we always need heroes(2020) Rosie Heinrich


we always need heroesnavigates a complex of perspectives. Sifting through the emotional and political debris of Iceland’s economic Crash in 2008, bankers, scientists, philosophers and fishermen recount the collapse of a collective narrative and myth: a Cultural Crash, as it is locally known. The project comprises a film (2020), an artist book (2018), a multichannel video installation (2017–), a song (2015–2018), and more. Each component plays with language and narrative to readdress the notion of landscape—natural, national and political. By speculating on the politics of perception and selective self-storytelling, we always need heroesimagines a shift in the ways we listen to, generate and perceive our narratives.




we always need heroes(2020) Rosie Heinrich, with an original music score by Katrin Hahner (aka KENICHI & THE SUN). For more information about co-authors and collaborators, please see here.




Through my multidisciplinary projects, I explore constructs of self-storytelling (beliefs and realities both personal and collective) and spoken and wordless language. Voices are my clay. Their textures: rhythm, intonation, timbre, volume, emotion. I mould with diverse perspectives across an array of forms to create works which play upon the construction and destruction of conflicting belief worlds—and their words—in times of crisis.


I draw from an exhaustive practice of interviewing and close-listening. Recorded conversations and their transcription are a process of research as well as a material and medium. As I transcribe, I listen for recurring motifs which become my subjects. I listen also to the voice, its inflections, its figures of speech. From here, I ‘write’ through other people’s voices and invent notation systems for scoring the unspoken. I aim, inter alia, to disorientate and enliven habitual modes of reading and listening.


writing methods

I ‘write’ through other people’s voices by interlacing audio fragments drawn from recorded conversations with multiple interlocutors. These conversations take place over extended periods of dialogue-driven research. I seek diverse and in-depth perspectives, and my questions are open. My interviewees’ concerns become my subjects. I speak with as many as 20 people and revisit interviewees up to seven times, creating an audio archive of hundreds of hours of recordings.


My composition process brings the individually interviewed interlocutors into dialogue with one another. Transcribing, close-listening, piecing together, reading aloud, I invite the material to percolate through me. I attempt to gauge the lay of the land, and through the synthesis of parallel experiences or dissonant perspectives, I begin to weave with their words. A polyphonic landscape develops, emerging through snatches of sentences in different voices. Speakers complete one another’s sentences. Ideas are raised and reframed; words and meanings punctuated and derailed.


They speak of storytelling. A self-narration built upon illusion and delusion, interpretation, myth, fairytale, spin, insinuation, rhetoric, representation: ‘just like language that creates wealth out of nothing.’*


There is an intrinsic ambivalence to the work’s authorship. The weave of voices calls attention to its own omissions. Speakers in we always need heroes refer to various authors and translators as composers of the ‘national narrative’. Simultaneously, the ventriloquial hand of an editor is forcibly apparent. Meanwhile, onscreen, I script pulsing subtitles that largely affirm what is said and then swerve, away from the voiceover, offering alternative words and tales. This collaborative, intimate compositional form is deliberately disorienting. Viewers are invited to sift through the emotional and political debris together with the speakers, as curator Lucy Cotter writes, ‘not as strangers, but as fellow human beings navigating the fragility of our own narratives.’



Rosie Heinrich (UK born, Amsterdam based) is a visual artist and research fellow of THIRD, DAS Graduate School, Amsterdam. Heinrich’s recent artist book we always need heroes, published by Fw:Books, was awarded Best Dutch Book Designs 2018, Best Dutch Book Designs 2018 Student Jury’s selection, and shortlisted Arles Photo-Text Book Award 2019—exhibited at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (NL) and Rencontres d’Arles (FR), respectively. Works have also recently been shown at Asolo Art Film Festival (IT), Cycle Music and Art Festival (Gerðarsafn—Kópavogur Art Museum, IS), SYB Triennial (Beetsterzwaag, NL), puntWG (Amsterdam), and Veem House for Performance (Amsterdam).




artist book publisher, Fw:Books

SAR SIG Sharing Practice

THIRD, 3rd Cycle Research Group, DAS Graduate School Amsterdam



*As stated, respectively, by historian Guðmundur Hálfdanarson and political scientist Eiríkur Bergmann, in we always need heroes.

Presentation for a cancelled conference

we always need heroes (2015–2020)

Rosie Heinrich

we always need heroes (2020) single screen film, 46 minutes

we always need heroes (2018), artist book published with Fw:Books