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Rineke Dijkstra's recent video installations debut at the Milwaukee Art Museum
Rineke Dijkstra, Marianna (The Fairy Doll), 2014. One-channel HD video installation, surround sound; 19 min. 13 sec., looped. Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery. Copyright Rineke Dijkstra.

MILWAUKEE, WIS.- The Milwaukee Art Museum debuted the recent video installations of internationally acclaimed artist Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, b. 1959) in Rehearsals, which opened September 9 in the Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts. Two video installations—Marianna (The Fairy Doll) and The Gymschool, St. Petersburg—make their museum debut in this Milwaukee-originated exhibition organized by Lisa J. Sutcliffe, curator of photography and media arts.

Dijkstra filmed the two video installations featured in Rehearsals in Russia; the works examine the intensive rehearsals of young girls. Marianna (The Fairy Doll), a single-channel video never shown in the United States, presents a touching portrait of a ballerina as she practices for an audition in the prestigious Vaganova ballet academy. The Gymschool, St. Petersburg, a three channel video, highlights the flexibility and strict discipline of a group of young rhythmic gymnasts. Both videos, which Dijkstra produced for Manifesta, the European biennial of contemporary art, in 2014, reveal complex layers of determination and fragility as the girls attempt to conceal their emotions and perfect their crafts.

Over the past 30 years, Dijkstra has produced a sensitive and eloquent body of photographic and video work. In her large-scale photographs and video installations, she is particularly interested in moments of transition, especially adolescence, a time when individuals build their own identities and begin to present themselves in the way they wish to be perceived. Known for her acclaimed photographs of bathers—adolescents Dijkstra met on beaches from Poland to South Carolina—her subjects range from teenagers to mothers who have just given birth, bull fighters fresh from the ring and military recruits. In contrast to her earlier videos of visitors and dancers in nightclubs, Dijkstra’s recent videos capture young girls who have dedicated their lives to practicing incredible athletic routines. She does not concentrate on the final, polished performance but, rather, focuses on what is in fact a more impressive feat: the repetition, resolve, determination and constant practice that it takes to become a truly gifted performer. As the girls attempt to conceal their personal emotions, Dijkstra finds beauty in the moments of imperfection when they reveal their humanity.

Accompanying the Rehearsals exhibition is The Lives of Other: Portraits from the Photography Collection. This presentation of works from the Museum’s photography collection explores the interest many photographers have had in understanding how people present themselves to the world. The exhibition is organized thematically and includes an important new acquisition, Rineke Dijkstra’s Almerisa (1994–ongoing), purchased through the Christine A. Symchych and James P. McNulty Acquisition Fund. The work is an 11-part series that follows the transition of a young Bosnian refugee as she adapts to life in the West and grows from a girl to a woman with her own child.

“This exhibition offers a rare opportunity to view Rineke Dijkstra’s video installations in the context of contemporary and historical portraiture,” said Lisa J. Sutcliffe, the Milwaukee Art Museum’s curator of photography and media arts. “Marianna (The Fairy Doll) and The Gymschool, St. Petersburg reveal Dijkstra’s continued interest in examining the nature of transformation by closely observing the act of rehearsal itself.”

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