an exhibition about all of us; the prisoners of society
A collaboration between Merel Raats (artistic researcher and cultural antropologist) and Jikke Lesterhuis (exhibition designer and curator)
Nowadays, 2021, there is an increase in knowledge and information available for the masses. This results in critical thinking. For the museum world this shows in reflections on making the museum experience more inclusive and approachable for people from different sides of society. On a more artistic level this results in a shift of institution-artist relationships. Being funded as an artist is incredibly hard by the increasing amount of artists and creatives. Besides, the cultural field is still not recognized in Western culture as an inevitable part of society. Hence the relatively low rates of subsidies for cultural organisations and institutions. As a result, as you see in Amsterdam, there is a huge amount of galleries. This creates a more dependent relation with the artist and effects the work by that. As a consequence, our exhibition is response to the current state of the field wherein we are producing and creating the content of our exhibition completely independent from institutions and we are financed by subsidies and crowdfunding.
Exhibition LEVENSLANG is a place where content and context are created as a natural flow out of research and societal situations. After observing the current societal hurdles in personal mental health and critical collective thinking, we decided to create a safe space for people to reflect on their personal wellbeing and give them tools to set themselves free. After a while, this will also pay off in societal ideologies that in the end keep on creating our worlds. An example of this is thinking about sexuality, where Christian throughs are still leading in heteronormative thinking. By visibility of the diversity in individual experiences of sexuality, the world will become less normative and more diverse. Concluding, LEVENSLANG is an exhibition in service of the societal needs and by that becomes an independent event made my two artist-curators - an initiative led in New York in the 1960s when artists started using temporary places for their practices and shows, creating an independency as much as possible to remain far away from the commercializing of art and artists.
LEVENSLANG is, because of this focus on the societal need, using art as a form of social practice. Socially engaged practice describes art that is collaborative, often participatory and involves people as the medium of the work. For us being socially engaged means that our art is in service of the societal situation and a medium to effect the individual. By using participatory installations we engage with the audience who we want to support in their needs.
Using multiple installations we create more so an environment, a spatial design. By making this in same sizes as the human body we try to create a bodily experience for the visitor. It is a unified experience, rather than a display of artworks. As Ilya Kabakov said: 'The main actor in the total installation, the main centre toward which everything is addressed, for which everything is intended, is the viewer'. This is an emerge out of environments created by artist around 1960's when sound and light started taking a more prominent place as well.
We collaborate together with artists in our exhibition that are thematically relevant. The artists we work with are:
In our climactic part of the exhibition, we make use of light as our main focus. Just like the famous Group Zero - artist who focused on light and motion - we want to take the subjective out of the experience. By using the body of the visitor as the influencer of the work, and by that the creator, it makes it participatory art. The audience is directly engaged in the creative process so they become participants in the event. In our case, this means walking and being will right away immerse this situation.
By opening up the gates on our own terms, we create relational work that is not an object to look at, but an exhibition that is wholesomely in continuous dialogue with the artist and visitor. It broadens the perspective of what art is and when an artist becomes one. By working together with people who feel strongly about the societal content of the exhibition, the concept of art is renewed. It is now more so a medium that is an interdependent result of the content. Society and the art-world benefit from this independent approach. We practice what we preach, we don't stay in the borders of the expected and normative path with our form of exhibiting but reframe societies narrative and believe in the lesson we give people. We flip the script.
photo credits: Doriann Kransberg, Interieur Penitentaire Inrichtingen