Tanja Ritterbex (NL)

How to make schawarma at home

Tanja Ritterbex - How to make schwaharma at home (2019) video Dorothée Meddens

Tanja Ritterbex - How to make schwaharma at home (2019) photography Gert Jan van Rooij

Outrageous is probably the word most commonly used to describe Lady Gaga. The Dutch artist Tanja Ritterbex (b. 1985) has been called the Lady Gaga of art. Glamorous in their appearance, exuberant in their work and almost the same age. But there is another similarity: both are extremely aware of the huge influence that the Internet has on young people in particular, and they play with this in their professional practice. Lady Gaga is a superstar in the spotlights, carefully designing her own image, while Ritterbex examines the boundless fascination of online culture with a healthy dose of humour and self-reflection. The subject of her colourful and expressive paintings and video art is often Ritterbex’s own body and life, with work that makes us think about who we are and what it means to make oneself vulnerable.
As a reaction to the fad of photographs of beautifully presented plates of hip food on Instagram, Ritterbex painted her own simple meals every day for a year and posted them online. And in her Everyday Selfie Project (2015–16), the Limburg winner of the 2016 Koninklijke Prijs voor de Vrije Schilderkunst (Royal Award for Modern Painting) took a selfie every day for a year. She posted these on Facebook, generating a flood of comments and likes. The selfies and the reactions became the basis of the series of self-portraits that she painted exactly one year later.

In her recent solo exhibition at the Nest art space in The Hague, Ritterbex investigated, in sixty video works, the role of a character that has become an essential part of the modern social-media era: the influencer. During a residency in Curaçao, she made a vlogger-type video every day for three months, in which all the YouTube clichés, ranging from fashion-guru advice, beauty instructions and self-tanning tutorials to online dating and spiritual self-help, were magnified to hilarious proportions. She then made paintings based on each of the videos, in her characteristic quirky style with bold brushstrokes and lots of shades of candy pink.

For Brief Encounters Ritterbex** held a musical monologue, in which she allowed the audience to share in her doubts and indecision in this modern world with its endless choices.