The Room Project

Annette Merrild’s “The Room Project” is being exhibited at the İstanbul Modern Photography Gallery

Every city has a different stance towards life

İstanbul Modern Photography Gallery exhibits the photographs of Annette Merrild shot in 9 big cities of 9 countries in her new exhibition “The Room Project” opened on May 21st, aiming to display the “differences and similarities between nations, geographies, cultures”. In the exhibition, the Curator of which is Engin Özendes and which will continue until August 30, there are 118 photographs.

“You want to know the world? Start with your neighbour.”

Annette Merrild, adopting this aphorism, has realized the “Room Project” where she holds under light the stereotypes in our brain in relation to those living in our country and in foreign countries. In her project that she describes as “a sort of anthropological journey from one end of Europe to the other”, she composes portraits from society, by taking images from the interiors of houses with her camera. In the portrait series which follows the still life styles of old masters, furniture and objects also take their place, but we don’t see those living in the houses. “Room Project” enables the viewer to see special rooms belonging to people from different cultures and enables tourists to live through an experience that they normally wouldn’t have.

Within the context of the project which took four years and was based on her experience as a foreigner during her education at the Hamburg Academy of Arts, Annette Merrild photographed the sitting rooms of her neighbours who lived in the same apartment house first in Hamburg, then in New York and Copenhagen. Inspired with the effect these photography series had on people, she created the “Room Project.” Within two years, she visited Warsaw, Barcelona, Tallinn, Lyon, Manchester and Istanbul.

The Curator of the exhibition, Engin Özendes, emphasizing that Annette Merrilld is also an ambassador for culture with her photographs in which different countries can observe each other, can even make comparisons, mentions her orientation towards the insight* that special locations create and the imagination of the viewer, of her getting the opportunity to question associations: “While viewing this series of photographs that leads you to think of the world beyond each locality, you can produce new habitats in your imagination as much as your knowledge, culture, and social environment allows, just like a jigsaw puzzle.”

All the photographs that the artist has taken to provide formal similarity contain exactly similar sitting rooms of flats in multi-storey buildings. The focal point is the window which creates a sense of the interior and the exterior. Annette Merrild, inspired by the idea that everyone’s flat is “the same”, has tracked the high-rise housing complexes the owners of which are from the middle class, where the flats are monotype. The artist, recognizing the different life and culture from the flats seen from the outside, defended the view that “there can be difference in sameness” and aimed to also reflect the understanding of “in fact, we want to look and be perceived like that”, observed in the middle classes.

“A sort of anthropological journey from one end of Europe to the other”

Annette Merrild, stating that the project she realized through the years 2001-2005, has originated from the personal interest she felt in her neighbours in Germany, says: “I thought that it was enough to ring the door to easily get to know a person’s culture. This idea turned into a long journey at the end of which we have sensed the cultures in Europe, their differences and similarities in their present states. This may not be realized in ten year’s time. Because ten years later borders will be annihilated more and more and European countries will become more melted in each other.”

Annette Merrild, declares that she has lived through different experiences in each city taking photographs of people’s sitting rooms, emphasizes that small talk is very enriching for her personal adventure: “Actually, the dialogs I had with people about their cities while taking their photographs was always very important for me. Apart from countless fascinating life stories, what I was really interested in was the attitudes of people concerning their cities, countries, environments, and their own houses. When I turn back and look now, I can say that in every city the stance towards life was different and that the citizens created this stance. Because the living conditions of citizens –be they from the historical, political and/or climatic perspective– also affects individuals. That which shaped my personal image related to each city was the stories told and my own perception.”

On the LCD screen that is placed at the entrance of the exhibition hall, Annette Merrild tells about the project in detail. On the other LCD screen, detail photographs from the photograph series taken in different cities, interviews, the introduction of cities and houses are shown, together with a logbook that enables viewers to participate in the city tours of the artist. In the logbook held as a journal, the experiences of the artist while looking for suitable houses and her impressions are consciously conveyed from a subjective point of view. Furthermore, in the five showcases at the exhibition, memorial objects and gifts related to the houses that the artist has gone in every city are introduced to the viewer.


The artist, born in Denmark in 1972, has been living in Hamburg ever since 1993. While studying fine arts and painting, she has introduced her works to the public in many individual exhibitions at galleries in Germany and Denmark. She also participated at the group exhibitions at the Icon Gallery in London and Beverly Hills, the Art Expo organized in New York and those at the Russian State Museum in St. Petersburg. In 2001 she received the Ditze Prize of HfbK (Hamburg), and a year before that, the fellowship that Bang & Regnaren gives to young Danish artists. In 2001 she made a book of the photographs she had taken of the sitting rooms of her neighbours in Hamburg, under the title Room.