Willem de Rooij (1969, Beverwijk, Netherlands) lives and works in Berlin.
De Rooij’s work reflects on the conditions of the exhibition space and of institutional practice. Central in his work is the selection and combination of images in a variety of different media, which range from sculpture to photography, film, and texts. De Rooij analyses conventions of presentation and representation, constructing tensions between cultural, historical, political, and autonomous sources.
For EVA International 2016, De Rooij has created a new work that is in counterpoint to Blue to Black, an artwork that was produced for Koyo Kouoh’s 2012 show Hollandaise at Raw Material Company in Dakar, Senegal. Blue to Black is a so-called Hollandaise wax print on cotton that is industrially printed in Ghana. The new work, Black to Blue, is a piece of fabric hand printed in Yogyakarta using traditional Indonesian Batik technique. Black to Blue and Blue to Black are shown together on two separate but identical pedestals in the same room.
The concept for the exhibition Hollandaise stemmed from the long-standing commercial relationship between the Netherlands and Africa. The title referred to the colourful printed fabrics that are exported from the Netherlands to Africa, and are generally known in West Africa as ‘Hollandaise’ or ‘Dutch Wax’. During the Dutch colonial occupation of Indonesia, Dutch textile companies, such as Vlisco, developed industrial methods to mass produce traditionally handmade Indonesian batik, and found their largest markets on the Atlantic shores of Africa. Today, these bright and distinctive wax prints are regarded as typically African. Complex globalization processes thus created the constructed image of a certain Africanness.
De Rooij based his works on the colours Dutch traders used to describe the Indonesian people (‘blue people’) and the West-African people (‘black people’); thus, the transfer of printing techniques from one continent to another runs parallel to the transfer of racial stereotypes.