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a woman watches a video projection of a boat on ice
a woman watches a video projection of a boat on ice

The idea of not truly belonging anywhere is ­– paradoxically – a universal human emotion. Everyone is sometimes convinced they are so different to other people that they don’t fit in. This is one of the reasons that so many people feel attracted to Guido van der Werve’s work which is currently enjoying a retrospective at Eye.

Guido van der Werve made a name for himself with his melancholy art films in which he battles himself. He is a decent composer, chess player, pianist, Russian speaker and runner. And, with a Golden Calf award and a MoMA exhibition on his cv, he could justifiably refer to himself as a successful artist. Nevertheless, he prefers to characterise himself as an outsider rather than an homo universalis or Renaissance man.

In his films, in which he plays the lead, he often appears brutally lonely. A good example being Nummer negen, in which Van der Werve spends 24 hours standing at the North Pole. While the earth rotated in one direction, the artist turned in the other: exactly one full turn on his axis. That day he literally didn’t join in with the world – the ultimate rebellion against the rest of humanity. In his oeuvre he also crops up in a tiny hermit’s cabin in a desolate landscape, swimming alone in a dark river, in a quiet field with a home-made rocket or running in endless circles around his remote home in a Finnish forest.

Van der Werve says his latest work, Nummer achttien is about showing that outsiders matter. The film, which the artist calls autofiction, brings recent events and childhood memories to life. As a child Van der Werve was always told he was different than other children. He stuttered, had freckles, long hair and was obsessed with Chopin and Alexander the Great. He was told the world was tailored for normal people, and he wasn’t one of them.

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