Welkom in Nederland

I left my beloved Swiss hills and mountains nearly 4 years ago, to come live in the flat country that is the Netherlands. After having roamed the country at lengths hoping to better understand this place and looking for belonging, I find myself split between wonder, amusement, and disbelief, more confused than ever, not knowing what is constructed, natural, real or simulated.

Welkom in Nederland is a semi-fictional satirical documentary about the Dutch neoliberal utopia that can, more generally, be extended to the West. By creating an alternative record of the Netherlands through sometimes manipulated photographies, archives and documents, the project reveals and questions the absurdities of Dutch society through its relationship to its environment while reflecting on my own position within this place through self-portraits. 
In my search for understanding, as I focus on the mundane absurdities I have come across, I underline how constructed nature and mass media entangle with each other to create what we call reality. The resulting images carefully reference the country’s cultural heritage and (Dutch) photography history while also twisting them to add new meanings. Forcing viewers to question and challenge not only the value of images as documents but also his own view of what normalcy is and can be.

From the exhibition introduction of the show at The Balcony in The Hague:

“In Welkom in Nederland, Sean Charlton White portrays -with differing degrees of artistic licence- iconic landscapes and situations of everyday life in the Netherlands: views of grazing cattle when riding the train, unpredictable weather, the close and perfectly regulated coexistence of rural and urban regions due to the country’s limited surface area. The series shares the title with a famous book aimed to help immigrants gain knowledge of Dutch society for the civic integration exam, a nod at both Charlton White’s effort to locate himself as a newcomer, and at the contemporary transformation of cultural traits into standardised features of an increasingly uniform yet inequitable West.

By means of astute alterations on otherwise documentary images, he draws attention to the alienating feeling brought about by an often clinically constructed landscape. As the changes blend in perfectly with the photographed environments, Charlton White stages a kind of speculative fiction whose total plausibility elicits both doubt in one’s judgement and a sense of uncanniness at the realisation that even the most absurd of scenarios is conceivable in the context of a neoliberal society. Welkom in Nederland is thus both a study of form and an exercise of systematic mimicry that produces perfect satirical copies of a never-existing original.”