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A Selection of Important Works from the Van Abbemuseum Invite Visitors to Play Roles
Surasi Kusolwong, Emotional Machine (VW), 2000-2004. Installation at Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Courtesy: the artist & Palais de Tokyo. Photo: Daniel Moulinet.

EINDHOVEN.- On Saturday 26th February, Play Van Abbe Part 4: The Pilgrim, the Tourist, the Flaneur (and the Worker) opened in the Van Abbemuseum. The exhibition presents a selection of important works from the museum’s collection together with several special guest artists. In this last part of Play Van Abbe, visitors are invited to play a role whilst visiting the museum; the roles are the pilgrim, the tourist, the flaneur and the worker. The pilgrim is focused on the object of art; the tourist on stories; the flaneur on time and the overall museum experience. Finally, the workers are the roles that seek an active confrontation with art and produces new ideas for themselves and others. Visitors are invited to change roles during their visit and experience how artworks appear different according to the way how they are judged. By offering these classical roles, the museum seeks to focus directly on the visitors themselves and the way they experience art, rather than to thematise the artworks themselves.

Play Van Abbe Part 4 runs until August 2011 and hosts a varied programme of performances, films and other events.

The roles
In the fourth part of Play Van Abbe, the museum focuses on the criteria that visitors often use to make judgements about art. These criteria have become more complex and uncertain over the last years and are certainly no longer limited to the old measures of beauty and truth. The title of the exhibition describes possible roles that a museum visitor can play when looking at an artwork or exhibition. Each of these roles experiences the museum in a different way and each have their own ‘tools’ to explore the museum. Roles are never fixed and visitors can change them during their visit, or revisit rooms in a new character. Neither do they represent a hierarchy of experience and, in fact, each might be said to fill in the lack in the others.

On a spiritual journey, the pilgrim seeks revelation through contemplative observation. In contrast, the tourist takes a break from daily routines, and looks for the experiential and authentic. Wandering without a goal, the flaneur is open for everything while committed to nothing. The more active position of the worker can be approached from any role. The worker is the producer of new stories and meaning, and in this role, the visitor can leave behind feedback and commentary for those who come after.

The roles are not meant to clarify whether something is good or bad art, but open up new perspectives for a visitor on the artworks, the exhibition and the museum as a public place for experience and exchange.

In order to assist visitors on their journey, there are a number of ‘game masters’ in the museum. They guide each role and help with orientation and giving feedback.

The artworks
In the Oudbouw (old building) of the museum the symmetry of the architecture has been exploited to construct a three-dimensional mandala in which visitors are taken on a journey through a landscape of artworks about individual and collective social experience. Works are on show by Ulay / Abramović, Georg Baselitz, Joseph Beuys, James Lee Byars, Hamish Fulton, Douglas Gordon, Jenny Holzer, Anselm Kiefer, Richard Long, Oliver Ressler, and others.

On the ground floor of the Nieuwbouw (new building) the exhibition continues, following a parcours that resembles a stroll through an unknown city. Visitors in their various roles can stay on the street or take a look behind the facades to discover more intimate and private artworks. Works by Sarah Charlesworth, Robert Delauney, Erwin van Doorn & Inge Nabuurs, Barry Flanagan, Surasi Kusolwong, Katharina Sieverding, Andy Warhol and Yang Zhengzhong, amongst others On the second floor of the Nieuwbouw (new building), the exhibition Time Machines – Reloaded is also on view during Play Van Abbe Part 4. Visitors find four presentations based on special museum models from the past. Like with Part 3, there are some changes in this exhibition during Part 4, in co-operation with guest curators and artists. Amongst other things, in April an important work by Marko Peljhan will be added.

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