Biography

Visual artist, filmmaker and documentary photographer Ilse Frech (1972, Amsterdam) is of Dutch-Macedonian descent. She studied Photography (1990-94) at the Royal Academy of Art – KABK, The Hague. Obtained a Master of Arts HES-SO in Fine Arts and Contemporary Artistic Practices, Major Work.Master at HEAD – Genève, Swiss University of Art and Design (2011-13), both an academic as well as a cultural institution.

Her second film, Sweet Terror of Memory – ΨΙΘΥΡΟΙ (2018, 15′) is a short film, merging fiction and experimental documentary into a visual poem: Three women embark on a journey of perpetual memory, uprooted, torn away from each other and their motherland set in a dreamlike landscape of ruins and legend, a sensorial manifest of spiritual absolution – whispering, exalts towards a regard liberated upon ourselves: Mankind’s history.

Sweet Terror of Memory – ψίθυροι premiered at the Nederlands Film Festival in Utrecht, September 2018 and was nominated for best international short film at KineNova, Film festival Skopje, North-Macedonia. Selected both for the Short Film Corner, Festival de Cannes in 2018, as well as in 2019 by Visions du Réel Festival International de cinéma Nyon (Switzerland), for its Media Library. Filmed in Greek Macedonia (German/Agios Germanos), North-Macedonia  and Germany (Berlin),  Greek myth and legend interlace with both female biographies of heroins of war, and exiles from Macedonia – the Northern province of Greece, as well as echoing stories of Holocaust survivors and WWII-exiles.

Poems for A Scenario, forms a basis of the film’s script, as it is an assemblage of 27  poems: poetry and prose written by Frech. Of which Blank | Hiroshima Mon Amour, was published by Rusted Radishes, the Beirut Literary and Art Journal, issue no. 5/ 2016: ‘The Political City’.

Exile: Belonging (2011-14): An artistic research project functioning as a creative space where identity related to political heritage, the imprint of war, exile and trauma, associated with mythology, legend and body-memory are entwined with documentary, re-enactment and fiction translated into audiovisual-installations, video works, photography, performances and poetry.

Artist-in-residence for three months in 2016 at Ashkal Alwan, Beirut – The Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts, in affiliation with Mondriaan Fund (NL), during which she researched Lebanese war trauma and its multiple carriers of memory, resulting in a twofold outcome: Fugacious Presence, a collaborative, improvisational performance and audiovisual installation, presented at Ashkal Alwan (27/05/16), besides the conception for a film and interdisciplinary visual arts umbrella-project, by now titled ‘One’, A Letter to Eternity, one of several projects in progress, currently developing and researching.

Ilse Frech has been working internationally since 1995, though she debuted her professional career as documentary photographer in 2000. Frech was selected for World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass in 2003, she portrayed Muslim youth in Paris’ banlieues, in a series titled Private Life, nominated for the ICP Infinity Award for Documentary and Photojournalism.

2005 Onwards Frech pursued working with Muslim women in Paris’ banlieues, resulting in a solo-exhibition at the Institut Néerlandais, Paris during Mois de la Photo 2008, where she presented her first monograph I Am – Paradox Identity, and first mid-feature documentary film, I Am. My Islam. My France., a colorful mosaic of five young Muslim women offering an intimate glance through the façade of concrete. The film was selected for IWAB South-Korea, Incheon Women Artists’ Biennal 2009. Whilst residing in Paris, she created Nika, Russia LOVE, an essayistic documentary portrait in photography and in video, on the topic of Russian youth and seropositivity (HIV+). The longterm collaborative documentary project was realised over a timespan of two years (2005-2007).

Upon invitation by The Rijksmuseum and NRC Handelsblad, Frech was commissioned for Document Nederland 2010, resulting in Zjeitu, and part of the Rijksmuseum’s Photography Collection. Zjeitu is a sultry portrait of the Dutch Antilles, exhibited at De Kunsthal, Rotterdam (2010-11). With its annual commission the Rijksmuseum intends to highlight subjects of relevance to contemporary Dutch society with the aim of documenting history as it unfolds.

July 2023 Frech partook in a 3-week Summer Programme at the University of Amsterdam – Graduate School of Social Sciences, “Arcane Worlds: New Frontiers in the Study of Esotericism”, offered in cooperation with the Centre for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents, the world’s leading institute for academic research and teaching in the field of (western) esotericism, located at the University of Amsterdam.

October 2023  Frech participated in an international artist-led residency La Wayaka Current, research- and expedition programmesituated in Northern Chile, in the Atacama Desert. A residency forging to connect artists with the biodiversity in experiential ways, as well specifically addressing the Andean cosmology of the Altiplano; a culture that has developed here over the last 15,000 years, bringing forth awareness to complexities and problematics concerning the driest region on earth, with which addressing the context of colonisation, and climate change.