An exhibition about ‘The Man’: is this still relevant?

In december I will be part of a group exhibition of Stichting KEG entitled ‘The Man’. When the curators asked me to write an introduction about this topic, the question immediately arose: why dedicate an exhibition solely to people of the male sex? What is the relevance and what can we say about this topic?

Spotlights on: the man

When I posed this question to the curators of the exhibition ‘The Man’, Anne-marie and Jo, it sparked a conversation. “There is so little attention for the man in exhibitions”, was the first answer they gave. The man as a (naked) model to be portrayed, to be looked at or maybe even to be admired, is an idea that is still a bit unusual in our culture. Let alone if a female artist would portray a (naked) man. In museums, it is still the women who take off their cloths and the man who makes an artwork out of this. Also if you look at how the male nude is depicted, it stands out that the man must meet a masculine ideal: tough, strong, muscular and above all not vulnerable. Of course there are other perspectives on the male nude, especially in art, but perhaps it is not so strange that we don’t see them, given the fact that female artists were not taken seriously until the 1960s. As a result, history has left us with an underrepresentation of the female gaze in the arts.

What it means to be a man

Besides the representation of men and women in art and what roles they play, the curators are also interested in the question of what it means to be a man. A question that has been asked a lot in the media in recent years. The identity and roles of men and women have changed considerably over the past century. While it seems to feel like progress for women, especially since emancipation has led to a more equal position, the perception of men seems to be different. The white, heterosexual man has been ‘under attack’ for quite some time. Although it depends on how you look at it, because changing perspectives also offer many opportunities. For all people, including men. If we can see ourselves more and more as human beings, instead of a box you may or may not belong to, it will become a nicer world for everyone to live in. An inclusive perspective on people is also a foundation that we need to shape a sustainable and loving world together.

What does it mean to be human?

In short, the exhibition topic ‘The Man’ can elicit a lot of thoughts. For me there is still relevance in this topic but I think we can take a closer look at which questions are relevant. In my opinion, you could also look at it from a broader perspective on humanity. A topic about which I think we still have a lot of questions to ask. How does the image we have of the other, the interaction we have with the other and the power relations that exist in it, influence how we live together on this planet? How do we build positive relationships, how can we get to know ourselves better and what is needed for that? I hope to have some nice conversations about this with the visitors of the exhibition.

The exhibition ‘The Man’ is on show from 17 december and runs until the end of januari 2023.

Kunstenaarsvereniging KEG, Steeg 9, 5482 WN Schijndel

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