Not on display
- Rineke Dijkstra born 1959
- Video, high definition, 3 projections, colour and sound (stereo)
- Duration: 12min
- Presented by the artist and Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin
I See A Woman Crying (Weeping Woman) is a three-channel HD video installation with sound created by Rineke Dijkstra in 2009 in an edition of six with two artist’s proofs. The work lasts twelve minutes and is shown on a loop, with each image projected on a large scale and shown side-by-side in a triptych format. The work shows a group of school children who were asked to observe and describe Pablo Picasso’s (1881–1973) portrait The Weeping Woman 1937, in Tate’s collection (Tate T05010). A reproduction of Picasso’s painting hangs outside the frame of the camera for the children to look at but is never shown in the video. Dijkstra made the work during the exhibition The Fifth Floor: Ideas Taking Space at Tate Liverpool in 2008–9. Tate provided the artist with a functional studio setup within the museum, much like the temporary studios she had constructed for other video works, such as the earlier The Buzzclub, Liverpool, England, March 1, 1997 1997 and The Krazyhouse (Megan, Simon, Nicky, Philip, Dee) 2009 (Tate T14197).
In I See A Woman Crying (Weeping Woman), the three videos which comprise the installation show the children in half-body group portraits in front of a white background; three cameras slowly zoom in and out, focusing on the different children. The children mostly do not look into any of the cameras but at the image of the painting beyond the frame. The slow camera movements allow the viewer to observe the nuances of the children’s attitudes and behaviour. At the beginning, they are rather quiet and absorbed in their thoughts, before becoming gradually more engaged with the painting. As the discussion evolves, their ideas about the source of the woman’s sadness become more speculative and imaginative: she might be lonely, a family member might have died, or perhaps she just saw a ghost. Their faces express concentration, scepticism and empathy.
I See A Woman Crying (Weeping Woman) is a multi-layered work. It can be interpreted as an examination of how school children (and museum visitors in general) view works of art, relating the expressed emotions to their own experience. The viewer does not see the painting that they talk about but rather imagines it through their descriptions. The children are filmed in a state of intense concentration, mostly ignoring the gaze of the camera. They share their thoughts on Picasso’s painting; however, the viewer can follow only to a certain extent, being deprived of the image they are describing. The video exposes the restrictions and difficulties inherent in language and in communicating emotion and inner feelings to others. Dijkstra’s video also portrays the individual youngsters and their engagement with each other. As such, it is a socio-cultural study, reflecting the British education system and the codes and conventions used in contemporary British society.
I See A Woman Crying exemplifies the way in which the human being, his or her body and issues surrounding socio-cultural identity are at the centre of Dijkstra’s art, whether in video or photography. Much of her work focuses on individuals at transitional moments in their lives, often taking as its subject adolescence and young individuals in the process of growing up and becoming adults in society.
The Fifth Floor. Ideas Taking Space, exhibition catalogue, Tate Liverpool 2009.
Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective, Interview 2012, https://www.guggenheim.org/news/two-new-videos-rineke-dijkstra-retrospective, accessed 16 June 2013.
Jennifer Blessing, Sandra S. Phillips, Chelsea Spengemann and Jan van Adrichem, Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective, exhibition catalogue, Guggenheim Museum, New York 2012.
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