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Jeroen van Dooren

PhD Work

We Are Not Ourselves All of the Time and We Are Not All of Ourselves at Any Time; Heteronyms, Personas and Contemporary Art

The work originates from my need put on a mask. As a result of this putting on a mask, I became interested in character development and role-playing mainly within fine art and literature. The research will be in the psychology behind role-playing and not so much the physical appearance or transformations which can occur. 

The work can be seen as an exercise in character development within fine art. This exercise is there to investigate the role-playing of artists. As a tool to write and make art, the literary concept of heteronym is being used. The concept deals with the creation of an imaginary character by a writer to write in different styles or to write from a different perspective. The writing in the work is there to experiment with autobiography and biography.

The character development will be expressed in two ways. Firstly, through performances and performative work with a focus on the narrative of the heteronyms. The personalities of the heteronyms come to live through text, sound, video and performances. Secondly, through the art objects the heteronyms make. This is best explained by an example. Kees van Lankveld, one of the heteronyms, has Obsessive Compulsive Behaviour, one of his obsessions is counting. All his work made and the work he will make in future is based on the cars he counted in 2010 and how he organises and categorises these cars according to colour and time. Kees is not intended to become a full-bodied character but this most distinctive personality trait, of being a compulsive person, is to be portrayed in the objects and in the development of his artwork. 

These different heteronyms are a result of my personality but are not my personality, they are a result of my mental health status. The works can be read as a commentary on the cliché artist and as a satirical performative piece with me as the subject. 

I have a particular interest in the transition from fictional writing to fine art.

I write fictional biographies and use them as a method of developing characters in fine art, researching the self, autobiografiction and heteronomity.

MA work

Four rotating curated exhibitions

Jeroen Van Dooren


Nigel Rolfe - IM-PER-SON

17 June–19 June


Sacha Craddock - Just a Minute

20 June–22 June


Chris Fite-Wassilak - Two Pictures of a Rose in the Dark

23 June–25 June

Jareh Das - Performential objects

26 June–29 June 

The performance ' Discontinuous Rhythm' will occur intermittently 17–19 June and 26–29 June.


  • Jeroen van Dooren
  • PhD


    School of Arts & Humanities


    Arts & Humanities Research, 2015–2020

  • MA Degree


    School of Humanities


    MA Printmaking, 2014

  • We are not ourselves all of the time and we are not all of ourselves at any time: Heteronyms, Personas and Contemporary Art 



    The Chinese philosopher Chuang Tzu (4th century BC) once had a dream. He dreamed he was a butterfly, flying around as butterflies do. He was conscious that he was a butterfly and not himself a man. Upon awakening he questioned his existence. He was confused if he was the butterfly or if the butterfly was him.


    How does the adaptation of the literary concept of the heteronym from fictional writing to contemporary art practice affect the artist’s identity and resulting narratives? What does it mean to create and embody a fictional artist who is separate from the self and how does this alter our perceptions of selfhood? We are not ourselves all of the time and we are not all of ourselves at any time brings together the literary concept of the heteronym, contemporary art, fictional writing and considerations of the relationship between the self and other, originating from a personal experience of mental health issues relating to divided subjectivities. The research creates fictional worlds within contemporary art in order to offer a new perspective on practice-led enquiries into the relations between heteronyms, transparency, fiction and presentations of the self in everyday life and art.


    Dreaming my reality as I go along, different voices express my opinions through a practice of writing and art making. In Fernando Pessoa I found my guide, my tutor from a bygone era. The schism between the rational and the absurd, the hiding and exposing of what is personal and what is public has been integral to this research. Accompanied by Pessoa and his transparent approach of showing the separate existence of his heteronyms and his orthonym, I took his hand and walked alongside. This practice-led investigation does not intend to provide a specific method of how to create a heteronym, however it does offer an approach to understanding possible methods or perspectives for creating a heteronym or a separate self within contemporary art practice. Through the presentation of multiple artistic personas, the research investigates through the process of making and fictional writing the possibility of creating an aesthetic iteration of Pessoa’s heteronyms.


    The use of the idea of heteronyms within this artistic research offers a way to investigate working from a multitude of different perspectives and personal narrations. It is also a form of depersonalisation and simulation moving from the self to the other and back again. In doing so, this research understands how the heteronym can function within contemporary art. Autobiografictional characters are invented, their personas are assumed, and artworks are produced according to their own separate voices and ways of being. Making work as the fictional personas, these characters come alive via performances, text and audio pieces. The fictional characters are not there as a tool for hiding or for masking but are used as an instrument to investigate character development and the potential for multiple artistic personas within contemporary art.


