A travelling exhibition and events

Impossible Journeys

Then and Now in The Netherlands, Russia and Persia

With works of Sepideh Behrouzian (IR), Oleg Elagin (RU), Cecilia Hendrikx (NL), Zeinab Shahidi Marnani (IR), Paulien Oltheten (NL), Oksana Stogova (RU), curated by Irina Leifer.

Impossible Journeys offers transcultural and transhistorical perspectives on art, travel and participation. The programme investigates the challenges and possibilities of changing historical and cultural perspectives. Inspired by the historic publication of Jan Struys ‘Impossible Journeys through Russia and Persia in the 17th century’ participating artists scrutinize contemporary cultural fault lines.

The exhibition combines historic objects, contemporary art works and participatory activities to address the challenge of multiple perspectives on histories. These can separate people but can also bring them together in a dialogue, a heritage contact zone, that recognises differences as valuable and puts to the fore prejudices that have been perpetuated through the centuries.

The opening week will offer a broad range of activities and participatory workshops during the exhibition will investigate how conflicted heritage can be used as a ‘contact zone’.

Historic background of the exhibition

In 1676 a book with the intriguing title ‘Three exceptional and very catastrophic journeys’ was published in Amsterdam. The author of this bundle of travel stories Jan Janszoon Struys had travelled for twenty-five years in the East. He had been hired as a sailmaker by the Russian tsar in 1668 to contribute to the development of the Russian fleet. Instead of that, he found himself in the middle of a civil war and was forced to move in the direction of Persia to escape riots, local conflicts, battles, sieges, murders, tortures, shipwrecks and earthquakes. Struys was even enslaved and later ransomed. During this disastrous journey Jan made many notes which are now seen as very rare first-hand description of daily life in Russia and Persia in the 17th century.

What happened to Struys in the 17th century is as meaningful for the society of his time as it is for today’s society and so the book was republished in 2006 in Russia, in 2014 The Netherlands and in 2017 in Iran. It triggers our thinking about the complex political, social and cultural perspectives on different cultural realms and the various conflicts that characterise the relationships between Russia, Iran, and The Netherlands.

In the framework of the project visuals artists from the Netherlands (Paulien Oltheten and Cecilia Hendrikx), Russia (Oleg Elagin and Oksana Stogova) and Iran (Sepideh Behruzian en Zeinab Shahidi Marnani) have produced new work that challenges the limitations of our cross-cultural and transhistoric perspectives. In collaboration with citizens, Irina Leifer, has done research in libraries, archives and museum collections about our shared heritage and historic objects that form the backbone of the exhibition.

Read more about it in the exhibition brochure

Read more about the history in the essay of Kees Boterbloem

  1. Impossible Journeys

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