Press and Publications




Interview with Margriet van der Linden


March 17, 2022

Daya Cahen maakte een film over een Russisch jeugdkamp: “Sommigen hadden nog nooit een westerling gezien


Radio 2

2 APRIL 2022




Cultureel Supplement

March 17th, 2022


written by Maria Barnas

De Gids 2022/2


Dutch Radio 1

Vila BvD

March 17, 2022

Interviewer Jurgen van den Berg

Listen to interview here (in Dutch)



A photomagazine curated by Willem van Zoetendaal en Paul Kooiker

published by Foundation for Young Photographers with Gerrit Rietveld Academy

With contributions by

Harold Strak

Eva-Fiore Kovacovsky

Johannes Schwartz

Daya Cahen

Paul Kooiker


Kyungwoo Chun

Lee To Sang

Erik van der Weijde

Sara Blokland

Martin Parr

Willem van Zoetendaal

Anuschka Blommers & Niels Schumm

Miroslav Tichy

Archivo #2 with Johannes Schwartz and Daya Cahen

Film3, from the series Framing Film published by AUP/Eye Film Institute

Het drillen van de Onzen, Henny de Lange, Trouw, dd 4-7-2009

Het uniform van propaganda, Joanne Dijkman, Mr. Motley, nr 18

Poetins Kinderen, interview by Anna Abrahams, Eye Film Institute

Knipoogde daar iemand?, Stefan Kuiper, Vrij Nederland, 29-01-2011


On the occasion of the opening of Rietveld Arsenale,

Arsenale Novissimo, Venice, 2009


Wenn Nationalhelden knutschen, Der Standard, Christa Benzer, Austria, 19-6-2016

Birth Of A Nation

Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Shot at a Russian Cadet School, Birth Of A Nation is a surprising, sometimes discomfiting portrait of a seemingly archaic institution and those training within it. Daya Cahern's film makes bold use of a split screen - up to six sets of events happen before us, and as with any uniform one finds oneself searching for the differences between them, adding weight to the similarities. The girls are smiling, hair braided, bright red epaulettes and strict parade ground stepping. Smiling, sharing a kitchen, some active, some not. There are marked differences; ironing, chatting, waiting, bullets being fed into in a magazine. Hospital corners and floral bedspreads and teddy bears at attention for inspection.

It's often silent; the quietness is a brave choice. There are plentiful opportunities across the screens for sound mixing with feet on parquetry and concrete, and weapons being field-stripped, and teenage girls being teenage girls. The slow rattle of bullets pushed out of magazines and the other bustles and buzz of this martial domesticity. That dearth of sound is a strength, however; it's hard to escape the symbolism of the drumbeat, harder still when one can only remember one has been hearing it. There is a moment that can only be described as chorally stunning and its power would be lessened if it weren't for the focus on the visual.

It is documentary, but at a minimal level - observation perhaps, rather than reportage. Yet in the constructedness of its approach, the split-screens, the mute passage of time before us, it becomes evocative, enlightening, impressive. The smiling faces of girls who could be twins, their pistols pointing at the camera, the bored face of their instructor at the desk behind. That rat-a-tat of the drums, another uniform, another cadence, another order. This is striking stuff, and worth watching.

Reviewed on: 07 Feb 2012

Tiempo para mirar y entender, Beatriz Navas Valdés, Cahiers du Cinema España, Mayo 2011 

Gedrilde meisjes, review, Sandra Smets, NRC, dd. 28.06.2012

Haarstrikken en geweren, review, Rosan Hollak, NRC Next, dd 12.06.2012


De wereld van Stalins kleinzoon, Marijn v.der Jagt, Vrij Nederland, dd 21-4-2007


WE LIVED OUR ORDINARY  LIVES – Interview with Daya Cahen – “Investigating how developments of exclusion, xenophobia and fear of otherness can arise within society is the starting point for all my work.” 

How does one transform during war?  Subjective and genuine childhood memories of the siege of Sarajevo are combined with excerpts from guilty pleas from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Although in 2012 it is exactly 20 years ago the siege of Sarajevo began, the story doesn’t mention the actual context, becoming timeless and universal. DAYA CAHEN was born in Amsterdam. She is passionate about photographs, videos and video installations and her artistic work revolves around propaganda, indoctrination and mass psychology.

