During the American presidential elections – when there is a great deal of US political coverage in the Netherlands – the Heartland experience offers a different perspective, concentrating on new, cultural insights into the region. The project grew out of a series of curatorial research trips and is a collaboration with the Muziekcentrum Frits Philips and the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago as its American partner. It also extends to other institutions in Eindhoven such as MU and Stroomhuis. In 2009, the exhibition will travel to the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago, where it will be on view in a modified form from 1 October 2009 until 17 January 2010. will be launched on October 10, 2009, during the Museumnacht 2009 in the Van Abbemuseum.
The exhibition in the Van Abbemuseum takes the visitor on a trip alongside the Mississippi river and its tributaries, through countryside and cities. It features both commissioned and existing works by contemporary American and European artists. In doing so it gives visitors a chance to find out more about the region, its residents and its real or imagined history and terrain. The artist list includes familiar and unfamiliar names such as Jeremiah Day, Kerry James Marshall, Marjetica Potr?, Julika Rudelius and Wilhelm Sasnal. Together they present a diverse series of experiences of the Heartland.
The curatorial team of this exhibition was drawn from the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven and the Smart Museum of Art in Chicago to mix transatlantic perspectives. They selected work(s) by artists who live in the region or responded to its unique characteristics, as well as work by artists who live outside the region and have undertaken residencies in the Heartland in order to produce new work. The aim of the exhibition is to form a more subtle picture of the part of the United States that we define as the new Heartland. Geographically, the exhibition roughly follows the Mississippi River and its tributaries from the south to the north, taking in an area from New Orleans up to Minneapolis, including Omaha, Kansas City, Detroit and Chicago. Although not all the artists actually live in the Heartland, this region forms the basis of their work, in the sense that they engage with its rich history, cultural diversity and current themes.
There are several reasons why the Van Abbemuseum decided to focus on the art and culture of the central and southern states of the USA, for us defined as Heartland. Firstly, the selected works form a valuable complement to the exhibition history of the Van Abbemuseum. Most of the work exhibited in the museum from the 1960s onwards came from the American East Coast, while from the 1990s onwards the attention shifted to Los Angeles and the West Coast. This background made the curators curious about the zone in between. Secondly, this exhibition exemplifies the direct relation between art and society, given the crucial role that the region plays in the upcoming US presidential elections. The Heartland exhibition also addresses the need to rethink old fashioned stereotypes about the Heartland and its people, and it is questioning traditional definitions of cultural centers and peripheries. The location of the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, outside the Randstad (the region where most of the big cities in the Netherlands are located, such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, and The Hague), parallels in character and reputation the location of the Heartland between the dominant American East and West Coasts.
Artists included in the exhibition are: Juan William Chávez, Cody Critcheloe, Peter Friedl, Scott Hocking, Carol Jackson, Matthew Day Jackson, Seth Johnson, Kerry James Marshall, Greely Myatt, Dan Peterman, Marjetica Potr?, Ernesto Pujol, Michael Rakowitz, Wilhelm Sasnal, Artur Silva, Deb Sokolow, Alec Soth, Aaron Spangler, Design 99, Detroit Tree of Heaven Woodshop, Theaster Gates and the Black Monks of Mississippi, SIMPARCH, The New Kinomatagraphic Union, Jaimie Warren & Whoop Dee Doo Kansas City, as well as artists in residence Jeremiah Day and Julika Rudelius.
More information about the art works in the exhibition and the participating artists is available in <media 935 - download>the exhibition guide</media>.
The Muziekcentrum and the Van Abbemuseum have issued <media 919 - download>the Heartland magazine</media>, containing the programme of activities in Eindhoven, a general introduction to the project, and texts by US experts in the Netherlands as well as various authors, artists and musicians about artistic practice and music in the Heartland.
Charles Esche, Director Van Abbemuseum
Kerstin Niemann, Research Curator Van Abbemuseum
Stephanie Smith, Director of Collections and Exhibitions and Curator of Contemporary Art, Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago