The exhibition is part of a large-scale project that has evolved over two years focussing on identity, diversity and nationality and which takes the Netherlands as its case study. In those two years, Charles Esche (director) and Annie Fletcher (curator) have been talking with artists, intellectuals, politicians and the people of Eindhoven to find possible answers to complex questions. What does the notion of ‘Being Dutch’ or ‘Becoming Dutch’ mean or encapsulate in the 21st century? What does national identity mean in a time of global migration? These topical and pressing questions are playing on many people’s minds. More than 35 Dutch and international artists, 21 of whom created new work especially for the event, respond to the question of what it means to live in the Netherlands. The project is unusual because it takes on an outright political and social subject and translates it into artistic terms.
Be(com)ing Dutch in the Museum
The Be(com)ing Dutch exhibition is composed of three sections: the imagined past, present and future.
The Imagined Past presents for example, work by renowned artists such as Daan Van Golden, Ed van der Elsken, Johan van der Keuken and Gerrit Dekker, their work addresses travel, cosmopolitanism and cultural diversity. An exploration of cultural and colonial relations between the Netherlands and Indonesia is seen in Wendelien van Oldenborgh’s new film installation, No False Echoes. Abdellatif Benfaidoul’s work studies multiculturalism in the Netherlands and shows how Moroccan culture influences Dutch culture. ‘Recruiting Identities’ is a search through existing visual material, revealing the way in which guest workers were selected to come to the Netherlands and evaluating the criteria which were used.
The Imagined Present considers contemporary reality. Italian artist Mario Rizzi followed the Dutch ‘civic integration’ process from close quarters for five months to produce the film Congratulations, and a sound piece by Lebanese artist Rana Hamadeh investigates the different reactions to, and interpretations of, her work in the Netherlands and Beirut. With a collection of more than 100 passports from all over the world Tintin Wulia has created a compelling work composed of a worldly palette of colours.
For the Imagined Future, ideas of what is yet to come are developed by artists in speculative and innovative ways. The Indonesian artist Agung Kurniawan guides the visitor into the Museum of Misunderstandings; a large installation intended to unveil current absurdities and miscommunication regarding cultural prejudices and traditional cultural artefacts. Surasi Kusolwong devises an elaborate installation which fuses all kinds of cultural heritages and art works. He thus proposes new ways to enjoy the museum and its ‘cultural classics’
Be(com)ing Dutch in the City
Art Beyond the Walls is the umbrella title for several performances being staged in the city. Internationally renowned photographer and filmmaker Phil Collins devised the public project Free Fotolab, inviting all Eindhoven’s inhabitants to have their old 35mm negatives developed for free at a photography shop opposite the museum, thereby aiming to show the hidden images of Eindhoven, its inhabitants and their personal lives. The artists Bik Van der Pol are organizing the performance event Close Encounters in the Evoluon, in an attempt to challenge different communities and generations to join forces thereby asking wether a collective mental willpower is able to create a substantial feat of strength.
Petra Bauer, Abdellatif Benfaidoul, Bik Van der Pol, Michael Blum, Libia Castro/ Ólafur Ólafsson, Phil Collins, Carla Cruz, Gerrit Dekker, Erwin van Doorn, Ronen Eidelman, Ed van der Elsken, Hadassah Emmerich, Alexandra Ferreira, Daan van Golden, Rana Hamadeh, Nicoline van Harskamp, Alicia Herrero, Hans van Houwelingen, Johan van der Keuken, Annette Krauss, Agung Kurniawan, Surasi Kusolwong, Toos Nijssen, Ahmet Ögüt, Wendelien van Oldenborgh, Ilya Rabinovich, Mario Rizzi, Mounira Al Solh, Fiona Tan, Oguz Tatari, Alite Thijsen, Lidwien van de Ven, Tintin Wulia, Bettina Wind.
The Be(com)ing Dutch project was launched in January 2007 with The Gatherings, a weekend of talks, debates, art projects and presentations. The second phase of the project was staged in late 2007: the Eindhoven Caucus. Over a period of four weeks there were intensive discussions and lectures among and by thinkers and artists from all over the world.
The Mondriaan Foundation awarded its 2006 Development Prize for Cultural Diversity to the Van Abbemuseum for the Be(com)ing Dutch project.
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