Walzer is a virtual reality experience with several stories circling women's rights and the first wave of feminism during the late 19th and early 20th century.

As you travel through a virtual photographic landscape, a waltz is your guide. When you move around, the waltz morphs into a variety of moods. It never leaves your side. Multiple different instruments invite you into multiple different atmospheres. Voices whisper, sing, yell, narrate stories, songs and poems in eight different languages. They want you to know about far away places, your own past and emotions that may feel familiar. Even though they might address you in a language you don’t understand, you could be enlightened by other visitors. Inside this virtual world the user's knowledge, background and behavior determines the experience. Afterwards you have to discuss with others to determine what you have just experienced.

This vr was built with thousands of unknown personal photographs found on flea markets, online marketplaces and private collections. Personal history that was hiding in boxes and albums. Most pictures were made by anonymous photographers or, as most of them from the 19th century, in local photo studios. During the process of collecting and digital restoration, intriguing stories emerged. Narratives developed when we connected pictures with other pictures and combined them with music, words, sounds and 3D technology.

Walzer was created by composer & performer Frieda Gustavs and visual artist & photography collector Leo Erken with technical support by Cris Mollee and Malou Minkjan.

The experience opens and closes in a fog. When you start, a girl with a balloon appears. Touch the balloon with your controller and wait for the fog to disappear. You then can move around by using the joystick on the left hand controller with your thumb (moving up, back and sideways) and - optional, to speed things up - your index finger. You use your right hand controller to turn around. (You can also do this physically by turning your head around.) You can walk into town, the woods, and even swim in the sea. You can not fly or climb rocks. The vr experience will show you if you can pass an object or go right through it. Don’t be afraid, just give it a try. It’s impossible to demolish things in this VR world.


In the woods a
young girl who lived around
1906, expresses her anger at a
shift in attention towards
her newborn sister.

Translation from Dutch:

‘yes let them wonder
let them search places
there are no traces
they won’t find us

I’m mummy’s darling
I’m daddy’s angel
I am their princess
they’re mine’

At the beach and in
the sea women seek
relaxation and

When you look through the
facades of western cities you see
huge anonymous female

At a fair
women and men
are dreaming of

During the great terror
in the Soviet Union - in the
1930s - millions of women
disappeared and were
erased from history.

Translation Russian voices:
‘I would love to remember you but I am afraid’.
'We are better off without her!'
'The woman you are looking for never existed.'
'I can not trust you to be in my mind'.
'I don't remember you, my love.'
'I am not allowed to remember her. She never existed.'
'Don't ask me about her, she was never here.'
'Hide in my dreams, my darling!'
'I have to expel you from memory, sweetheart.'
'I never met her!'
'Please, do not mention her name!'
'She was never here!'
'She does not exist!'
'I will not remember her!'

A young female dancer
has turned into a statue.

Translation from German voice:
When I dance, I dance alone
For that I don’t need anyone else
Especially no guy from the city
I dance until tomorrow
I dance
I am free

Between 1855 and 1865
women of all classes
wore the crinoline with pride.
For many it was a cage.

Colonisation financed a historic square.
The stones and statues remind us of
cultural appropriation and exploitation.

An international street crowded
with women morphs into early
20th century Amsterdam where
living conditions were so
bad that many children
did not reach adulthood.

A tableau featuring
Amsterdam women
shows social inequality
in the 19th and early
20th century.

Groups of women walk into
the mountains. On top of the rocks two
prominent Dutch feminists arise: Aletta Jacobs (1854-1929),
first wave feminist leader and first female
medical doctor in the Netherlands
and Wilhelmina Drucker (1847-1925) feminist leader,
politician and writer.

At a corner you can see two portraits
of anonymous women by German
born Emma Kirchner (1830-1909).
She was a single mother and the first
female in the Netherlands who made
a living as a photographer using her
full maiden name.

The Dutch society in the late
19th and early 20th century had
strong limits for female friendships.
Institutional and parental control
forced young women to move around
in groups of three. A virtual square
at night in Amsterdam is dedicated to
the prison of social control.

  • Frieda Gustavs
    Frieda and the Hidden Animals
  • Leo Erken
  • Leo Erken
  • Frieda Gustavs
  • Leo Erken
  • Cris Mollee
    Key Collaborators
  • Malou Minkjan
    Key Collaborators
  • Project Type:
    Virtual Reality
  • Average Runtime:
    10 minutes
  • Variable Runtime Details:
    Non Lineair
  • Country of Origin:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Frieda Gustavs, Leo Erken

Frieda Gustavs bio

Composer and virtual reality maker Frieda Gustavs (1996) grew up traveling back and forth by train between Amsterdam and Stralsund, the latter being a small town on the shore of the Baltic sea. She studies composition at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam. In 2018 she participated in an Erasmus exchange program and studied at the Musikhochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber Dresden.

Her musical being was born and grew up in a choir, in the midst of the voices of people, her dearest instruments. She wrote progressive and lauded music for the Opera Forward Festival, the Holland Festival, Orgelpark Amsterdam, NEON choir for new music and Nieuw Vocaal Amsterdam.

She finds inspiration in ancient polyphony, world music and contemporary artists of every genre. Her main interest lies with interdisciplinary projects, electronic music, choral music; anything that holds voice.

Leo Erken bio

Leo Erken (1964) is a visual artist exploring new ways of story telling. Leo works with film, virtual reality and (collecting) photography

In the past he was a photojournalist working for printed media and a documentary film maker working for television.

He is a lecturer at the combined film-photography department of St. Joost School of Art & Design in Breda, the Netherlands.

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