Woman to go, 2005

Installation view: Abundant Futures. Works from the TBA21 Collection, Centro de Creación Contemporánea de Andalucía C3A, Córdoba, Spain, 2022, photo: Rafael Suarez | TBA21

B/w offset prints (postcards), metal racks
TBA21 Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Collection
The title of Mathilde ter Heijne’s work Woman to go can be taken quite literally: visitors can choose between 180 different postcards portraying women and walk away with any number of images they select. The postcards depict women who lived between 1839, when the first daguerreotypes were made, and the 1920s, a period marked by the rise of women’s movements. Ter Heijne began searching and collecting these photographs in museum archives around the world in 2001. Each photo was taken as an ethnographic record. The identity of the persons has since been lost or was not recorded, or else, the archives in which their names were registered never correlated with the photographs. Perhaps they were never considered as individuals, but rather representatives of their societies, the attributes of their husbands or fathers, or the property of their masters.
The back of each portrait records brief biographies of women from the same epoch; lives which, considering the conditions of the time, could be described as extraordinary. The subjects of these biographies include Aletta Jacobs, one of the first female doctors in the Netherlands, the Zulu queen Nandi, and the Palestinian writer May Ziadeh. Their stories are mostly fragmented and seldom completely documented. Through the loose and associative conjunction of meticulously researched biographies and anonymous photographs, the artist poses a question: Why did these women, in spite of their achievements, not claim their rightful place in history? Woman to go rewrites these women back into history and calls for an imaginary assembly of women whose lives have been discarded, made invisible, and subjugated. By taking the photographs away, the public engages with their stories and spreads them further.


Group exhibition: Abundant Futures
Venue: C3A Centro de Creación Contemporánea de Andalucía, Córdoba  
Curator: Daniela Zyman
Exhibition 1 April 2022 - 5 March 2023
Artist's Website
Born in Strasbourg, France, in 1969. Lives in Berlin, Germany.