NEW WORK: We always need heroes (2020), single screen film, 46 minutes, with music score composed by artist and musician KENICHI & THE SUNKatrin Hahner.

We always need heroes (2020), screening and talk at SAR International Conference on Artistic Research 2020, Crisis Collective, Bergen 25–27 March

We always need heroes (2018), artist book in collaboration with designer/publisher Hans Gremmen/Fw:Books
AWARDED: The Best Dutch Book Designs 2018
AWARDED: Student Jury’s Best Dutch Book Design 2018
SHORTLISTED: Arles Photo-Text Book Awards 2019

SYNOPSIS: We always need heroes
FILM 46 minutes (2020) + BOOK (2018)

‘There’s never any innocence in the processes of remembering and forgetting.’
‘Alternative facts’ have always been present in the making of our histories, nations, self-storytelling and self-imaging. When the banks collapsed in 2008, for Icelanders this marked what has been locally dubbed the ‘Cultural Crash’. The nation’s collective reality proved an illusion, a construct, a fiction.

We always need heroes surveys the contemporary state of our narrative landscapes. It addresses the art of reframing and rephrasing, of discursively creating and conveniently forgetting: the misconstrued, the black holes, the blind spots. The project is a multi-vocal complex of perspectives, in which interchanging voices complete one another’s sentences, punctuate and perforate their meanings, derail directions, and motion an aesthetic for listening.

BOOK REVIEW: on Daily Collector by Olga Yatskevich  

LISTEN: SYB ON AIR. Podcast in collaboration with SYB and writer and artist Céline Mathieu, production by artist Erica van Loon. On how we make belief, stretch narratives, crumble words, and speak through our digestive systems.


IN THE PIPELINE: Eat my words, currently in progress 

In short


constructs of self-storytelling, belief, reality and (spoken or wordless) language


audio material from recorded conversations  


active listening and close reading


revisit interviewees; explore the underbelly of individuals’ testimonies of profound real-life events


phenomenon of belief: its affect on our perception of reality and sense of will


interweave multiple voices: snatches of sentence selected from tens of hours of testimonial audio material


sentences and scenes built through a choreography of memories, interpretations of history, and readings of phenomena: mirroring and playing upon the construction and destruction of belief worlds in times of crisis


audio and video works, performances, artist books, photographs and installations


Above by Céline Mathieu, below by Saskia Monschouwer and further link to Eve Kalyva


by Céline Mathieu (Kunsthuis SYB residency, 2018)

From outside the SYB house, when looking in through the window, a projection shows hand gestures and a face gesticulating. When entering the space it takes time to decipher the video of Rosie Heinrich (UK) who speaks backwards, on a video that is played forwards. The artists’ facial features are accentuated in their muscular presence, as they practice to rewind the undulations and cadence of speech. Each gesture and every attempt work against her natural linguistic instinct, nonetheless she performs calmly. On a fresh pink background, the hands formulate a self-invented sign language. Through speaking backwards, Heinrich stutters and stretches words as well as movements. These glyphs are underlined in subtitles through the usage of her graphic notation system. With it, she marks how language is more than words.

(loosens her lips)

On a second plane, the angelic musical score comes through. Its subtlety is so effective it works as yet another hypnotizing element in the video Eat my words. Its sound is the work of musician and composer Katrin Hahner (DE), who spent two weeks at SYB to collaborate on the new piece. Learning from Katrin that the pure, sweeping chants are actually crushed together bits and pieces of voice recordings, which she refers to as “digested information”, only adds to the bright, crispy way both artists interlocked their practices. Both of them emphasise humbly that this video is just a first rough cut, implying the promise of this collaboration as only the beginning of the journey.

The music works in a subtle, direct way, it sets itself on your midriff and supports the hypnotic quality of Rosie Heinrich’s performance. Seeing her inverted inhalation and pronunciation, she dissects the way we shape words. It is fascinating to see the complexity of our muscle movement, and how each letter is comprised of different sounds. As Rosie puts it, the voice is not a thing in itself, it “repurposes our digestive and respiratory systems”. Using English sayings, “to eat humble pie” and “to eat one’s words”, she reflects on this notion of ingesting* or taking in language.

