Henk Wildschut, detail from 'Ra’s Ajdir, Tunesia, Shousa refugee camp , July 2011'. The orginal photo you can see at the exhibition 'Defiant Gardens' in Circl.ART.

On the upper level of Circl, Circl.ART is situated. Circl.ART is the new art project space of ABN AMRO, hosting alternating exhibitions that are open to the public.

Henk Wildschut

With his series of socially conscious documentary photographs, Henk Wildschut (Harderwijk, 1967) often goes straight to the heart of social issues. His exhibition Defiant Gardens, which will run from 13 December 2017 until 25 February 2018 in Circl.ART, presents a selection from the photographs Wildschut has taken in various refugee camps located in Jordan, Lebanon, Calais and Tunesia. The small gardens we see depicted in the photographs are not what we would expect to find there: planted in places that people couldn't wait to leave, they give rise to a poignantly contradictory image. Wildschut found them around the tents and huts that he was photographing; sometimes, too, there were pots containing flowers that had been brought as little shoots all the way from homes in Syria. "Even in the desert, people feel the need to grow things and look after them. It gives them something to hold onto, a reason to go on, and shows that they're not only victims. So, to me, Defiant Gardens symbolizes hope," says Wildschut. 

The exhibition's title references a study by the American landscape and architecture historian Kenneth Helphand on the act of gardening under wretched circumstances, revealing a long history to this phenomenon. For instance, during World War II small gardens were planted in Nazi and internment camps. And in World War I, they even sprang up next to the trenches. It is precisely such types of gardens that portray man's relationship to nature. They represent optimism, beauty and life in a time frequently dominated by ugliness and destruction. Furthermore, they constitute a memory of home and offer diversion from unpleasant realities. A garden has seldom seemed more meaningful.

Homelessness, isolation and vulnerability are among the recurrent themes in his work. In long-running projects he has documented life and work in Amsterdam's harbor, capturing the industrial nature of our food. And with his series of photographs on phosphate extraction in Morocco, he raises critical questions about our food production and treatment of natural resources. One of his best-known series was produced in various refugee camps along Europe's borders, among them the camp in Calais that was evacuated last year. His recent book Ville de Calais – which was awarded the Arles Prix du Livre this past spring – shows the rise, development and ultimate demolition of this site where illegal immigrants awaited their crossing to 'the promised land' of Great Britain.

Henk Wildschut (Harderwijk, 1967) studied at the Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten in The Hague (1993-1997). His documentary projects have been published in books of photography, among them Ville de Calais (2017), Food (2013) and Shelter (2010). In addition to carrying out assignments for newspapers and magazines, Wildschut exhibits regularly within the Netherlands and abroad. His work has been shown in Helsinki at the Festival for Political Photography (2017), at MoMA in New York (2016), in Amsterdam at Foam (2016) and the Rijksmuseum (2013) and at Museum Jan Cunen in Oss (2013). Wildschut has been granted various awards, including the Arles Prix du Livre 2017, the Dutch Doc Award (2011) and the Foto Kees Scherer Prijs (2009).

Photo on the right: Henk Wildschut, Mafrak, Jordan, Zaatari refugee camp, April 2014

More about Circl.ART

Art is constantly in a state of flux. Artists manage to make unconventional connections, dare to dream and more quickly sense, as the 'seismometers' of our times, what goes on in the world around us. Vision and a free way of thinking lie at the heart of a circular economy. Circl.ART is, for that reason, intended as a platform for new developments in art – art that stimulates the imagination and anticipates social and topical themes. At the same time, Circl.ART aims to provide a podium that enables artists to reach a wide audience. This could involve presentations of work from the ABN AMRO collection or other contemporary art that focuses on social topics such as the circular economy, while also showcasing exhibitions of young and rising talent, sometimes in connection with the ABN AMRO Art Award.

The project space opened in September 2017 with a solo presentation of the Dutch artist Thomas Raat, titled ‘Gems etc…’, which included new work that he created specifically for this location. For more information, see the archive exhibition programm Circl.Art​ (PDF 416 KB)