Cheuk Lam tam

We care a lot

The exhibition that never took place turned into an online presence …

Delighted to launch the RE:Present #2 digital publication that is made with a selection of first-year students of the Frank Mohr Institute in Groningen – where I am a lecturer. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, their exhibition for the course ‘Presentations’ couldn’t take place. Instead, this publication is specifically created. 

The concept for RE:Present #2 is taken from the idea of curating, and what it means to ‘curate’. The word curator comes from the Latin word curare, which translates as ‘to take care’. The meaning has changed from Ancient Rome to now – particularly in the second half of the 20th century, the contemporary art curator arose, who, one could say, functioned more as a catalyst and exhibition maker than as a caretaker of a museum collection. Fascinated by the notion of ‘taking care’, this exhibition is created around this concept. Caring for yourself, for someone, for something or for the world at large: caring compels us to connect. While it refers to a feeling of concern or interest, or to the act of attending to someone or something, it gives us responsibility and a sense of humanity. Accordingly, you will find these issues in the artworks presented in RE:Present #2 – We care a lot. (It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it.). As George Orwell once said: ‘For you can only create if you can care.’ 

The urgency of the theme ‘to take care’ has been underlined once again by this global crisis. Taking care of ourselves, our loved ones and our environment are more urgent than ever. Health and well-being, in all forms and meanings, are more critical than ever – and is high on everyone’s agenda.

So, the exhibition as we envisioned was cancelled. A few days before the transport of the artworks from the Frank Mohr Institute to the RE:Search:Gallery at the Hofstraat in Groningen was to take place, everything stopped abruptly because of the virus. Teaching and studying at the art academy as well as making and visiting exhibitions are communicative, spatial, visual and tactile practices. It is not so easy to let go of these practices or to offer and receive the same experience or satisfaction virtually. 

Of course, the attention you have as a viewer for an artwork in an exhibition is different than as a reader of a book or visitor to a website. That is one of the reasons why creating and visiting a show is an exceptional experience. The interaction in space with the artworks is unique, wonderful and full of movement. On top of that, it would have been so exciting for our student artists and the public to meet and, consequently, enrich each other’s worlds. I think that this digital publication is an elegant solution though. It includes interviews with all participant and photos of the selected works.

RE:Present #2 was second of the RE:Present series, Marc Bijl curated #1 for the Open Day in February, and Ruud Akse was last but not least in line with #3, that took partly place online (see the Instagram account of RE:Search:Gallery Groningen). In this project, we were working from three different approaches, exploring ways of (re)presenting artworks. This research involved questions like: what does it do with my artwork when it leaves the studio or the place where it is created? How does it communicate in an exhibition context, with the space, or in relation to the work of other artists? What are my role and responsibilities in these processes? RE:Present #2 focused on the curated exhibition.

Participating artists: Alan Ahued Naime, Dewi Brouwer, Ivana Deric, Cheuk Lam Tam, Christos Mavrodis, Livia Ribichini, Marjolijn Rijks, Jannemarein Renout, Jui-Tsz Shiu, Alexandra Subota, Yu Wang, Tianyi Zheng. Curators: Belinda Hak, Gisanne Hendriks. Design: Gisanne Hendriks.

Image: Cheuk Lam Tam, Once We Have Something Good, We Are Not Gonna Go back, 2019. Videostill.