Thinking backwards to go forwards

For We always need heroes, her ongoing project on deconstructing collective narratives, Heinrich has been voice-recording 20 Icelanders’ stories about the 2008 financial crash. In their stories many of the interviewees pointed out they also experienced the crash as a cultural collapse. The extensive recordings of conversations each took one to four hours, and were repeated three to seven times per interviewee. Iceland has a history of sagas and appraises orators highly. In a complicated puzzle, the artist rearranged cuts and snippets to form a new potential narrative from all these stories. This research has resulted in several video pieces and a book, halfway between documentary and fiction, by stringing together pieces of words and pieces of meaning. Not unlike poetry, Heinrich thinks in terms of vocabulary, rhythm, and content. During these long conversations in which people with different backgrounds talk about the crash from a personal and professional point of view, it struck the artist that the interviewees would sometimes say “yes” on an inward breath: “já”. She started getting ears for it, fascinated by how this action paradoxically reverts the word – seemingly subverting its meaning – while “yes” stands for affirmation and presence.

In a second room, a pile of A4s big enough to form a wall, testify the administrative workload of the audio transcriptions. By filing and categorising piles of sheets, fiches and post-its, Rosie processed exuberant amounts of text, while collaging the snippets into a new coherent narrative. The complexity and the devotion necessary to re-edit these narratives into one, beautifully mirrors the underlying aim to “make” belief. It highlights the way we can talk for hours, shaping long (personal) narratives. Just imagine her composing all of these into one new coherent thread. It illustrates the confusing idea that the collective only exists out of tiny bits of individual components.

It goes without saying that the artist’s gesture to (de)construct a collective narrative also enables a political reading of the work. But then again, we piece together our own reality, a narrative with frowns and stutters.

In the last space of the house, a large computer screen shows Rosie’s new website. Very much like her work, it has become a play on coherence, using snippets and paraphrases. Due to a peculiar twist of events, I had the opportunity to make a podcast, hence to turn the sound recorder around and have the interviewer talk herself for a change, about self-censorship, make-belief and the sublime. You can listen to her being an “instigator of dialogue and an advocate of doubt” here. With blind spots and broken narratives, it binds the spell.

* I feel as though I didn’t really write this text. It is rare to meet a person so adept in her formulations as Rosie. I was able to distil and use many of her own phrasings. Not unlike her creation process, these words and fragments are here rearranged, taking the shape of their new container. Mentally and conceptually, it is liberating that the work by no means forces any reading onto its viewer/listener. That too is what I hope to achieve in this text; that the work may take the shape of you, reader.


Saskia Monshouwer on Rosie Heinrich (puntWG solo, 2017)

It would seem that mythological worlds have been built up only to be shattered again, and that new worlds were built from the fragments.’

                                      –The Structural Study of Myth, by Claude Lévi-Strauss

Rosie Heinrich’s studio is a small, high-ceilinged space in North Amsterdam. It is warm when I come to visit. She greets me heartily and walks down the hallway to make tea. At her suggestion, I take a look around. I am amazed. I am curious. Everywhere, there are notes on the wall. These are the beginnings of a work, a scenario – that much is clear. I read short segments of text: a sentence from an interview, then another sentence. Some of the comments are underlined. There are comments in a regular handwriting on A5 index cards. Comments are typed out. There is a mathematical formula on a large sheet of paper, and several photographs – beautiful, clear portraits of two roundish men with blonde hair and blue eyes, and a woman. The blonde contrasts with the light blue haze of the background. There are photographs of a landscape with low growth, in which white balls are scattered about. In another photograph, there is dark stone – later confirmed to be lava – with black balloons. The white and the black balloons resemble the patches you see when you have a migraine in your eyes, empty patches in your field of vision. A not seeing, which you only later realize is announcing something concrete, like a headache.

