Chapter 3HREE is, as you might guess from the name, the third exhibition on display at Het HEM; this time curated by the Dutch stylist and art director, Maarten Spruyt. This exhibition brings 27 artist’s work together, displayed throughout the vast Het HEM building and specifically using its architecture to create an experiential setting and to “challenge visitors to appeal to their capacity for introspection”.
“Already at a young age, Spruyt was able to convey moods in spherical images. After studying fashion design at Akademie Vogue in Amsterdam, he became one of the first professional stylists in the Dutch fashion industry. Spruyt’s first major exhibition, Woman by, was made together with designer Roosje Klap in the Centraal Museum Utrecht (2003). This was followed by exhibitions in leading Dutch museums and institutions, including the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Kunstmuseum Den Haag.”
Most of this exhibition takes place in the 200 metre long basement of Het HEM, originally the building’s (a former bullet factory) shooting range, here visitors enter one by one where the “literal lack of view provides a unique context for a layered world of experience at a radically sensitive level”. Before entering this basement you are instructed by the building staff to not touch or photograph any of the artwork as well as being asked a few questions such as if you have any medical conditions, have been in contact with any plants or animals and most interestingly, to find our if you ever change you opinion in public to satisfy others; something which I think is part of the exhibition experience to do with introspective thinking.
It is difficult to explain and summarise exactly what happens and what is on display in this basement, also there is a reason why you can’t take photographs and not many images have been shared of the space, it’s meant to be experienced first hand. What I can say is that it is a diverse and eclectic mix of artwork; varying from traditional framed charcoal drawings and photographs to more abstract leather fashion pieces and plastic sculpture.
There is a loose theme through the artwork which is described as:
“the human desire to come closer to nature, by curning it or even destroying it. How do we find a grip on a planet that is irreversibly changed by the influence of our behaviour?”
But stylistically and aesthetically there is little which links them. However, the message of the exhibition also helps to link them; a direct quote from American writer and philosopher Susan Sontag, from her 1964 essay, Against Interpretation, where she says “what is most important now is to recover our senses. We must learn to see more, to hear more, to feel more.”
In this essay, Sontag criticises how art is often judged primarily on the basis of intellectual interpretation and instead a work of art generates its own mode of understanding, which encompasses more statements based on analysis and content. Explaining how searching for symbolic meaning and metaphors in a piece of art can trivialise the innate quality and character of it. I believe, with this in mind, it is understandable that many of the artworks in this exhibition don’t link together, nor is there a great deal to read about for each. This allows you, as the primary viewer, to make your own assumption about the artwork there and then.
The exhibition’s description of a “literal experience of a tunnel vision, which may seem endless and hopeless at first, but gradually becomes more and more pleasant” is very appropriate and understandable. It is something which needs to be experienced first-hand, in the setting of the space.