Witte de With presents from April 29 till June 19 the exhibition Be what you want but stay where you are by guest curators Ruth Noack and Roger M. Buergel, in cooperation with assistent curator Sophia Prinz and Witte de With.

Let us start with a Dutch group portrait from the so-called Golden Age as a very particular ‘i.e. egalitarian‘ model of community. And let us ask, addressing that image, what went so fatally wrong with the liberal ideal of tolerance and equality among free individuals? There is of course no answer readily available. Although the cost of excluding people from the image has been excessively high (the free individual still has its price), it would be utterly vulgar to blame that seventeenth century vision of community, performed by the male citizens themselves, for the recent clash between Western and Islamist ideologies that shook (not only) the Netherlands.

However, while slowly taking in the painting, one cannot help speculating about possible connections between a vision of society which proposes to be indefinitely expandable and those forms of life which remain excluded from that vision. The murder of Theo van Gogh as well as the arson attacks on mosques have been traumatic events. At least in part, these events belong to a realm where symbols and meanings are mute or simply absent. (In a media world it might be worth remembering that an image of a burning mosque or a dead body on the street is not necessarily an act of symbolization, as this requires that events are worked through consciously as well as collectively.)

Be what you want but stay where you are is a another group portrait, albeit a purely aesthetic one. It is a group portrait as exhibition, bringing together a variety of artworks from different geopolitical areas that share a concern with “government”. But while the Dutch group portrait disseminates government among free individuals, forming a social body of immobilized identities, the exhibition envisions government in more abstract terms. It looks for an agency that makes that social body appear in the first place. Government, in other words, is not associated with political agents conceived of more inclusively as an action or a set of actions that acts upon other actions (the action of others).

The exhibition as a dynamic group portrait might help us to contemplate those forms of connectedness that usually cannot be perceived because we are taking part in the image. Put differently, the exhibition gives us access not to a realm beyond power but to a realm beyond immobile designs the realm of aesthetics.

With works by

Sonja Abián & Carlos Piegari, Ibon Aranberri, Archivo Tucumán Arde (Graciela Carnevale), Maja Bajevic, Ricardo Basbaum, Matthijs de Bruijne & Javier Martínez, James Coleman, Jan Daemen Cool, Alice Creischer & Andreas Siekmann, Danica Dakic, Ines Doujak, Peter Friedl, Andrea Geyer, Sanja Ivekovic, Joris Ivens, Wendelien van Oldenborgh, Rainer Oldendorf, Alejandra Riera, Dierk Schmidt, Allan Sekula, Imogen Stidworthy, Lidwien van de Ven, Simon Wachsmuth, Francesca Woodman and others.

Special program

Special program for students May 25, 2005, 7.30-10 p.m., Witte de With, auditorium.
(Reservation necessary: [email protected] or 010-4110144)

Be what you want but stay where you are is the fifth and last exhibition of the series ‘Die Regierung / El Gobierno / The Government’. Different versions of the exhibition have been presented at the Kunstraum der Universität Lueneburg (November 6, 2003 – May 20, 2004), at MACBA in Barcelona (September 22 – November 7, 2004), at the MAC in Miami (November 30, 2004 – January 30, 2005) and at Secession in Vienna (February 24 – April 24, 2005).

For general information about the exhibition series ‘Die Regierung’ see:dieregierung.uni-lueneburg.de.
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—With Thanks To:

Historisch Museum Rotterdam

—Supported by

Kulturstiftung des Bundes
Mondriaan Foundation