Ioana Mischie: WE LIVED OUR ORDINARY LIVES recreates a striking deeply personal answer, while exploring the impact of a war on an “ordinary” woman. Why did you choose this complex provoking subject (war) and this specific main character, and how did you develop the research around it? 

Daya Cahen: Both my Jewish parents lived through WOII when they were children and this experience transformed their lives. Therefore I have always been fascinated by the influence of war. I grew up with the notion that the world can change in a day and you never know at what end of the line you will end up. That a society can turn against any group of people. Investigating how developments of exclusion, xenophobia and fear of otherness can arise within society is the starting point for all my work.

When I was invited to come to Sarajevo,  I decided to make a work exploring the transformation a child goes through during wartime. My intention was to interview several people from different ethnic backgrounds, but once I met Latifa Imamovic, who had never talked about her war experiences before, I knew that she would be the focus of my film. She is a young, muslim girl in her twenties, who had the exact same age both my parents had when they experienced their war, from 5 to 10 years old.

Ioana Mischie: Stylistically similar to a symbolist poem, by flirting simultaneously with visuals, sounds and olfactory senses – which recreate memories of the war, this documentary seemed for me also a synesthesic experiment. It is subjective and objective in the same time as genuine childhood memories of the siege of Sarajevo are combined with excerpts from guilty pleas from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Why did you choose to combine these two views? And why did you choose “We lived our ordinary lives” as the title for this journey into one’s life?

Daya Cahen: When I was researching, I came across the guilty pleas from the perpetrators of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and was immediately fascinated by the texts. You hear the perpetrators apologize for their crimes and at the same time make excuses. “I was young, I just lost a child, alcohol influenced my actions”. I wanted to combine these texts with the memories of Latifa, to emphasize how timeless and universal the situation really is. They did not expect for this to happen, and yet it did. Therefore I made a sound composition in which excerpts from the statements tumble over each other and form a collective voice of guilt.. It also emphasizes the position of the individual within the masses, which plays an important role in my work.

The title is a quote from one of the guilty pleas and it emphasizes for me that these were ordinary people that in unordinary circumstances turned into something that is hard to imagine. Why did they make these choices while others did not?

Ioana Mischie: Conceived as a trychotomic portrait of a woman, you play with the form and content of filmmaking. The split screen heightens the feelings of the central character: leitmotif-details like the obsessive nail biting or the inconstant blinking betray the fragility of a woman who struggles to recollect her memories of the life lived during the war. What motivated you as a filmmaker to choose the “split screen” format and to keep sometimes even moments of silence or simple gestures, without necessarily filling them with narrative information?

Daya Cahen: For me the splits creen is a form that I often use, because I also make multi-screen video installations. It gives me the opportunity to use different images together, that enhance, contradict or comment on each other. It gives me the chance to combine different ways of storytelling and play with the narrative form. In this work I asked Latifa the same questions three times, before, during and after the war, without ever mentioning the actual context of the war. In this way I wanted to tell the story of transformation and not the story of the actual war I the former Yugoslavia. Within the silent moments, the nailbiting, the small movements in her face,  the blinks of the eye, the story reveals itself. They become a narrative in itself.

Ioana Mischie: Paradoxically, without showing any war scene, war becomes the invisible main character of the film.  Do we still witness wars in our contemporary society, or it is rather a dated event, how do you perceive this issue?

Daya Cahen: I think this story can happen anywhere, in any form, at any given moment, unfortunately, and is still happening.

Ioana Mischie:You initially studied photography at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. What motivated you to approach filmmaking, and moreover documentary filmmaking?

Daya Cahen: In my work as an artist I use different kind of media, like photography, video, sound- and video installations. My work has links with documentary filmmaking, but also with photography and installation, so for me the labels are not really important.  Video gives me the opportunity to combine and oppose different levels of storytelling, but some stories for me are better told in photographs. It depends on what I am working on.

Ioana Mischie: What are your future aims as a filmmaker?

