Art as an antidote? At this museum “Art is the antidote”
This season seems to bring lots of concerns. Crisis of all sorts makes the headlines almost everywhere. Still, these months can offer moments for pausing if, especially because the rhythms are other than usual. We can look at things differently and find some relief in ways and places we may not be used to consider as means to lift the spirit.
The museum Voorlinden in Wassenaar, near The Hague (NL), maintains that “Art is the Antidote“. A medicine for feelings of exhaustion and under-stimulation built after the lockdowns, recent debates and constant crisis. The museum – a piece of art in itself surrounded by a luxuriant garden – has named the current display of its collection from the work of Bon and Roberta Smith. And it offers that needed break with a hefty dose of sparking, engaged and funny works; “We have transformed the museum into a recharging station, a place where you can build up your resistance. In Art is the Antidote … refreshes you, gives you energy and show that things can be different“.
For quite some time now, many experts have pointed to the path towards a better balance between working needs and personal time as means to reduce stress levels and even burnout. But more often than not, many forget to take a step back and consider where that balance stands. A move that has been made even more difficult by the challenging times we are living.
In this sense, this Dutch museum provides an additional perspective to the spectator (i.e. us) through the solo show GROUND of the British artist Antony Gormley, that goes with the collection on display. Describing his intervention in the museum’s rooms and grounds, Gormley offers his antidote. “In a time of chaos and a creeping feeling that everything is breaking down, we need art more than ever. It gives us space of stillness and silence in which we can discover shy bits of our own nature, but also wells of resilience and hope.”
The human body and the surrounding space
Indeed our present is complex. Tangled as we are in our daily struggles, we may be less able to look to a broader picture and try to focus on the relationship between the human being, nature and the earth and cosmos. Then, put our very selves at the centre, as, instead, happens with the artworks shown in GROUND. “Sculpture and the human body are [the artist] starting point for an endless cosmological investigation that concerns, touches and encourages to reflect,” considers the Voorlidens director, Suzanne Swarts. “You cannot simply see Antony Gormley’s art. You have to experience it. As a visitor, you really have to undergo the physical force of the exhibition GROUND to understand what the artist wants to say“.
Contemporary art may not be for everybody. Though, it can offer a lighter perspective on everyday hassles, especially if the pieces on show are colourful, moving, engaging, and beautiful or quirky. Because they stimulate the eye and require a direct experience, they may have some healing effect on our psyche.
“Without the viewer, there is no show – remarks Gormley – without the gallery, there is no context. The joy of this kind of exhibition is to allow the richness of the context itself to become activated by the sculpture. For me, the body of the viewer is often the activating principle in a ‘ground’ of contemplation“.
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