Even though the human form seems to be something we understand as we humans perceive from our own bodies, I found it difficult to connect with this exhibition. The whole concept was divided into categories that were not clearly cut and overlapped on big points. These categories were Self-Examination, Us and them, You and Me and last but not least Me and my physical body. Some of the works were thus placed that the logic behind these titles went missing, for instance, Us and them was supposed to be about cultural and political differences, but The Persuit by Yinka Shonibare (1962) was placed in You and Me, a place about personal relationships.
Yinka Shonibares, a British-Nigerian artist, is generally known for showing the hybridity in cultures. This is seen in the composition of the work, which is a literal translation of a rococo painting by the French artist Jean-Honore Fragonard (1732-1806). Using a typical concept from western art history, Shonibare also uses Batik fabric for the clothes in his installations. This fabric is a national pride in Nigeria, even though it originates from Indonesia and is now produced in the Netherlands and exported.
Even though The Persuit is indeed partly a romantic scene, it would have much better suited in the Us and Them part of the exhibition for its cultural hybridity theme.
The same goes for some of the works that explored life and death, mainly in the sections of the Self-Examination and Me and my physical body. The chosen artists focused mainly on their own bodies in Self-Examination and seemed to deal with their own mortality. This also seemed to happen in the pieces chosen to embody Me and my physical body.
I was also slightly disappointed with one of the cabinets on womanhood. Lin Tianmiao's (1961) Mother's!!! and Elisabet Stienstra's (1967) Virgin of Light are reflections on the female body and pictures of fertility, which is all good and well thought of, but in the same room Alice II (feet uncrossed) by Kiki Smith (1954) looked completely misplaced. Especially considering this Alice in Wonderland reference was made since Alice was an alterego for the artist because she also wondered about the world. (see below for pictures) It almost looks like Kiki Smiths Alice is only placed here because she is a woman, and it depicts a woman, but apart from that there is no connection with the other two works in this room. And that hurts me as a lady, especially knowing that Kiki Smith has made feminist work about the female body that would have fit in perfectly.
Over all, the exhibition was a good balance of Dutch and international artists, but the big search for meaning theme might have been out of reach and could have been worked out in a more sophisticated manner. Even though most people seemed to enjoy the human figure in art as a way to reflect on life, as an art historian I was bothered with some of the choices made for this exhibition that I have shown a small amount of examples of here.