Daya Cahen: I often use a personal perspective to explore social and political developments within society and I would like to continue doing that. 


Tentoonstelling in voormalig onderduikpand, review, Sander Pleij, VN dd 07-06-2013

Wie zijn we als we het over we hebben, Maria Barnas, Het Parool, 20-4-2013


Schuldbekentenissen in een duistere kelder, Sandra Smallenburg, NRC Handelsblad


By Paco Barragán

You Are All Individuals!

Castrum Peregrini - Amsterdam
Curated by Nina Folkersma

One of the promotion clips of the show “You Are All Individuals!” showcases the famous scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979) in which Brian, who is mistaken for the Messiah and tired of people following him, shouts out loud from the window: “You don’t need to follow me. You don’t need to follow anybody. You’ve got to think for yourselves. You are all individuals.” Like goats, the crowd replies: “Yes, we are all individuals,” except for one who says: “I’m not!” Monty Python’s intelligent humor deals with the core of the matter. It’s refreshing to confirm how good humor never leaves us: “Expect the Spanish Revolution!” says a banner in Plaza del Sol’s square in Madrid where the ‘indignados’ with politics and capitalism are camped for a different future, hinting at the sketches, “I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition!”

Enrique Marty, 80 Fanatics (detail) (2008-10), sculptural installation, mixed media, Photo: Simon Bosch. Courtesy Castrum Peregrini, Amsterdam.

Beside the exhibition “You Are All Individuals!” curated by Dutch Nina Folkersma, the project comprises a magazine titled Fanatismo, an online fanaticism awareness test, workshops, and a public talk initiated and organized by Castrum-Peregrini.

In the actual wake of nationalisms, patriotisms, and populisms, both from the right and left wing, amid an economically, politically, and socially unstable state, being an individual can be not only hard, but equally frightening and lonesome. Individuals are not easily accepted let alone tolerated. Being an individual goes against the group and its rules and privileges, and being part of the group means feeling safe and benefitting from its power. The question that the exhibition poses is basically, how are we as individuals influenced by a group, and when does a group turn into fanaticism?

The exhibition tries to answer this by showcasing the old and new work of five artists-Yael Bartana (Israel/The Netherlands), Enrique Marty (Spain), Daya Cahen (The Netherlands), Köken Ergun (Turkey), and Daniel Svarre (Denmark)-and reflecting on the individual-collective dichotomy, which basically could be read in terms of assuming your responsibilities as an individual or, paradoxically, not assuming them as a member of a group.

Possibly the most noted presence is the work of Spanish artist Enrique Marty, whose smaller reinstallment is of the sculptural installation 80 Fanatics-different sculptures of himself in soldier uniforms with monster-like, bloody faces, together with the impressive wall painting, Sainte Guillotine, in which military as a religious ideology is reinterpreted both formally and conceptually in an obsessive manner.

Next to the wall painting, but in an adjacent room, we find the film Birth of a Nation (2010) by Dutch Daya Cahen. This piece takes on the fascination for the military and its indoctrination techniques by looking at the Russian Military Academy Cadet School Number 9 in Moscow where girls age 11-17 learn how to become the ideal Russian woman and patriot. Outside, on the right, we find an older video work-Untitled (2004)-from Turkish artist Köken Ergun, in which the artist, in a tranquil and ritualistic manner, tries out different ways of wearing a headscarf with all its layered meanings in front of the camera.

When we descend the stairs to the basement, which has been used as an exhibition space, we find one of the most compelling works in the show, We Lived Our Ordinary Lives (2011): a sound piece that reaches the listener from behind books and shelves with excerpts from guilty pleas from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and the always contradictory concept of ‘due obedience.’

The omnipresent Yael Bartana presents a new optimistic reinterpretation of the legendary photographs of Leni and Herbert Sonnenfeld, in which Palestinians and Jews are portrayed together in a kibbutz in Tel Aviv looking into an optimistic future. Finally, the sculptural installation, Group 30 by Danish artist Daniel Svarre, consisting of 30 headless men holding each other in a closed circle, is a good metaphor of group forming, crowd behavior, fanaticism, and the scope of this interesting exhibition.

(May 7-June 12, 2011)