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Indepth Arts News:

"We Are The World"
2004-03-20 until 2003-05-23
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
Rotterdam, , NL Netherlands

We Are The World, the Dutch entry for the Venice Biennale in 2003, can be seen at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen from March 20 until May 23. Why is this exhibition repeated in Rotterdam? In addition to many positive reactions, the presentation in Venice also evoked criticism in the press, mainly regarding audience participation. Rein Wolfs, head of presentations of the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and producer of the Dutch entry, now wants to enter into the discussion at home. He also wants to give people who weren’t able to visit the Biennale the opportunity to see the Dutch contribution and form an opinion. As part of the Rotterdam presentation a debate will be held on audience participation in art, on Saturday, April 24 2004 (at the museum).

We Are The World, the title of the Dutch entry for the Venice Biennale in 2003, has to do with the choices producer Rein Wolfs made. He selected five artists, of whom three were not born in the Netherlands. Why? For ten years, Wolfs was the director of the Swiss Migros Museum. On returning to the Netherlands he noticed that society had hardened and that the multicoloured community was seen as a ‘multicultural drama’. With his entry, Wolfs wanted to demonstrate that the multicultural is not a problem in the arts. At the same time he wanted to bring the Biennale’s formula – an international competition in the visual arts - up for discussion. ‘I want to show that national identities are crumbling, and that my selection is representative of the Dutch art world.’ Apart from this multicultural aspect and a certain political commitment (Wolfs speaks of ‘politics lite’), the Dutch entry above all consisted of art that was aimed at audience participation. The latter also evoked some critical response. In spite of, or perhaps thanks to this possibility, the Dutch pavilion drew many visitors and also received much appreciation internationally.

The new presentation at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen – just like in Venice, the installations are built on the spot – will also involve more than simply looking. The visitors can do and experience things themselves. There is a workshop by Carlos Amorales (Mexico City 1970) where they can make shoes. It’s intended to make them aware of the existence of such little factories in Mexico where people work for starvation wages. Incidentally, the installation is a gift to the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen by Rotterdam collector Joop van Caldenborgh.

Experiencing something first-hand is also possible with Meschac Gaba (Benin 1961). In his bar (during the weekends) free ginger vodka is served, a popular drink in his native country.

Alicia Framis (Barcelona 1967) shows clothing made of a material that is bulletproof and, what’s more, resistant to fire and bites. This was provoked by skinheads in Berlin, who set dogs on women with a dark complexion. In these clothes, allochtonous women can also walk the streets safely.

As was the case in Venice, the contribution by Erik van Lieshout (1965) can be seen outside, instead of inside. His little structure will be built in the museum’s inner court. In it, sitting on rickety (Rietveld) chairs and between walls made of (Turkish) carpets, the audience can watch a film in which Erik and his homosexual brother go in search of a boyfriend for the latter in South Rotterdam, and wind up in a neighbourhood where Turkish boys call the shots.

A true participation project is the contribution of Jeanne van Heeswijk (1968), a large trough full of clay in which the public can carve out and claim territories, a reference to the many power games going on all the time and all around the world. Van Heeswijk specializes in audience participation. At the moment, she is running a large project at an old shopping centre in Vlaardingen, which also houses a temporary branch of the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. In this space, ‘De Strip’, an exhibition is being put together that complements the one at the museum.

Erik van Lieshout (1968)
200 x 500 x 300 cm
installation -  wood, gesso, dvd, projection
  Photo: Mancia and Bodmer (FBM)

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