Palmen approached her Al Ma’mal artist-in-residency with a proposal to develop the “universal suit” project (based on her 2002 series “Streetwise”). Her idea was based on her interest in biology and explorations of the phenomena of camouflage in the plant and animal kingdoms. She tied camouflage and biology to the prevalence of security surveillance cameras in the old city of Jerusalem and designed a suit that looked like the old city stone walls. What ensued was part performance/part installation – Palmen wore the suit in two particular public spaces and from the viewpoint of a surveillance camera, recorded herself modeling the suits as she posed with acute stillness for extended periods of time. The Old City Suit/Surveillance Camera Project can then be considered a number of genres simultaneously – photography, video, and performance.
Desiree Palmen was born in Maasbracht in the Netherlands in 1963, and went on to study art in Maastricht, specializing in sculpture. She also maintained a special interest in biology, in particular the strange forms and behavioral traits exhibited by mimics within the animal and plant kingdoms. Palmen has applied these concepts to her artwork, and in 2002 created the Streetwise series, an exploration of human mimicry in urban environments using garments painted to resemble their background. The series was influenced by the installation of police surveillance cameras in so-called ‘dangerous’ areas of Rotterdam. She comments: “My concern about the increasing use of identity-based electronic information systems and the frequent use of surveillance cameras has led me to the idea of wearing camouflage clothes in the public space. In my work I explore the possibility for people to ‘dissolve’ or even to ‘disappear’ into their surroundings.”
She now lives and works in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Solo exhibitions include One step closer to nature, Galerie Art & Essai Univerité, Rennes (2012);Hide & Seek,Parallel event of Istanbul Biennial, Turkey (2011); Galerie Funke, Berlin, Germany (2010); Disappearing, Medien Kunst Archiv MQ 21, Vienna (2008); the Cultural Nuova Icona, Venice (2005); Reuten Galerie Amsterdam (2004/2001); Kunstraum Düsseldorf (2003); TENT, Rotterdam (2002). Group exhibitions include Dutch Cultural Pop-Up Space, London (2011); Kunstraum Kreuzberg, Berlin (2010); La Casa Encendida, Madrid (2009); TheJerusalemShow Al-ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art, Jerusalem (2008); The Macy‘s Art Gallery Columbia University, New York (2007); Centre d’Art Santa Mònica Barcelona(2006); Kunstambassade Rotterdam; Al-ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art, Jerusalem (2006); Venice Biennale (2005).