Trans Artists interviews Dutch artist Lidwien van de Ven about her travel and residency experiences in Jordan.

As published in the Trans Artists Newsletter 11-2005

In the Middle East residency programmes are few and far between. Local artists' initiatives however prove to be very inventive in staging residential projects. 'Amman Meeting Point' was staged by the Young Arab Theatre Fund together with Makan House of Expression. For three weeks artists from outside Jordan stayed in Amman and produced works in the field of theatre, visual arts and public space. Dutch participant Lidwien van de Ven recalls the ingenuity of the project.

How did you become interested in the Middle East?

I was already interested and have travelled to different countries in the Middle-East (including Iran) since 2000 to photograph and to do research. This was related to the themes of my work, politics and religion. If you travel like that it is important to come back more than once and whenever possible to stay a longer time. So my work there is not finished yet.

What about staying there being a woman ànd photographer?

For being a woman ànd a photographer, the combination makes no difference. Being a woman at all is different from here, but not in a negative way. Your position as a photographer depends largely on which country you are (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iran?) and what you want to photograph. And as everywhere if you photograph people it is important that they feel they can trust you. But in general I have not focussed so much on portaits, more on cities and landscape or specific places that are important for our religions. I worked with photography and video.

Did your participation in 'Amman Meeting Points' highlighted any difference?

In the project in Amman there were different artists and performers involved. It was organised by Tarek Abou El Fetouh from the Young Arab Theatre Fund together with Makan House of Expressions. My own presentation took place partly at gallery Dar Al Anda (which is close to Makan) and partly in the public space, on billboards in the street. I showed photo's from Jordan. One of them is from Down-Town Amman. In this area you can find a lot of commerce. Many people from the Arab countries pass by there for business. People who live in Amman usually don't come very much in this area. The places to go out, the nice restaurants as well as their houses are in other neighbourhoods.

Did the residential project 'Amman Meeting Points' work out well, within three weeks?

I liked participating in the 'Amman Meeting Points' very much. I stayed there first for producing the billboards, which has been done in Beirut and then I went to Amman for the presentation. It gives you a very different relationship to whom you meet, because you are not 'a tourist' anymore. Also it is interesting for them and for me to find out how we look at these works. Some of my photos are made in the desert, where I have been several times. Here the funny thing is that the people I met in Amman had never been there.Their work and lifes take place in the city and for them it is just as unknown as it would be for somebody in Holland for instance to see photos from this area.

How did 'Amman Meeting Point' affect your work since then?

I liked very much to work with Tarek Abou El Fetouh from the YATF and the people from Makan. Makan is run by three curators who are very enthousiastic and motivated to run this artspace. They also like to meet new artists or hear about proposals. Together with the Young Arab Theatre Foundation there will be a follow-up on this project which is planned in the Townhouse Gallery in Cairo, Egypt. I am very much looking forwards to that. To work again with the YATF and the Townhouse Gallery, but also to meet new people (from the artworld) there. Doing a project is a very good way to learn more from these countries.

Find more information about the Meeting Points here: