Rotterdam is often touted as the most ethnically and culturally diverse city in the Netherlands, and one of the most diverse in Europe, but also as an ever-changing city, as a place under constant construction. How can this condition be perceived and, furthermore, articulated? Since the fall of 2007, Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art has produced a series of books focused on Rotterdam, each showcasing the vision of an artist mainly working with photography or video, who has a strong relationship to the city. Cumulatively, this loose series of artists’ books continues to bring into focus Rotterdam’s very different urban protagonists.

Lidwien van de Ven’s Rotterdam–Sensitive Times is the fourth publication in a series of portraits, in book form, of the city of Rotterdam, that Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art has been producing in collaboration with artists who are particularly concerned with photographic medium.

Lidwien van de Ven is an artist who works in a realm parallel to the world of photo-journalism. In this politically inquisitive publication, Van de Ven chose to reverse the city-specific mandate of the project and approaches it by taking Rotterdam as a microcosm of global developments at the intersection of politics and religions, where her journey has rather taken her outside of the city borders.

Beginning with the highly polarizing murders of Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn and the subsequent murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh – events which have contributed to the rise of an internationally-networked right-wing populist movement whose polarizing effects on Rotterdam and the Netherlands reverberate internationally in the aftermath of 9/11 – she travelled to places such as Antwerp, Berlin, New York and Oslo to trace the resonances of the ensuing social struggle and political opportunism. The resulting photographs cast a meditative view onto a world where sensitivity to what is visible and what is invisible is continually mediated by political forces.