and rhythmic gymnastics. One film features Marianna, a little girl from Saint Petersburg, training to go to the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet. 

"For me, a photograph or a portrait is also a kind of an encounter with somebody. It's my encounter with the subject. But later, of course, it's the encounter with the subject with the viewer."

"She's rehearsing a specific part of The Fairy Doll, and the role is a young, happy kid. And she has to keep it up, that smile, but it's [a] difficult part. So you see her struggling and the teacher is giving her instructions, but it's quite like, tough," says Dijkstra. "In the beginning she's really... very happy, but then she gets tired and you can see it in her face." 

Dijkstra is also a still photographer, and part of the exhibition includes a series of large-scale still photographs of a young Bosnian refugee named Almerisa from 1994 through the present. Djikistra first started photographing Almerisa when she was very young, but continued creating portraits of her every couple of years. The exhibit shows nearly 20 years of Almerisa's life from the moment she first emigrated from Bosnia to her adult life in the Netherlands. 

"For me, a photograph or a portrait is also a kind of an encounter with somebody," says Dijkstra. "It's my encounter with the subject. But later, of course, it's the encounter with the subject with the viewer."

The two series, “Rehearsals” and “Almerisa” are currently on display at the Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts at the Milwaukee Art Museum. The exhibit was curated by Lisa Sutcliffe, who will give a gallery talk on November 29.