Caspar Menkman

An interview with Kaweh Modiri

My Burglar and Me

As a Rietveld student Kaweh's apartment was burglarized and his most valuable possessions were stolen. After finding out who did it, Kaweh's anger quickly turned into inspiration. He decided to make a documentary about his burglar.


Kaweh Modiri in the Mediamatic Bank - Kaweh Modiri exhibited his work "Mijn inbreker en ik" during the Noord exhibition at Mediamatic Bank. Lars Wannop

With: Kaweh Modiri

Could you tell us what happened?

Both my backups and original files were on the computers that got stolen, so I lost all my work at once. Back then I lived in an old deserted factory in Noord with six other people. The night of the break-in me and my girlfriend were fast asleep. The next morning we got up only to see that both my laptop and desktop computer were missing. Despite the fact that we immediately started inquiring throughout the neighborhood, the burglar entered our home a second time and stole my neighbor's Iphone. A week later there was a third break-in. This time one of my housemates managed to lock the burglar inside and confront him. I was in London at the time.

What happened then?

They got him to give back the stuff he took from the house, including both my computers. When I got home from London I was quite anxious to boot them to see if my files were still there. Almost instantly after starting up the computer I got an incoming call through msn messenger. It was from a number I didn't know. I noticed my screen name had changed and I quickly closed my computer. I see my computer as something that mirrors my personality and now my burglar had taken possession of that. I decided to open it again later. I discovered four hours of home footage that my burglar had left me. He was practicing cool looks as if he were posing in front of a mirror, and introduced himself to the camera. Our connection became very intimate. First he was in my room and now I had entered his.

And you decided to turn this into an art project?

I was always taught that there are a few central questions an artist should ask himself. Who am I, what is the object, and what is our relation? In my previous projects I always started a dialogue with an object and posed it as another. In this case I was handed someone with whom I could start a real dialogue. The first few days I was mad at him, but after studying the images he had shot and uploaded to my computer, I started to get to know him. I felt a connection. My anger quickly turned into interest after I googled him.

He was talented and knew what he wanted to achieve. I found out he had won an award writing for theater, and later even found his telephone number. So I decided to call him. Not only to confront him, but also to get to know him and maybe even work together. He declined my offer, telling me he doesn't want to face his victims. At this point I figured the burglar and our relationship would be the focus of my work. During my research it developed into something with the potential of becoming an ongoing project.

How does this all relate to Noord?

The burglary took place in my house in Noord. I lived there for two years. I think I was asked to exhibit my project because it's as if you open a random door in Noord, and ask "What's happening?" This is a story you could hear in reply.

Do you consider yourself a Noordeling

No, not at all. Without wanting to be offensive, but for me a Noordeling is someone who goes to the Dirk van den Broek to get his month's supply of Best Beer and/or vieux.

But what about the cultural possibilities in Noord?

There is still quite a bit of empty space in Noord, which offers young entrepreneurial Amsterdam the chance to develop itself. A lot of old commercial warehouses are now being used as offices and living spaces for people in the creative industry. It's nice how we can learn from each other, and profit from the cultural environment in Noord. I think Noord will develop quite nicely.