    Not shying away from using pastiche, irony and absurdity to form the fictional artists contained within this thesis, We are not ourselves all of the time and we are not all of ourselves at any time offers a practice-led enquiry into contemporary notions of subjectivity, performativity and the role of the contemporary artist. Through the generation and demonstration of these multiple selves and personas, this research offers a new way of thinking about the freedom and constraints of an aesthetics of the heteronym, where the world of contemporary art becomes a stage where heteronyms live.

  • Degrees

  • PhD Arts and Humanities 2020; MA Fine art Printmaking, Royal College of Art, London, 2014; BA Fine Arts, Kunst Academie Minerva Groningen, The Netherlands, 2008; BA Fine Arts exchange student, Hunter College New York City, 2007
  • Experience

  • Visiting lecturer at the University of Leeds. Artist presentation and a day of Tutorials to first and second year BFA students, 2019; Visiting Lecturer Royal College of Art, London. MA group teaching a taught interdisciplinary course for second year MA students studying across Arts and Humanities, 2017 - 2019; Winchester school of art. Performance lectures and workshops for first and second year BA students; 2019; Visiting Lecturer Royal College of Art, London. MA group crit leader for second year MA students studying across Arts and Humanities, 2017 - 2019; Visiting lecturer Wolverhampton School of Art, Nottingham Trent University, University of Northampton and University of Gloucestershire all in the UK, 2016; Revalidation panel, RCA, 2015; Student representative, RCA Show 2014; Chairman and co-founder, Angry Hammers, 2011–14; Winchester School of Art, teaching a three-day performance workshop for first year BFA students, 2018; Curator, Angry Hammers, In The Asphalt City, The Shed, Galway, Ireland, 2012; Visiting lecturer at Galway-Mayo institute of technology in Ireland. Artist presentation and a day of tutorials for MA Creative Practice students, 2018; Treasurer, 126 Gallery Galway Ireland, 2011–12; Visiting lecturer at Academie Minerva in the Netherlands. A day of tutorials for fourth-year BFA students, 2017; Curator, 126 Gallery, 2011–12
  • Exhibitions

  • Beaconsfield Gallery, Vocalis, London 2019; El Leyak, The Intuitive Machine, Santiago de Chile; 2019; Five Trillian Times, China Academy of Art Hangzhou museum, 2018; Royal Academy Summer Show, London; 2018; Pontificia Universidad Catholica de Chile, Santiago de Chile; 2018; The masters screen and stone, The Royal Society for Painter-Printmakers, London, 2018; Daybreak, Safehouses, London; 2017; Valentia Place studios, London Design week; 2017; Lost in the woods, The Square Gallery, London, 2016; Tulca Festival of Visual Arts, Galway, Ireland, 2016; The Maverick Expo 2016, London, 2016; Me/You, You/Me, Sensei Gallery, London, 2016; Fluorescent Arts Festival Soho, London, 2015; No Time For Hysteria 126 Members’, The Burren College of Art, Ballyvaughan, Ireland, 2015; Royal Academy Summer Show 2014; Bainbridge Open 2014, Embassy Tea Gallery, Embassy Tea Gallery; Multiplied Art Fair, Christie’s, Londen, 2014; Wild at heart and weird on top, Cafe Gallery, London, 2014; Royal College of Art Graduation Show 2014, London; A letter to Cyprus, Chiaki Kamikawa Contemporary Art Gallery,Paphos, Cyprus, 2013; At Random, Opperclaes, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 2013; Múscailt Arts Festival, National University of Ireland Galway, Galway, Ireland, 2012; Dublin Contemporary 2011, Dublin, Ireland, 2011; Collective Contemporary Art, The Royal Dublin Society, Dublin, Ireland; Open Winter Show, Curated by Ann Mulrooney (Curator, National Craft Gallery) and Hilary Murray (Curator, Collections, Irish Museum of Modern Art), RuaRed, Dublin, Ireland
  • Awards

  • Royal College of Art Student-Led Event Competition, 2016; The Art House RCA student competition, 2016; Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds – Young Talent Award, 2015; RCA Riverlight Student Award, 2014; Thames Barrier Print Studio Graduate Award, 2014; Annual Programming Grant, 126 Gallery, The Arts Council Ireland, 2012/2013; Travel and traning award 2012 Arts Council Ireland; Galway City Arts Grants, 126 Gallery, Ireland, 2012; Groot Brugmansfonds, 2007
  • Conferences

  • Conference paper presentation To Think is to Experiment at University of East London