In The Wars, photographer Oscar van Alphen combines an adapted version of Georges Bataille’s text Madame Edwarda with images drawn from his archive. Madame Edwarda (published in 1941 under the pseudonym Pierre Angélique) is a story without beginning or end, in which a a male first-person narrator and a prostitute encounter each other in Paris by night.

Madame Edwarda is about lust, power, anxiety, desire and humiliation. Van Alphen uses Bataille’s text as a metaphor for the perversity of social structures, for the uncontrollability of political and economic power, and the effects these have on human dignity. He juxtaposes pictures from the decaying and almost deserted industrial regions in northern France and of the 1968 student rebellion in Paris, with the pornographic text that came into being during the first years of WW II.

The Wars is a restored version of the projection that was part of the 1984-1985 installation De Oorlogen. Combining still and moving images, set to a voice-over, it was originally projected (using 6 slide projectors and a 16mm film projector) in a space also displaying photographic prints. The 2006 restoration has digitally scanned and re-mastered the visuals, and created an English language version of the original Dutch soundtrack to create a single screen version of the piece.

Authors

Oscar van Alphen (1923-2010) is a photographer and writer. He published his first photobook in 1958 (Kinderen in de grote stad/Children in The Big City). He worked for newspapers during the sixties, mainly focusing on street events. From 1972-1979, a highly experimental period in the visual arts and the theatre scene, he provided a weekly theatre column for the magazine Vrij Nederland.

His 1978 publication Het Rijke Onvermogen (Prosperous Impotence) and his 1982 book on Palestine take a strong political position. After 1980 he starts to experiment with photographs and text, both on a formal as well as an intellectual level, leading to publications as Het Moment Voorbij (Beyond The Moment, 1982) and De slak op het grasveld (The Snail in The Meadow, 1991). The 1984-1985 audiovisual production De Oorlogen (The Wars, in 2006 complemented by an English soundtrack) can be considered his chef d’oeuvre.

Platforms

© Oscar van Alphen
© Oscar van Alphen
© Oscar van Alphen
© Oscar van Alphen
© Oscar van Alphen
© Oscar van Alphen
© Oscar van Alphen
© Oscar van Alphen
© Oscar van Alphen
Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam, 2009
Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam, 2009
Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam, 2009
Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam, 2009

Exhibition

The Wars is a restored version of the projection that was part of the 1984-1985 installation De Oorlogen. Combining still and moving images, set to a voice-over, it was originally projected (using 6 slide projectors and a 16mm film projector) in a space also displaying photographic prints.

  • 31.10.200922.03.2009Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam, the Netherlands

    01.01.200801.03.2008Fotofestival Mannheim Ludwigshafen Heidelberg, Germany

    01.01.200701.03.2007Shadow Film Festival, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

  • Audiovisual
    with Dutch or English soundtrack

    Technical details
    32 minutes, high definition video, colour, 16:9 on Blu-ray Disc

Film

Photography & concept: Oscar van Alphen
Text based on: Madame Edwarda by Georges Bataille
Adaptation and translation into Dutch: Friso Haverkamp
Directors of voice & translation into English: Margot Knijn, Simon Pummell
Voices: Henk Reyn, Annelies van der Bie (1984 Dutch version), Yorick van Wageningen, Thekla Reuten (2006 English version)
Cinematographers: Reinier van Brummelen, Floris van Manen
Sound Design: Markus S. Hünd (1984 Dutch version) , Wart Wamsteker (2006 English version)
Digital reconstruction: Peter Claassen
Project management: Rixt Bosma
Production: Bas Vroege

  • DVD

    The Wars / De Oorlogen
    Oscar van Alphen, Paradox, 2006.
    32 min/colour/video
  • Oscar van Alphen (Photography & concept)
    Friso Haverkamp (Adaptation & translation into Dutch)
    Margot Knijn (Director of voice & translation into English)
    Simon Pummell (Director of voice & translation into English)
    Henk Reyn (Voice)
    Annelies van der Bie (Voice (1984 Dutch version))
    Yorick van Wageningen (Voice)
    Thekla Reuten (Voice (2006 English version))
    Peter Claassen (Digital reconstruction)
    Rixt Bosma (Project management)
    Bas Vroege (Production)

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