In 1917 - I realise you might find this quite a boring start but bear with me - in 1917, Marcel Duchamp wanted to put a toilet, or rather a porcelain urinal in a New York art exhibition. It was rejected by the committee. One hundred years later, Duchamp's toilet is an icon of 20th Century art. This year, artist Maurizo Cattelan went a step further and provided the New York Guggenheim with a golden toilet you can actually take a shit on. Toilets can be fine art. Just don't overestimate the role of the committee.
Nearly one hundred years later, in the 2016 edition of the Amsterdam Art Fair (which opened in the same week as Identity Kit), Galerie Gabriel Rolt showed a felt tip marker drawing made by the gallery owner's 7 year old daughter Lee Rolt Dolron. She made a drawing of a bunny rabbit called Flaffie. The committee said: OK, it's shown on a fine art fair, so it must be art. Without knowing it, Lee Rolt Dolron (who has an artist name to be jealous of) made an ironic reference to all the people who always indignantly said about Jackson Pollock's or Karel Appel's work: 'I / my five year old son can do that too!'. The thing is: you never thought of it, did you? The artists who did think of it, gained fame and/or fortune. So let's be grateful to the Public House of Art for making accessible art even more accessible. Everybody can make art. Just never underestimate the role of the curator :-)
So, Identity Kit. Another exhibition about the slippery subject of Identity, you might think. Well... no. This is not an exhibition about Dutch identity. Because we all know it's simply impossible to place fences around somebody's identity. Plus, nobody in his right mind wants to think in divisions. By now we should all know that it is the variety and mingling of people that is just so exciting and strengthening. (Come to the Public House of Art, and you'll find a world-class staff originating from at least 9 different countries).
So today, much more than our genes, or the country we were born in, we're defined by our connections to the world and the daily choices we make. Which makes one's identity a complex affair that is in constant movement. A never-ending growth of many layers, experiences and images. We are constantly changing and we all have a number of characters in us who come forward depending on whether we need this character from our kit at a certain point, just like in a theatre company. We are not always the same person, we are many persons.
For Identity Kit, artists were brought together from all corners of the world. In times of a growing xenophobia in the Netherlands, where even politicians try to encourage racial hatred, it's important not to pidgeonhole people and to keep pointing at the hypocrisy of racism. For the sake of brevity I take the liberty to sum up a vast part of world history and colonialism in one single sentence: people from all corners of the world are here because the Dutch were there. (Or the English, or the Italians, etc).
Identity Kit is a small mirror of society that may prompt the visitor to critically look at himself. Who are we? Who is the other? Who am I? How do we view others, and ourselves? Why do you do what you do - because you were born a man, or born a woman? Because you conform? Because you were born here? And if you weren't - does it matter?
Identity Kit wants to celebrate the diversity of all people, irrespective of our (trans)gender status, our backgrounds and our ancestry. After all, we are all racially mixed. Yes, you too. Go check your family tree. You will find ancestors you did not know were there. Use your kit to shape your identity. And decorate your family tree while you're at it. Who knows a future art fair will show it.
Identity Kit Guest Curator - Hedy van Erp