ACT VIII of MORALITY, developed by Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, for the Dutch Culture Centre, Shanghai, as part of the World Expo 2010.

As the eighth act of Morality, realized specifically for the ‘world stage’ of Shanghai’s Expo, Nether Land highlights diverse international artistic practices that engage with the paradoxes of cross-cultural perception and fantasies of foreign and alternative production.

Resonating with the name of the exhibition venue, the Dutch Culture Centre, the exhibition title Nether Land is a more exact and deadpan English iteration of the Dutch word for its nation, ‘Nederland’. The isolation of the word ‘nether’ points to its double meaning, as both low (hence the ‘Low Countries’) and remote (as in ‘the nether reaches of the universe’). The echo in Nether Land of the idealized ‘Neverland’ of Peter Pan is not lost, and many of the works in the show explore the idea of a better life elsewhere. More important still is the Chinese translation of the title, He Guo, which emphasizes the questioning tone of the exhibition: He Guo sounds like the beginning of He Lan [Chinese for ‘Holland’], it actually means ‘What Country?’ – a question that destabilizes our sense of place and creates something of a parallax effect, where shifting locations and shifting viewpoints contribute to deeper perspective.

Each of the exhibited works in the exhibition projects a different relationship with a far away land – Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East – or estranges the here and now, making it impossible for a cumulative portrait of a country or culture to emerge. Nevertheless, the immense impact of such viewing from a distance and across borders on the shaping of aesthetic and political values that underpin contemporary artistic practice in a global arena comes into sharper relief.

—Supported by

This exhibition is generously supported by the City of Rotterdam, the Mondriaan Foundation and the Dutch Culture Centre / Netherlands China Arts Foundation. With thanks to the Fonds BKVB.