The magical world of Alice

While walking through the streets of Pyongyang in North Korea, my government-controlled tour guide Miss Wang inquires about my occupation. “I make arts,” I answer simply. “Mostly I paint landscapes and flowers. My work obviously shows that I am a girl who loves fairytales. As a girl, you need some romance, right?” Wang giggles in agreement. Whilst that answer may be no lie, it is far from the answer I would give to an art critic back home in Amsterdam. To make sure Wang did not sent me straight back to the airport, I left out some essential parts: indeed, my work process resembles that of painting, yet I use photography and computer instead of oil paint and brushes. What I also did not tell Wang is that my work is often politically engaged and explores prejudices about social issues through playful and whimsical stories presented as fairytales. An inspiration for my work comes from the work of the 19th century Dutch writer Eduard Douwes Dekker, especially Max Havelaar I read as a teenager. Knowing he was my distant family member through my grandfather, I valued all the more my emotional connection to this book and read ittime after time. The way Dekker weaves and juxtaposes different visions of stories on the same subject would influence me greatly, which was later incorporated into my own style of storytelling.

Upon graduating the Academy of Art and Design St. Joost in Breda, I embarked on exploring different cultures and societal landscapes. The travels took me to far corners of Asia, including South Korea, China and Vietnam. On magazine assignments, I travelled to cities like Las Vegas, Istanbul, Moscow and Dubai where I shot four stories in 2008. The topics ranged from sheiks’ daughters and their lux teenage life in an upper echelon of Arab society (ELLEgirl) to a story about modern day slavery in labor camps full of immigrants (VICE), a heartbreaking contrast to say the least. Though my editors responded with great enthusiasm to these photographs, I felt dissatisfied with my images for they did not fully capture my true feelings about the subject. I wanted to depict my dreams and fantasies beyond just documenting images and developed a new procedure that could help convey the kind of narratives I wanted to express.I began using photo composites to combine the photographic reality with my own imagination.


My current project is North Korea, a Life between Propaganda and Reality, in which I reconsider my own presumptions about the most isolated country in the word. I travelled 2,500 kilometers and saw cities with no light, sat at a table in an empty restaurant and looked at the yellow goo dripping from the tap in a fancy hotel foreigners like me were put to stay in. During the government-controlled tour, my guides could not hide the poverty and extreme inequality. Through the window of the van, I could catch a glimpse of North Korea’s reality. Once in a while I saw men lying on the asphalted road to keep themselves warm and saw kids collecting acorns, digging for roots and fishing with their hand-made rods. Then I would see a bunch of well-fed, smiling kids surrounding the great leader Kim Il-sung on a propaganda painting, a stark contrast to the daily life of North Korea. Propaganda persists as an essence of North Korea’s outward existence; it reflects the dream, the hope against a brute reality, often bitter and harsh. In North Korea, a Life between Propaganda and Reality, I try to reconcile the image I was led to believe with the grim reality I encountered by creating a new propaganda. This series will be exhibited in 2015.

The Magical World of Alice

Huisstijl voor Alice Wielinga, Neo-fotografe. Webdesign en printuitingen. Alice construeert haar werk, stukje voor stukje, elk element apart gefotografeerd op verschillende tijdstippen en locaties. Haar verhaal ontstaat zodra zij alle puzzelstukjes op hun plaats laat vallen, waarmee haar fantasie werkelijkheid wordt. 

Opdrachtgever: Alice Wielinga