This presentation is the ﬁrst result of the Van Abbemuseum’s new research and guest curator programme. Under this initiative, younger international curators are invited to work in the museum for a period of between 6 months and 2 years, developing projects using the collection and exhibition spaces.
Hyunjin Kim from Seoul, South Korea has curated this exhibition as her response to the collection as well as her speciﬁc contribution to Plug In.
‘The Undeclared Crowd’ means an unacknowledged or not yet named collective of beings or things. The idea is to make a modest intervention into the museum’s existing structure in order to allow audiences to experience the space and collection differently. It relies on a delicate visual language that seeks to translate issues that effect our contemporary society into an aesthetic form.
The exhibition is installed across two corners. In one, the piece ‘Untitled (to a man, Geaorge McGovern)’ by Dan Flavin (1972) with ﬁfty-ﬁve circle lights is arranged in a triangular shape. It is both an autonomous artwork and a means to illuminate a crowd of pictures hanging on the other walls. Here, about sixty drawings, prints, and posters largely ﬁll the walls. The curatorial selection ranges from established modern and contemporary masters to emerging international artists, and includes many Dutch artists within its compass. Which artists and works are represented here can be seen in a separate information leaﬂet.
This grouping of artists goes beyond conventional categories of art history such as speciﬁc periods,
nations, themes or cultural backgrounds. The selection was rather done according to an interest in the singular quality of an artwork -an interest developed during the research on the Van Abbemuseum collection. The works themselves are installed provisionally and in a spontaneous manner. This emphasises the chance nature of the encounters of the work with each other, done without principles. The installation avoids a single, coherent subject matter and each piece operates as itself and beyond certain ﬁxed categories. The works’ individual narratives are autonomous, but reconcile themselves within a loose and a communicative unity. What is achieved in this constellation is a highly interesting ‘togetherness’, ‘co-existence’ and ‘nonhierarchical simultaneity,’ despite their production over a long period of time and space. The drawing wall also provides an absurd imbalance and a little bit of insecure distortion with its arbitrary lines and slanting angles. This fact is more recognisable as you get closer to it and it is emphasized by avoiding using a level ruler or straight edge during the installation. This strategy introduces more humane elements into the rigid lines of the modernist space. There is no priority of absolutely horizontal and vertical lines. Instead, the installation technicians are requested to work by eye. This condition of hanging creates an oddly disquieting quality in the space.
Dan Flavin’s work not only radiates for itself but also lights the drawings and pictures. A certain aesthetic tension exists between the two walls, contrasting between them; sameness and difference, symmetry and asymmetry, continuity and discontinuity. Their relationship is neither too troubled nor just peaceful but is intended to have an agonistic quality, what the political thinker Chantal Mouffe describes as ‘friendly enemies’: “...what I call ‘agonism’...is a different mode of manifestation of antagonism because it involves a relation not between enemies but between ‘adversaries’, adversaries being deﬁned in a paradoxical way as ‘friendly enemies’, that is, persons who are friends because they share a common symbolic space but also enemies because they want to organize this common symbolic space in a different way.”(Chantal Mouffe - The Democratic Paradox, London, 2003)
We are ﬁnally asked to read the space as an allegory of our way of living in our contemporary society. In order to deal with the tensions, resistances and contingencies in our society, we try to communicate, understand, accommodate and cooperate with other members of society.
Yet, as we spend more time in the room, the overall relation between the two walls is replaced by more than sixty diverse stories within each picture. Their singular narratives are rather hidden by the overall form of the exhibition, but they are nevertheless still discoverable as singular potentials that point towards other, more complex possibilities.