Rosie Heinrich creates sound works, films, performances and publications. The notes I describe here are a single, specific stage in the long, long process of the evolution of a work. They form the beginnings of a scenario, a piece of the puzzle, a part of the process in which numerous interviews are transformed into a work of art: a story, built up of the meaningful silences between the words, the sound of a voice, rhythm, stopgaps and gestures that convey the reality of a person. They are a ‘stream of sound and consciousness’ that, for It was big enough to get me completely inside (2012), clarifies something about a esoteric experience. For It's possibly the only way that I can walk through myself (2014), it was about what it means to live with manic depression.  In We always need heroes, it is about the financial crash that took place in Iceland in 2008, when the country’s three biggest banks went bankrupt. It is this most recent work, soon to premiere in Iceland, and which is being presented in installation form at puntWG, which we will be speaking of here. The notes and comments I described above are all part of this work.

‘The economic side of the crisis was one thing,’ says the artist. ‘But for the Icelanders themselves, it was more. The people I interviewed confirmed that for them, it was primarily about a social and cultural collapse. That is what I am trying to visualize: what the crisis meant in the greater social perspective. I peel away the myth and investigate the politics of perception. I reconstruct what people experience and think about reality. They tell the stories themselves, and I reconstruct their observations and collective fantasies. That statement by Claude Lévi-Strauss, that it seems like mythological worlds exist only to splinter apart, so that the fragments can be built into new stories, seemed like a motto for the Iceland project.

‘My work begins with the interviews. Depending on what those I interview can handle, they last for two or sometimes three or so hours. If all goes well, and the interview is interesting, I return to that person, often four or more times. I enjoy being in conversation; it is a way of learning about my subject while simultaneously collecting material that I can later work with. I love listening, giving people the space to talk about the specific subject of my project as well as deviating from the main topic, in whichever direction they find relevant. I take notice when  people formulate something in a beautiful way. I look for special moments that I can use later. As you can see here, I have transcribed everything. Even the uhs, ahs and ums, the silences and the unfinished words, the tiny gestures that may indicate a particular feeling. These moments become some of the starting points for the editing process of my films.’

Rosie Heinrich stands up and shows me a folder with the complete transcriptions from her interviews. Some sections of text are highlighted yellow, others annotated. She sits down at a computer and shows me a segment of film. Slow, black-and-white images of modernist buildings pass by. A woman, Birna Bragadóttir, is speaking: a beautiful, slow and carefully spoken voice set against a background of the archives of the National Library of Iceland. As the landscape and architecture move past like pieces of a puzzle, the people being interviewed speak. The subtitles dance. Rosie Heinrich takes the disentangled images and words and transforms them into typography and silence, subsequently weaving them all together. She even developed her own notation system so as to write down the sounds of stammers and stuttered repetitions within spoken language: symbols for a meta-dialogue.

It is truly exceptional to follow Rosie Heinrich’s linguistic expressions: the sound, the rhythm, the weight of voices. You immediately realize that stories are more than just sentences strung together. That, in our reading, writing, television-watching world, knowledge sometimes seems to be lacking. We forget that telling is more than a reconstruction of a reality bound by rules. It is itself a construct!

The work of Rosie Heinrich can be seen in the context of Wittgenstein’s game of language and the remarkable experiments of Georges Perec, an often misunderstood writer. It is not about ordering for its own sake: it is about the emotions that such orderings keep under control, that, despite all the fences and barriers apparently restraining the chaos, still come to the fore.

Link to review of the Breakfast Show (2016)
, curated by Erica van Loon

Contact and CV

De IJsbrand
Berberisstraat 16
NL–1032 EL Amsterdam
+31 [0] 642177327

Visual artist | Translator and text editor specialised in the arts (Dutch to English) | Teacher
Generously supported by the Mondriaan Fund and the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts

2018–present Fellow of THIRD, 3rd Cycle Research Group, DAS Graduate School
2016–Research Collective APRC, Dutch Art Institute
2013–Translation Preparation Course, City University of London
2012–MFA, Dutch Art Institute
2008­–BA, Utrecht School of Arts

