Tamara IJzendoorn, één van de geportretteerden. (© Dirk-Jan Visser, 2020)

Adversity, stories about poverty (2020)

Adversity, stories about poverty, was a multimedia exhibition in collaboration with Noorderlicht on contemporary poverty that was on display at the National Prison Museum in Veenhuizen from November 21, 2020 to December 9, 2022.


What does your life look like when living in poverty in the Netherlands? How does the country’s social safety net function for people with financial hardship?


Poverty is not just a lack of money. The portraits of the people in this exhibition showed that poverty is also: not being able to choose, not being able to participate in society, not being able to eat healthy and sustainable, but above all having less and less control over your life. In other words: impotence, stress, exclusion, fear and shame.


‘Adversity’ provided insight into the complexity of poverty reduction and debt counselling. The exhibition showed how the sometimes unimaginable personal circumstances of poor people relate to the systems thinking of the organizations that help them. These two different storylines are diagonally shown on large video screens. Together with four people who know or have known poverty in the broadest sense of the word, I gave a glimpse into their lives. In response to an intake interview for debt relief, played by actors, these four people share what poverty looks like for them and what role it plays in their lives.


In the adjoining rooms, more personal stories where told by means of objects and photographs. In this way ‘Adversity’ approached reality and showed how complicated and confronting circumstances are when policy and reality meet. This way, the exhibition aimed to give the viewer insight into his or her own knowledge, empathy and/or prejudices surrounding this complex issue. Because in the end, everyone can face adversity one day.