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Video portraits and photography:
Martin & Inge Riebeek
Tobias Mathijsen (assistant)
Anneke van Wolfswinkel
Translation and proofreading:
Joy Phillips (The Language Collective)
Michael Blommaert (The Language Collective)
Rob van Hoesel
Lithography and print:
NPN Printers (NL)
Aegon Art Collection
Jaap Harten Fonds
AkzoNobel Art Foundation
The Essential shows us the many ways in which our lives are unique, but also the similarities we share despite our differences. Since 2010 artists Martin and Inge Riebeek (NL) have been collecting stories from people around the world for their video art project The Essential. In three or four minutes they tell us what matters most to them in their lives.
A woman in Naples who, as a child, saw her mother killed by bullets from the mafia and who now works in politics to combat that violence. A woman who sells coffee on the street and hopes that someday she will have enough money to go to a good dentist so she can smile at her clients and maybe find a good man. A London banker who tells how the rat race of the financial world in which he and his wife work threatens to invade their private lives. Or a man in Nairobi speaking softly about his eldest son, the apple of his eye, who fell ill when he was 25 years old and died. In many of those stories, a complete feature film seems to be hidden, but it always remains that few minutes: the moment of the first meeting. That first meeting, that is the core for Martin and Inge. You walk on the street and meet someone. He looks at you and tells you his story.
This body of work contains already more than 600 video portraits of people from 23 countries. They share their honest answers to this main question: “what is the essence of your life”. Martin and Inge still collect new stories, as they wish to give a voice to a wide variety of people. The stories show us what’s going on in the world right now, at times revealing a disturbing, yet important message.
This book is a celebration of a decade of work. It offers a selection of 225 video portraits with transcipts of the touching monologues and additional photos taken while creating The Essential.
In addition to various exhibitions and screenings Martin and Inge regularly post a new selection of videos online at www.the-essential.nl
Martin Riebeek studied contemporary art at St. Joost, Breda. Inge Riebeek specialised in sculpting and ceramics at St. Joost, Breda. Martin and Inge have been working together since 2001. They created several art works in public space and started to integrate audio visual elements in their work. In this work they have always focussed on creating encounters, to connect people to one another. The seeds for the later street interview projects (Imagine Being There, The Essential) were sown in 2002, while Martin and Inge were working on a piece commissioned by a juvenile penitentiary. This installation consists of an interactive treadmill. The Riebeeks devised a route for the virtual escape that ultimately leads to the southernmost tip of Italy. Along the way to this destination, they shot film in twelve European cities. But as they filmed people without asking for their permission, they soon began to feel like voyeurs. When permission was given, the spontaneity vanished. So they decided to engage passers-by in the conversation by asking them “What is your dream? What does your paradise look like?” In the end these encounters became the sole purpose for the artist couple.