Juror Interview: A Conversation with FOAM Curator Mirjam Kooiman

We are more than thrilled to have Mirjam Kooiman Curator at Foam Museum Amsterdam and Art Historian as part of this year’s Hariban Award Juror panel! We got the chance to discuss her most recent curatorial projects at Foam as well as what she is looking forward to with this year’s submissions

Amsterdam 27-07-2018 De Kunstmeisjes In beeld: Mirjam Kooiman Foto: Tammy van Nerum

Mirjam Kooiman is an art historian and curator at Foam Photography Museum Amsterdam, where she was responsible for shows including Ai Weiwei – #SafePassage, Paul Mpagi Sepuya – Double Enclosure, Daisuke Yokota – Matter, Awoiska van der Molen – Blanco, and the travelling Foam Talent exhibitions of 2015 and 2016. In 2017 she also initiated a series of collaborations with photography platforms in Mexico, Nigeria and Indonesia in Foam’s project space Foam 3h, in order to create an exchange of cultural knowledge on photography discourses worldwide. She is currently researching how photography can relate to virtual realities, gaming and online experiences. Mirjam holds a BA in Art History and an MA in Museum Curating from the University of Amsterdam. She previously served as a curator-in-training at Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum. She is also a regular contributor to Foam Magazine.

Can you explain the work that you do at Foam Photography Museum? 

I’m a curator at Foam. Our team consists out of three curators and an assistant-curator and is led by our artistic director Marcel Feil. As a team, we give shape to Foam’s artistic program. I initiate and curate exhibitions and side programs, scout for emerging talent in photography, do many portfolio reviews and I’m a regular contributor to Foam Magazine. 

I always consider it my most important task to get into the mind of an artist. To really understand what the artist wants to express, what the main motivation behind the creation of the work is and what an artist finds most important to communicate. 

Only once I’ve considered these aspects am I able to translate this into a narrative that is accessible to a larger audience and be that mediator. Foam also requires me to work with all genres in photography, and from the historical to the contemporary, artistic to vernacular, in order to make historical and interdisciplinary connections and to constantly reevaluate the medium of photography with all the different shapes it can take up.

What would you say initially drew you to photography?

I picked up the camera as an adolescent, but it didn’t take long for me to find out I’m better at studying and thinking about images more than making them. I subsequently studied art history, but something that always drew me to photography specifically is that it’s so much more than an art form. I’ve always been fascinated by how photography is employed as a socio-political tool, as well as it defines most of the fabric of our daily lives. Photography is everywhere. Images shape our perception of reality in profound ways and it is ever evolving by new technological advances.

How is judging a competition like this different from selecting artists to exhibit at Foam Photography Museum?

Every competition has its own specific objectives and I think the Hariban Award is especially unique. As this award focuses on the production of the winner’s work as collotype prints, I’m curious to see how submitters think their work connects with this ancient and complex printing process. Within this specific competition, I’ll pay a lot of attention to the relation between the image content and the physical creative process. I think this is always important, also when I select artists to exhibit at Foam, but in this case, I will focus more specifically on the material qualities of the work, in order to understand why expressing the artist’s concepts in collotype would be of added value.

What do you think makes a great photo stand out? 

Good question! I’m always intrigued when an artwork expresses something of which I can sense its meaning or relevance, but which I can’t put into words just yet. It means it speaks about something that is very relevant today, but it hasn’t been ‘historicized’ yet – it reflects urgent topics of our times that we’re only just beginning to grasp. But this is only one possible answer to this question, that can be approached in many ways, and might have different parameters from genre to genre. From Foam’s point of view, I would say that we always look for strong artistic visions. Everyone can take photographs, very beautiful ones even, but what we seek is that layer of reflection – upon the artist’s position, relation to the subject or what it says about the medium and about the act of image-making. This doesn’t need to be the very subject of the work, but it should be there somewhere to say more than the image might show at first sight.

What sort of work are you hoping to see from this year’s Hariban Award submissions?

I’ve always been fascinated by how our understanding of photography is constantly renegotiated by its ongoing technological developments. I notice that a lot of artists employing new forms and uses of photography such as photogrammetry, 3D-rendering, CGI and in-game photography are often still very consciously referring to the history of photography to reflect upon how the medium has evolved. I’m very curious to see if there will be submissions that really push what photography can be today, and yet connect with a technique such as collotype that is over 160 years old. In that sense, I hope to see work that connects our digital, immaterial reality with our physical reality, also when this means that the new conscious of the digital makes us see and picture our physical reality anew. But most of all I want to keep an open mind and not ‘search’ too much, but be surprised.

Enter Competition ➔

キュレーター FOAM 写真美術館アムステルダム

プロフィール:ミリアム・クーイマンは、アムステルダムのFoam写真美術館にて美術史家兼キュレーターを務めています。これまで手がけた展示として、Air Weiwei 『#SafePassage』、Paul Mpagi Sepuya『Double Enclosure』、横田大輔『Matter』、Awoiska van der Molen『Blanco』などがあり、巡回展ともなった2015年と2016年の『Foam Talent』展、そして2017年には写真にまつわる意見交換をするために、FoamのプロジェクトスペースであるFoam 3hにて、メキシコ、ナイジェリア、インドネシアの写真プラットフォームとのコラボレーションも開始しました。 加えて、現在は、写真がヴァーチャルリアリティやゲームやオンライン体験がどのように関わりを持っているのかといったテーマも研究しています。 クーイマンはアムステルダム大学で美術史の学士号と博物館キュレーションの修士号を取得、以前はアムステルダムのStedelijk Museum(アムステルダム市立美術館)で学芸員の育成プログラムに参加し、Foam Magazineの定期的な寄稿者でもあります。














今現在の写真の限界にチャレンジしながら、160年以上の歴史あるコロタイプ技法と繋がれるような応募作品があるかどうかが気になります。私たちのでデジタル化された非物質的な現実と、物理的な現実と両方反映されるような作品を私は見てみたいのです。 というのも、デジタル世界での意識によって、私たちの物理的な現実に対する見方が変わるからです。しかしなによりもオープンでありたいし、何かを探し求めるよりも、私は単純に驚かされたいのです。

応募フォーム ➔

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