To be or to have Presents
To be or to have Presents. Shop window, 2013
To be or to have presents
December is the season to be jolly and the season of giving and receiving gifts. Stores fill their windows with an abundance of gifts for us to receive. In the spirit of the season and originating from the Platonic thought that ”being” and ”sharing” actually share the same connotation, the team of SEA curated an exhibition that received the title “To be or to have presents.” Central theme of this exposition evolves around the question on how ”being” an ”having” are at work in relation to ”giving” within our contemporary consumer-based society.
Traditionally, the giving of presents is reciprocal. A gift is shared out of a desire within the giver and is therefore unencumbered or “free” from the perspective of the receiver. Spawned from the legacy of the industrial society, obtaining possession is strongly encouraged within our modern technological society. Consuming is expected to keep up pace with production, and possession is marketed to be the key to personal fulfilment, satisfaction and happiness. ”Having” in this sense becomes a hollowed-out phrase due to its focus on the consumption of tangible goods that will presumably make us feel better. In this construction the ”being-part” often takes the back-seat in our world. Fortunately, a countering of this philosophy can also be seen, which is concentrated in a shared belief by certain people to put their collective focus more on the ”being-part of having, giving and receiving” and less on the ”having-part of simply possessing”
Although the exchange and sharing of goods of all times 21st century technology can be said to have propelled a new philosophy surrounding product and service exchange. Aided by the possibilities of freely sharing content such as video’s, photos and knowledge on the internet, a new form of the concept of sharing gains prominence within our society. This sharing of goods and commodities provides us with new ways to group ourselves resulting in the growth of a shared and collective force that now and then successfully prevails over “The Ego”. This form of sharing and giving provides individuals with the power to actively resist the philosophy of consumer culture. As part of (online) communities, we have the possibility to become self-sufficient again while escaping the rules and regulations of the economy. Shared desires and needs are for instance affirmed by the giving of ”likes”, and it is here that the new collective force is validated and able to grow. New types of social cohesion are formed.
Sharing is the new having
According to these new types of community, “Sharing is the new having”. Echoed within this phrase is the growing trend of (online) exchange of services and products, which circulates outside the regular economy. In our contemporary society information and possession is scattered and the illusion is created that we have and, in theory, control “everything”. This abundance of having not only affects the concepts of possession and sharing, but also leaves its marks on how we function in the world. Instead of being aimed at tangible possessions, these communities often are built around the sharing of an experience. An interesting question then becomes: “What have we got to loose when it comes to this semi-new philosophy of commodity-trade and knowledge-sharing?”
To be, to have and to give
How do the new ways of ”having” and ”giving” affect our ”being” in the world. In sync with the Holiday season, this exhibition is build up around this new contemporary use of the concepts of ”giving” and ”receiving”. What does it mean to give and receive nowadays, and how can this be translated to our ”being”? The act of giving often transpires out of a certain desire in the gift-giver aimed at achieving a certain experience in the receiver. But the desire the artists wants to convey can be far removed from the desires present in the receivers. How do ”giving” and ”receiving” interrelate in such a situation? And how do both concepts interrelate with the concept of ”having” in an age where possession is fragmented? How can the acts of ”giving”, ”receiving” and ”having” be translated in art? To be or to have presents places a critical note at traditional gift-giving conventions and the reciprocal pattern of expectation both giver and receiver have to deal with in this process.
The To be or to have presents an exhibition that displays twenty small works made by a colourful assemblage of artists, ranging from the old to the young, the local to the international and from the established to the ”still-exploring-their-artistic-path”. Although working from different disciplinary backgrounds, the artists are connected in their expression of ”slow-art”.
Accompanying the exhibition is a (digital) publication which contains visuals of the individual works, artist biographies, and an introduction written by Frank G. Bosman, drs. cultural theology at the University of Tilburg. This exhibition is an initiative of SEA Foundation, a non-profit, privately managed artist network organisation with close tabs on the visual arts scene. Originated out of the voluntary efforts of many, including artists and staff, the exhibition is accessible twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, in the show-window at Tivolistraat 22, Tilburg.
Read more on the publication here
Artists: Adam Nathaniel Furman (UK), Ann Sutton (UK), An Te Liu (CA), Chantal Rens (NL), Desiree de Baar (NL), Dina Danish (EG/FR), Donna Marcus (AU), Giel Louws (NL), Hou Chien Cheng (TW), JeeHin Kwon (KR), Kris Duys (BE), Jonas Vansteenkiste (BE), Marian Bijlenga (NL), Natalia Ossef (SR), Michael Brennand-wood (UK), Paul Bogaers (NL), Slinkachu (UK), Steye Felix (NL), Reggie Voigtlander (DE), Thomas Braida (IT), vanGerven/vanRijnberk (NL), Verena Sieber-Fuchs (CH), Zoë Claire Miller (USA)