Exhibitions and Performances (selection)
2020–SAR Crisis Collective Conference, Bergen
2019–DAS THIRDcycle FORUM, –and then the air holds them between us– , DAS Graduate School, Amsterdam
2019–De Best Verzorgde Boeken 2018, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (g)
2019–2019 Photo-Text Book Awards, Les Rencontres d’Arles (g)
2019–Of impersonal gaps and places of concerns (Now. performance response to the work of Julien Bruneau), festival Coupé Décalé, La Raffinerie – Charleroi Danse, Brussels
2018–Of impersonal gaps and places of concerns (Now. performance response to the work of Julien Bruneau), THIRD annual forum, DAS Gaduate School, Amsterdam
2018–Words for the Future (performance response to the work of Nienke Scholts), Veem House for Performance, Amsterdam
2018–We always need heroes, San Serriffe, Amsterdam
2018–Rational InattentionHrunið, þið munið? (Remember the Fall?), University of Iceland
2018–We always need heroes, SYB Triennial, Beetsterzwaag (g)
2018–We always need heroes / Eat my words, Kunsthuis SYB, Beetsterzwaag (g)
2017–We always need heroes, puntWG, Amsterdam (s)

2017–We always need heroes, Cycle Music and Art Festival, Kópavogur, Iceland 2016–The Breakfast Show, puntWG, Amsterdam (g) 2015–N8 Tour Noord, Museumnacht Amsterdam
2015–KorpArt, Korpúlfsstaðir, Reykjavik
2015–monthly residency exhibitions, SÍM Gallery, Reykjavik (g) 2014–Doors of Perception, A Tale of a Tub, Rotterdam (d)
2014–Prospects & Concepts, Art Rotterdam (g)
2013–Words Live 4, Perdu, Amsterdam (g)
2013–Words Live 4, Wallgallery, Rotterdam (g)
2013–Composing Through Words, Veem House for Performance, Amsterdam (g)
2013–Alongside#program, (text contribution), Jeanine Hofland Gallery, Amsterdam (g)
2013–DAI Printed Matter, Wilson Project Space, Sassari, Sardinia (g)
2012–It was big enough to get me completely inside, Sub Urban Video Lounge, Rotterdam (s)
2012–DAI classroom, Kunstvlaai – INexactly THIS, Amsterdam (g)
2012–Cabaret Night, 98 Weeks, Kunstvlaai – INexactly THIS, Amsterdam (g)
2012–Group – Installing, The Showroom, Arnhem (g)
2012–Routine, i.c.w If I Can't Dance, Raw Material Company, Dakar (g)
2011–Space the Final Frontier, Chitra Kala Parishad, Bangalore (g)
2011–Greyland - State of Statelessness, i.c.w Foundland, De Balie, Amsterdam

2018–We always need heroes, Rosie Heinrich, Fw:Books, Amsterdam, awarded Best Dutch Book Designs 2018, Student Jury’s Best Dutch Book Design 2018and shortlisted Arles Photo-Text Book Award 2019
2018–Reader Almende–De Tweede Triënnale van Beetsterzwaag, ‘The demise and reconstruction of a collective myth,’ Agnes Winter
2018–We always need heroes, Sjoerd Knibbeler, Der Grief, Augsburg
2014–Prospects & Concepts, Mondriaan Fund, Amsterdam

2013–Appendix Composing Through Words, Veem House for Performance, Amsterdam
2012–It was big enough to get me completely inside, Rosie Heinrich, DAI, Arnhem
2012–Unfixed, Jap Sam Books, Heijningen, Unfixed Projects, Amsterdam
2012–Greyland - State of Statelessness, i.c.w Foundland, Literairtijdschrift De Gids

2018–Kunsthuis SYB, Beetsterzwaag
2016–SÍM, The Association of Icelandic Visual Artists, Reykjavik
2015–SÍM, The Association of Icelandic Visual Artists, Reykjavik

Grants and Nominations
2019–We always need heroes, Rosie Heinrich, Fw:Books, Amsterdam, awarded Student Jury’s Best Dutch Book Design 2018
2019–We always need heroes, Rosie Heinrich, Fw:Books, Amsterdam, shortlisted Arles Photo-Text Book Award 2019

2019–We always need heroes, Rosie Heinrich, Fw:Books, Amsterdam, awarded Best Dutch Book Designs 2018
2015/16–Stipend for Depth Development Artistic Practice, Mondriaan Fund
2015–Development budget, Amsterdam Fund for the Arts
2012–Starter stipend, BKVB/Mondriaan Fund
2008–Nomination, Piet Bakker Prize
2006–Nomination, student award, Holland Animation Film Festival

