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March 25, 2024

Yannic dives into the world of reborn dolls and taxidermy: “I’m not a sensation-seeker”

His first documentary Alles heeft zijn tijd is only just finished, but the next is already in the making. Yannic Nierkens, student of Moving Image, dives into the world of reborn dolls and taxidermy for his graduation project. “Both are about an illusion of creating life.”


“Before I started making documentaries, I always spent a lot of time in my head”, relates Yannic. “I devoured books on philosophy and sometimes I could really drown in my own thoughts. Whilst filming Alles heeft zijn tijd, which is about traditions from the Twente region, I discovered that I actually really enjoy making a connection with the people around me. It was good to step out of my own bubble and engage in conversations with the older generation that holds onto traditions. Turns out I get on with them well.”

Philosophical perspective

Yannic is 21 years old and is in the final year of the Moving Image course at AKI ArtEZ Academy of Art & Design in Enschede. For his graduation project, he dives into two subjects: reborn dolls and taxidermy. In a nutshell, reborn dolls are baby dolls that are made so true to life that they appear to be alive. Taxidermy is preparing and stuffing dead animals. How does Yannic view these two subjects? “With something of a philosophical perspective”, he says. “I see a lot of overlap between them. Both are about an illusion of creating life.”

Since the second year of Moving Image, I have completely embraced documentary film making"

Yannic discovered his love of making documentaries during the Moving Image course. The plan was always to ‘do something’ with video, only he didn't yet know quite how. “The course really helped me to find the right direction.” The first year, he says, is above all about exploring, doing short assignments and experimenting with different media. “From the second year on, the assignments get bigger and the thinking behind them somewhat deeper”, Yannic explains. Whereas in the beginning he brought a lot of humour to his assignments, that later changed to absurdity and alienation. “The latter kind of became my theme. In the second year, I started making a documentary for the class taught by director and documentary maker Wim van der Aar: Geen Gordijnen. I enjoyed it so much that I have now completely embraced documentary making.”

Yannic dived into the world of reborn dolls


For his graduation documentary about reborn dolls and taxidermy, Yannic is still currently in the exploratory phase of writing this story, which involves visiting a lot of museums and talking to people who know a lot about those subjects. “Artists, biologists, reborners and of course collectors; I've met them all. If I compare it to the research I did for Alles heeft zijn tijd, I have found that people are a lot more cautious in this case. You need to really make your intentions clear. My goal is to provide a more in-depth picture of reborn dolls and taxidermy, without coming across as a sensation-seeker. Because that's how these subjects are often presented, whereas many collectors of reborn dolls, for example, just think they look beautiful rather than using them as a source of consolation. It's like buying a car.” 

Does he find it difficult to maintain his objectivity as a documentary maker? Yannic: “No, I think I'm able to stay objective. I let people tell their own stories and try to show all sides. Of course some things do affect me, but that's human.” In order to provide a good and faithful picture of a particular subject, Yannic considers it important to first establish a connection with the people he visits and interviews. “I don't just turn up and immediately unpack my camera. First you have a cup of coffee, have a chat. Otherwise it all becomes very superficial. People have to feel comfortable before they dare to expose themselves a little bit.”

For his documentary Alles heeft zijn tijd, Yannic went looking for traditions from the Twente region

Discovering yourself

Although he is still studying, by now Yannic has a good idea of what it feels like to be an independent artist. “The course contributed to that. Whereas in the first year they are still guiding you by the hand, in the final year they let go and give you a lot of freedom. That worked well for me; it meant I was able to find out for myself which direction best suited me.” Yannic believes that it is precisely when you have that freedom that you really develop. “Of course you are supervised, but primarily to make sure you are on the right track.”

Make a lot of stuff so that you have plenty to show during the admission process”

What are Yannic’s plans after graduation? “I know that there are some great funds for new documentary makers who have just graduated”, he says. “So I've already got some ideas that I want to pitch. Hopefully, one of my plans will be successful.” He also loves film festivals and he wants to start focusing his work more on them. Does Yannic have a good tip for prospective students who are also considering Moving Image? “Make a lot of stuff so that you have plenty to show. Even before the admission process, I went to ArtEZ to show my portfolio. I was told it was still lacking, and that I would have to work hard to be able to show more work. Which is what I did, so it's good to bear that in mind as a prospective student.”