Dutch Virtual Reality experience officially selected for the VR competition of the Mostra del Cinema di Venezia
You can almost smell the ripe plums that are laid out on the seventeenth-century bar, almost feel the sea breeze brushing through your hair. The Virtual Reality experience Angels of Amsterdam is so lifelike, that all your senses are involved. The artists Anna Abrahams and Avinash Changa set the goal to bring this work as close to reality as possible, because the theme – the struggle for women’s rights – is still a reality today.
“Often the VR audience looks at another world through a technical smoke screen. The awareness then remains that the VR experience is an illusion. We wanted to transport the visitor and developed a technique that combines 3D scanning with high-resolution camera images, making the separation between real and virtual invisible.”
The selection for the VR competition of the prestigious Venice film festival, where Angels of Amsterdam will be presented between 1 and 11 September 2021, proves that the goal has been achieved. Thanks to Venice VR Expanded, the work can also be experienced online during that period, and at 12 international locations, including Eye Film Museum.
Anyone who starts the experience blank does not suspect that what you are experiencing takes place four centuries earlier. The setting is a lifelike digital reproduction of the quintessential Amsterdam Café ‘t Papeneiland, where time barely passes. It’s only when the barmaid turns around, dressed in an antique dress, and recommends her girls that you start to suspect something.
In 15 to 30 minutes you meet four young, fearless women who, each for their own reason, seek solace in the café. Maritgen Jans goes through life as David the seaman; Juliana dances and fights to redeem herself from the man who considers her his own; Elsje Christiaens is on the run from poverty and Soete Cut (Pussy Sweet) embraces her sexuality as a prostitute.
These four true stories demonstrate how issues we sometimes deem contemporary – LGBT, Black Lives Matter, “happiness seekers”, sex work – are, in fact, timeless, and far from resolved.
When Angels of Amsterdam was presented to the software platform that makes the VR screenings of the festival possible, it announced that the scenes of Maritgen Jans and Soete Cut (Pussy Sweet) could not be part of their offer due to the sexual connotations. This fact almost adds a new dimension to the work: the problems that the VR experience exposes are confirmed by the outside world.
Angels of Amsterdam (Anna Abrahams, Avinash Changa, 2021) can be seen in the unexpurgated version in the Palazzo del Cinema on the Lido of Venice (September 1-11), in Eye Filmmuseum (September 1-12), at 12 international locations (September 1-19), and during the Netherlands Film Festival (September 24 – October 2). A version can be seen online in which the characters Soete Cut and Maritgen Jans cannot be activated (September 1-19).
If you wish to see a preview of the unexpurgated version, please contact
Angels of Amsterdam is accompanied by an artist publication of the same title. In a handmade box you will find portrait prints of the four main characters, a paper doll by Maritgen Jans, and two illustrated booklets about the history. The box is made in an
edition of 30 and signed by the artist Coos Dieters. The box is available at www.dutchmuseumgiftshop.nl.