Guest lecturer (screening and artist talk)
2018–Conference Hrunið, þið munið?
(Remember the Fall?)The Art of Crisis, University of Iceland, Reykjavik
2018–Open lecture series: We always need heroes, Iceland University of the Arts, Reykjavik2018–Master’s introduction week, Iceland University of the Arts, Reykjavik

2017–Master Non-Linear Narrative, Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten, The Hague
2017–Master Photography, The Master Institute, Den Bosch
2017–Bachelor orientation programme, Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam
2017–Master’s introduction week, Iceland University of the Arts, Reykjavik
2014–Cure Master, Sandberg Institute, Amsterdam, at Het Vijfde Seizoen, Den Dolder

Commissioned (selection)
2018–Kenichi & The Sun (visuals), Women in Electronic Music, Extreme Chill Festival, Harpa, Reykjavik
2014–Hokjesgeesten, Movies That Matter film festival, The Hague
2011–Dans, Dutch National Opera & Ballet, Amsterdam
2011–Unclaimed, Movies that Matter film festival, The Hague

Other work
2017–present–Study coach, The Master Institute, Den Bosch
2017–present–visiting lecturer, Iceland University of the Arts, Reykjavik
2012–2018–Teacher and workshop developer, EYE Film Institute, Amsterdam

Translator and editor
2011–present–Translator and editor of artists’ publications and other art-related texts (Dutch to English)

Worked for (selection): Roma Publications, Hans Gremmen, Fw:Books, The Eriskay Connection, FOAM Amsterdam, Toneelgroep Amsterdam, LhGWR, FoMaa, Marleen Sleeuwits, Sarah Carlier, Marieke van Rooij, Henri Jacobs, Jaap Scheeren, Petra Stavast, Nadine Stijns, Miek Zwamborn, Lorenzo Benedetti, Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Bureau Europa, DasArts, Fucking Good Art, Henriëtte Waal, Van Breugel & Mudde, Chris Keulemans, Jason Coburn, Sjoerd Knibbeler, Jan Rothuizen, Submarine, Mevis & Van Deursen, Daan Paans, Frank van der Stok, Celine van den Boorn, Elspeth Diederix, Bert Danckaert, Kay Schuttel, Rieke Vos, Yvonne Grootenboer, Toine Horvers, Charlott Markus, Nina Folkersma, Castrum Peregrini, Fleur van Muiswinkel, Karianne Bueno, Martine Stig, Marijn Bax, Oliver Barstow, Anja Groten, Ester Serano, De Brakke Grond, Het HEM, Sandberg Institute, STUK, M – Museum Leuven

Publications (selection): Radical Cut-Up: Nothing is Original (2019, Sandberg Series, Sandberg Institute, Sternberg), Doug’s Cabin (2019, Karianne Bueno), Liggen (2019, Toine Horvers), Materialisation in Art and Design (2019, Sandberg Series, Sandberg Institute, Sternberg), The Female Perspective (2018, Nina Folkersma, Castrum Peregrini), Material Utopias (2017, Sandberg Series, Sandberg Institute, Sternberg), Illusions of a Frisian Landscape (2017, Eric Giraudet de Boudemange, Rieke Vos, Festival of Sports), Fashion Matters (2017, Sandberg Series, Sandberg Institute, Sternberg), Aeronautics in the Backyard (2016, Xiaoxiao Xu, The Eriskay Connection), The Extras (2016, Bert Danckaert, Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp), The Promise (2015, Celine van den Boorn, Hans den Hartog Jager, Kodoji Press), Refugee Republic (2014, Jan Rothuizen, Martijn van Tol, Dirk Jan Visser, Submarine, de Volkskrant), Between Screens (2014, Van Breugel and Mudde, Kummer & Herrman), Henri Jacobs – Journal Drawings (2013, Henri Jacobs, Roma Publications), Screendump #2 (2013, Karin Krijgsman and Suzan Geldhoff, The Eriskay Connection), Letters from Utopia (2013, Daan Paans, The Eriskay Connection), The Moon Has a Complicated Geography (2013, Lorenzo Benedetti, De Vleeshal, Roma Publications), Lying Awake (2013, Geert Goiris, Roma Publications), The Flanders Peninsula (2012, Bart Lodewijks, Roma Publications)