Viviane Sassen




For the first main exhibition of 2016 Hordaland Kunstsenter presents "Lexicon", a photographic series by Dutch artist Viviane Sassen.

Lexicon is a collection of images compiled in 2013 from two existing photographic collections, “Parasomnia” (2011) and “Flamboya” (2008). Rather than photographing as a way of building a pre-determined series, in the interest of representing a particular time, place or subject, Sassen curates collections of her own images, working intuitively from her ever-expanding archive.

Thematically, Lexicon foregrounds the relationship between perception and emotion, and the longstanding connection between photographic images, remembrance, and death and mourning. Many of Sassen’s photographs are carefully constructed while others are incidental scenes she encounters on her travels, leaving us unsure which are imaginary fictions and which scenes from life. Her distinct visual language is articulated by a deep awareness of the formalist concerns of painting, sculpture and photography, as well as an acute sense of colour and the optical resonances of pattern and design.

Although human subjects appear often in Sassen’s work, she does not see herself as a a portraitist, as she explains: “I don’t show the face because I don't want the work to be about that person in the picture. What I am trying to capture or produce is an archetypal image, an image that goes beyond the description of the physiognomic and physical specificities of an individual. I seek to provide the work with a universal dimension, more abstract, more about mankind.”



Viviane Sassen (b. 1972, Amsterdam) studied fashion design, followed by photography at the Utrecht School of the Arts (HKU) and Ateliers Arnhem. A retrospective of 17 years of her fashion work, In and Out of Fashion, opened at Huis Marseille Museum for Photography, Amsterdam, in 2012, and travelled to the Rencontres d'Arles festival, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Savannah College of Art and Design, Fotografie Forum Frankfurt and Fotomuseum Winterthur. Recent solo exhibitions have also taken place at Atelier Néerlandais, Paris; The Photographers Gallery, London; ICA, London; and Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam. Sassen was included on the main exhibition of the 55th Venice Biennale, The Encyclopedic Palace, in 2013. Other notable group shows include New Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2011); No Fashion, Please! Photography between gender and lifestyle at the Vienna Kunsthalle (2011); Figure and Ground: Dynamic Landscape at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art in Toronto as part of the Contact Photography Festival (2011); and Six Yards: Guaranteed Dutch Design at the Museum for Moderne Kunst Arnhem (2012). Sassen was awarded the Dutch art prize, the Prix de Rome, in 2007, and in 2011 won the International Center of Photography in New York's Infinity Award for Applied/Fashion/Advertising Photography. In 2015 she was awarded the David Octavius Hill Medal from the German Photography Academy, and was nominated for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize for her exhibition Umbra. She has also received numerous awards for her publications.



About Hordaland Kunstsenter’s 2016 program

The presentation of Lexicon at Hordaland Kunstsenter inaugurates an extended, collective research project that critically considers the notion of activity - as opposed to passivity - as a disposition taken up by “the people” that addresses and is addressed by the art work (and the art world). This people is made up of what in the established discourse of participatory art might be called the artwork’s “community”: the artist, the curator, the educator, the critic, the student, and, most importantly, the audience. Through questioning the domination of demonstrable activity (such as performative, physical participation) over invisible active states (such as actively looking, thinking or learning), the different areas of Hordaland Kunstsenter’s program for 2016 will create space for reflecting on the politics of looking, of making and of mediating art in our time. 


Hordaland Art Centre based in Bergen, Norway was established 1976 as the first artist run art centre in Norway. Its activities are based around the exhibition programme with equal emphasis on seminars, presentations and dialogue. Since 1987 Hordaland Art Centre has hosted a Nordic residency programme, from 2008 also open to international artists, curators, writers and other art professionals.