Studium Generale - Alumnx Exchange Sessions: Tina Farifteh

BA Photography alumna Tina Farifteh with a screening of Kitten of Vluchteling & conversation afterwards with moderator Louis Braddock Clarke.


Who is at the top of the empathy ladder?

Why do we let one refugee drown and pick up another with our own car? In the short documentary Kitten or Refugee?, visual artist Tina Farifteh explores the mechanisms behind empathy and the interaction with the flood of images of suffering that overwhelms us every day. How can our absurd behavior be explained? Whom would you save from a war? And where does Tina Farifteh herself stand on the empathy ladder?

Artist Tina Farifteh spends hours each day watching images of people fleeing. She witnesses the gross mistreatment and 'pushbacks' at our European borders. Hundreds of videos of people drowning. Overcrowded, polluted camps, people sleeping outside in Ter Apel. But since the invasion in Ukraine, she also sees very different scenes. People drive to the border in their own cars, welcome refugees with soup, blankets, and teddy bears, and even take them to their own homes.

Moral experiment of empathy versus cruelty

How is it possible that we are so empathetic towards one and so cruel towards another? Tina wonders. In the short documentary Kitten or Refugee?, she dissects the mechanisms behind our absurd behavior. She interviews scientists, people who take action, and subjects the viewer to an experiment: whom would you save from a war?

Who may live, who may not?

Overwhelmed by the flood of images, Tina tries to stand firm and understand what she sees. What is the danger if we let ourselves be guided by empathy? Are empathy and xenophobia different sides of the same coin? And what does the endless flow of images of suffering do to us? In a confronting way, Farifteh reveals who is at the bottom of the 'empathy ladder' when it comes to decisions about life and death. This question also touches her personally. Because where does she actually stand on the ladder? She thought she belonged, but now sees how people who resemble her, her mother, father, and brother, are being beaten and seen as a threat. The question arises whether we can change. Is it possible to see 'the other' as 'us'?

About the director
Tina Farifteh (1982) is an Iranian-Dutch photographer and filmmaker who lives and works in Sexbierum (Friesland) and Amsterdam. Tina came to the Netherlands from Tehran at the age of thirteen and, after a career in marketing, graduated from the KABK in The Hague in 2021. She gained recognition with her graduation project, The Flood. The audiovisual installation deals with the ultimate consequence of using water metaphors such as 'flow,' 'flood,' and 'tsunami' in reporting on refugees.

Tina won multiple awards with The Flood, including the 'Royal Academy Bachelor Award 2021' and 'BA Photography department Award 2021,' 'FotoFestival Naarden Talent Award 2021,' and the '2nd prize for storytelling from De Zilveren Camera.' NRC named her one of the rising stars in the cultural field in early 2023. As a curator, Tina compiled the exhibition Qoqnoos at the Melkweg Expo in 2023. In video art, documentaries, and installations, we see how female Iranian artists seek and, however small, find their freedom. Currently, Tina is working on Tina in Sexbierum, a multimedia project about displacement, detachment, assimilation, loss, and the longing for a home.
More information: Tina Farifteh's website.

Topics discussed in the Q&A:
Reflect and unpack the film together – looking at the key questions asked in the film.
Relevance of the film in the context of what happened last night with the elections and Dutch media. What it was like directing a film – the processes and methods used. Tina’s
graduation project – The Flood. Life after graduating at KABK, transitioning from student to practising artist. Ways in which you navigated the Dutch Art scene. Recent show at UNFAIR
Future projects: NFF fellowship.



23 november 2023 18.00 - 20:30


KABK Auditorium

Meer info

For additional info contact Stéphane Blokhuis